Radiohead Releases 18 Hours of Demos from OK Computer for a Limited Time–After Hackers Try to Hold Them for Ransom

This strat­e­gy will not work in most ran­somware attacks—if your per­son­al data is stolen, releas­ing all of it to the pub­lic for a small fee might dif­fuse the blackmailer’s bomb, but your prob­lems will only have just begun. But for Radio­head, releas­ing 18 hours of demo mate­r­i­al from mini­disks record­ed between 1995 and 1998, dur­ing the mak­ing of their land­mark OK Com­put­er, turned out to be just the thing. For a lim­it­ed time, 18 days from the announce­ment, you can buy all 18 hours of that mate­r­i­al on Band­camp for the low price of £18 (about $23), with all pro­ceeds ben­e­fit­ing the cli­mate change advo­ca­cy group Extinc­tion Rebel­lion. The music can also be streamed for free (click on the play­er above) dur­ing that time.

The mini­disk archive was stolen from Thom Yorke by a hack­er who demand­ed $150,000 or threat­ened to release them. Gui­tarist Jon­ny Green­wood announced the theft on Twit­ter and Face­book. “We got hacked last week—someone stole Thom’s mini­disk archive from around the time of OK Com­put­er…. For £18 you can find out if we should have paid that ran­som.”

He pref­aced the demos with some mod­est com­men­tary: “Nev­er intend­ed for pub­lic con­sump­tion (though some clips did reach the cas­sette in the OK Com­put­er reis­sue) it’s only tan­gen­tial­ly inter­est­ing. And very, very long. Not a phone down­load. Rainy out, isn’t it though?”

Although bands release demo mate­r­i­al all the time—or their record com­pa­nies do, at least—few go out of their way to talk up alter­nate takes, sketch­es, skele­tal ear­ly ver­sions, and reject­ed songs. But fan com­mu­ni­ties often treat such mate­r­i­al as akin to find­ing lost ancient lit­er­ary sources. Wit­ness the 65-page doc­u­ment titled OK Mini­disc already pub­lished online, a detailed analy­sis of the demos by a group from online Radio­head fan­dom that will like­ly now for­ev­er fea­ture in the band’s accu­mu­lat­ed lore.

The demo col­lec­tion, sim­ply called MINIDISCS [HACKED], will give Radio­head schol­ars lay and pro­fes­sion­al a wealth of evi­dence to draw on for decades—insights into their pro­duc­tion process and the evo­lu­tion of Thom Yorke’s writ­ing. (The first track is an ear­ly ver­sion of OK Com­put­er’s “Exit Music (For a Film)” with mopey, self-pity­ing lyrics that might have fit bet­ter on the band’s debut album).

As a lis­ten­ing expe­ri­ence, sit­ting through 18 hours of out­takes may be “only tan­gen­tial­ly inter­est­ing” and cer­tain­ly “very, very long.” But when it comes to an album as wide­ly and deeply wor­shipped as OK Com­put­er, this mate­r­i­al might as well be Dead Sea Scrolls.

Sure­ly the mini­disk archive’s kidnapper(s) count­ed on the mas­sive pro­file of the 1997 album when they named their price, but they didn’t know quite who they were deal­ing with. Con­tribute to cli­mate action and become an inde­pen­dent Ok Com­put­er schol­ar your­self by buy­ing and down­load­ing (with a sol­id broad­band con­nec­tion) all 18 hours of the MINIDISCS [HACKED] col­lec­tion at Band­camp. Or stream it all above.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The 10 Most Depress­ing Radio­head Songs Accord­ing to Data Sci­ence: Hear the Songs That Ranked High­est in a Researcher’s “Gloom Index”

Clas­sic Radio­head Songs Re-Imag­ined as a Sci-Fi Book, Pulp Fic­tion Mag­a­zine & Oth­er Nos­tal­gic Arti­facts

Radiohead’s Thom Yorke Gives Teenage Girls Endear­ing Advice About Boys (And Much More)

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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