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pReconceived, decADe-long genIus, Or HappEnsAtnce misinterpreteD?

December 15, 2010

My buddy Joe turned me on to this:

There’s a way to combine the tracks from OK Computer (hereinafter referred to as 01) and In Rainbows (hereinafter referred to as 10), to form one huge mega-album. As Puddlegum explains, “To create the 01 and 10 playlist, begin with OK Computer’s track one, “Airbag,” and follow this with In Rainbow’s track one, “15 Step.” Alternate the albums, track by track, until you reach “Karma Police” on OK Computer, making “All I Need” the tenth track on the 01 and 10 playlist.” It’s not that they sound nice together; it’s that these songs were definitely meant to make us shit our pants when played like this. In the way that “Golden Slumbers,” “Carry That Weight” and “The End” all flow into each other on The Beatles’ Abbey Road, these songs all flow into one another as well, as if they were all recorded in one big session.

From Cracked: 10 Mind-Blowing Easter Eggs Hidden in Famous Albums

Honestly… I don’t know. The tracks certainly play together like a great roadtrip mix, or at the very least a good greatest hits compilation. But as someone who moonlighted as a college radio DJ, I can say that the transitions aren’t as clean as you would expect if the mix was intentional.

Mastered records for one thing are meant to maintain a consistent feel between tracks. To the extent that is true feels like happenstance. Many of the tracks in both of these records end without ambient noise at the end. That certainly helps.

But even where that is true, some of the sequencing just doesn’t feel quite right.  Electioneering ends with a downward crescendo and a long string sound at the end, and Reckoning abruptly cuts in with a breakbeat as if divorced from the transition of its intended context.  Hmm, but the transition in the original isn’t actually that much better.  But if Radiohead intended these to be played together (at least in this order), wouldn’t they have used samples from OK Computer at the beginning and ends of each In Rainbows track to produce continuity?  Right?

For another, where ambient noise ends a track as in Exit Music, it does not always flow well into the corresponding song (Weird Fishes).  The Cracked folks suggest cross-fading tracks 10 seconds to maximize the effect, but as my bud Kurt says, “couldn’t you make that argument for any songs by the same band?”

One critical way of viewing this project is that it exposes Radiohead as a band that sequences its tracks similarly across records. The feel might be similar in these records because they’ve just decided to take us on the same emotional trip again.

It also reminds me of the time in high school I had a dispute with my friends about whether Pink Floyd really did intend to match Dark Side of the Moon with The Wizard of Oz.  I couldn’t believe that pure coincidence could explain so many synchronicities.

So we decided to put it to a test: we’d match an equally seminal children’s movie with another fantastic classic rock album and see if they matched.  If they did, well . . . Occam’s Razor.

It didn’t take long for Occam to rear his ugly, efficient head as we started the White Album on Bugs Bunny’s second carrot bite in the prelude to Gene Wilder’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  The beats of Back in the U.S.S.R. matched perfectly with the chocolate drops in the opening scene, Veruca Salt whined for a golden goose over “Cry Baby Cry”, and Revolution 9 was pretty damn trippy with that crazy, smoking locomotive contraption near the end of the movie.  “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except for Me and My Monkey” mocked Charlie as he snuck away an Everlasting Gobstopper.  It was perfect.  Better than the Oz/Pink Floyd connection.

But hey, maybe it’s the versions of the songs I’m using.  Maybe the cross-fade trick really was intended by Yorke & Co.  Maybe keeping exclusive company with Learned Hand has dulled my imagination.  On the bright side, the idea has encouraged me to revisit two truly great records in an interesting way.  Try to listen to it for yourself with this handy Grooveshark playlist.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Josh permalink
    January 27, 2011 2:35 pm

    That truly was a great day in high school slackerdom. The Helter Skelter boat ride was the part that really stuck with me over the years. Do you remember the last few seconds of Happiness is a Warm Gun? How Charlie’s family oo-ooed along? That was unsettling.

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