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10 years ago Today: Radiohead’s ‘Kid A’ released

Today marks the 10th anniversary of Radiohead’s ‘Kid A’. October 2nd, 2000 was the official release date of the band’s fourth album. ‘Kid A’ went platinum in the first week of release in the UK and is now considered a classic album in music history.

The year 2000; We all survived the millennium bug, but we were still waiting for Radiohead to release a follow-up for Radiohead’s third album: ‘OK Computer’. After the release of ‘OK Computer’ in 1997, Radiohead were considered one of the most important bands in (alternative) rock. An intensive tour followed in 1997 and 1998. Then it got rather quiet. But what would Radiohead come up with to surpass their album with classics like ‘Karma Police’, ‘No Surprises’ and ‘Paranoid Android’.

Guitarist Ed O’Brien started a diary (old design alert!) on the band’s website in 1999. It was clear that Radiohead’s 4th album was a struggle.

what a fucking week……..sometimes i feel like the nature of this band is that we have to do things the hard way……to use a terrible football cliche……snatching victory out of the jaws of defeat…………….fucking hell ron, thank god all weeks aren’t like this, otherwise it would be early baths…….not that i’m going to elaborate any further………..the only thing that need concern anyone is that the songs sound fucking ace on the whole……nicely diverse.

i’ll write much more next week and apologies for the excessive use of the word fuck.

Early March 2000, we posted that the band have set themselves a deadline for the release of the new album: It should be finished in April and released in September 2000. Radiohead were working on 30 songs and made a shortlist of 16: the 8.5 minute long Cuttooth, Egyptian Song, Dollars and Cents, Everyone (The National Anthem), Follow Me Around, How To Disappear Completely and Never Be Found, I Will, Keep the Wolf From the Door, Kinetic, Knives Out, Lost at Sea (In Limbo), Morning Bell, Motion Picture Soundtrack, Optimistic, True Love Waits, You And Whose Army. Radiohead had been recording in Paris and Copenhagen. At the end of May we had hints that a new album, produced by Nigel Godrich, was going to be released on October 2nd in Europe and October 3rd in North America.

In the meantime Radiohead announced a tour for June and July. For September and October the band were set to tour with their own tent in European parks. Jonny Greenwood on that decision: “We don’t want to play in those venues that are designed for sport and have Coca Cola adverts everywhere. That’s not what we want to do really. We’ll make our own neutral space that’s got nothing in it and play some concerts like that”.

Capitol Records started their marketing campaign mainly on the internet. The label made ‘iBlips’; widgets with snippets of music from the album and a pre-order link, which fans could embed on their sites and blogs. More blips, short animated movies aired on MTV and other TV channels. The releases was highly anticipated by fans and the press and apart from people calling the album ‘commercial suicide’, not releasing any singles, Kid A hit the number one spot in the UK, USA, Canada, France, New Zealand and Ireland. It turned out to be Radiohead’s first number one album in the USA and nominated for Best Album at the Grammy’s and was awarded for Best Alternative Album. A decade later ‘Kid A’ was voted best album album of the past decade by The Times, Pitchfork and Rolling Stone.


On a personal note: I went to see Radiohead in Berlin early July 2000. That was the closest I could get on their June/July tour. In a beautiful and small room, the ‘Großer Sendesaal des SFB’, the band played a phenomenal show debuting songs like ‘Everyone (The National Anthem)’, ‘In Limbo’, ‘Kid A’, ‘Dollars and Cents’, ‘Optimistic’, ‘Morning Bell’, ‘You and Whose Army?’, ‘Knives Out’ and ‘Everything In Its Right Place’. Definitely one of the best Radiohead shows I’ve seen so far.

Only a month later, I got an email from a journalist, saying he had a copy of the new Radiohead album. I think it was recorded at the CD factory. He met the guy at Amsterdam Central Station, but the journalist brought a discman (yes! for CD’s you know) to check if it was really Radiohead he recorded. And actually, he wasn’t quite sure when he heard the first track. However, Thom Yorke’s voice gave it away and proved this was the real deal. I was handed a copy and really excited to have the new Radiohead album in my hands. But to be honest; at first it sounded much colder than the versions of the songs I heard them play in Berlin. Of course, I didn’t give up on Radiohead just there and gave it a lot of plays. A took a while and slowly, but surely ‘Kid A’ turned into my all time favourite album. I surprised myself, when I realised I like this album better than my adored ‘OK Computer’.

Closer to home, and this time in a tent, Radiohead played two shows at Goffertpark in Nijmegen, The Netherlands. Both shows (for 10,000 people each night) in September 2000, proved Radiohead could pull it off. Playing a great set, with songs from this ‘difficult’ and ‘inaccessible’ album. Two weeks later, on September 27th I was able to get my ‘real’ copy of this groundbreaking album (albums in The Netherlands are available the Friday before the actual release date). (Un)fortunately, the ones shipped in the Netherlands were mispressings. The first 40 seconds were from the last part of a Pearl Jam concert. 150,000 albums were recalled. Decided to hold on to mine for a while… Bought a new copy as soon as it was available. Right now, 10 years later, I’m going to give it another spin. Probably for the tenth thousand time; Kid A: Everything in its right place…

PS Would love to read your thoughts on Kid A. Drop them in the comments…

29 Comments

  • timeless album, let’s hope the new LP can come close to Kid A.

  • “I surprised myself, when I realised I like this album better than my adored ‘OK Computer’.”

    Now that’s a bold statement Adriaan. I almost agree with you though.

    My experience with Kid A dates back to the days when I still had internet dial-up, Napster was the happening thing, mp3s took ages to download and getting my ass off to an actual record-store was something people did at the time. Anyway, before Kid A was released, I had gone to my local record-store to see what new music had came out. While talking to this guy that worked there he told me that a new shipment had accidentally arrived early. He then proceeded to show me the limited-edition CD of Kid A!! Yes, the one with all the Stanley Donwood artwork packaged in a booklet-style. He told me he had not told anyone about it yet (not even his boss) and that he had stashed a few for himself. The guy was nice enough to sell me one right there on the spot! So here I am, probably the only person in town listening to one of the most anticipated albums of all-time a week before everyone else!! Looking back I feel the album has gotten better and better with each listen. My first impressions of the album at the time were not good because I was expecting to listen to “Ok Computer 2″ but Kid A became something just as good but in a completely different way. I know many musicians today consider Kid A to be influential and listeners everywhere like myself will always go back and listen to it from time to time.

    “Everything all of the time”

  • We compiled a selection of re-interpretations of Kid A on our Tumblr today http://drownedinsoundcloud.com – thought some of you might like these, especially the Amanda Palmer and the ambient version of How to Disappear Completely.

  • Kid A, Ten years old today. This is one Album, that will never Date! Brilliant then, Brilliant Now and will be Brilliant in another Ten!

  • I had read an interesting review on Kid A and bought it, more than anything, out of curiosity in November 2000, I think. I had been listening to all kinds of stuff, varying from Stravinsky to doom-metal and from folk-music to music from Hildegard von Bingen, trying to find my thing, without much success, getting bored with everything very quickly. I remember buying Kid A and putting it on on my CD-player for the first time that evening and loving it from the very first notes on the very first listen, getting all teary-eyed, thinking (and yes, I am aware this may sound awfully corny) “Is someone actually making this kind of music, is this finally the thing I’ve been trying to find”. I don’t remember ever having had such an emotional rush out of any other album on the very first listen. I’ve been a huge fan of Radiohead ever since that day. <3

    (I had a copy of OK Computer and thought it was a "decent" album but weirdly enough it took me much more time and several more repeat listens to get into but eventually realized what a gem it was too.)

  • I’m from Argentina, and I was on summer vacation in Bariloche when i bought this album (year 2000 of course) and it changed my life completely, this is my favourite album since then, this new music and Bariloche’s landscape merged into something i haven’t felt never again, i couldn’t believe my ears. I think Kid A surpasses Ok Computer to levels i can’t explain.

  • Love it, just love it. 2000 was my first year as a student. I remember i found the album on some file sharing service, I dunno what we all were using at that time, Napster maybe, and downloaded it. I had been searching for the album many times, always finding live recordings, bootlegs and other stuff. But this time, from the first second, I could hear this was a studio recording, and when Thom’s voice came through I knew I got the real thing. Stayed up all night playing the album, think it was maybe three-four days before the actual release. Went straight out and bought that one too, of course.

    It was also the first year I saw Radiohead live, in Copenhagen, so definitely a turning point for me.

    My favourite? Sort of. I keep changing my mind between this and OKC all the time.

  • Ten years ago today I travelled to another city (mine is/was too small) to get ahold of the album on release day. I listened to it 8 times straight on my way back home. I was seriously mindfucked. Probably the first time I’ve ever felt so mindfucked by music in my life.

    Firsts are always the best.

  • I saw Radiohead on Saturday Night Live and once the show was over I left home at midnight and went out to buy the album. I drove around all night listening to it. It was my first Radiohead album and it was fantastic.

  • I went to the same concert in Nijmegen as you did and got the album on the Saturday before the official release. Together with The Bends, is my favourite album of theirs. It reminds me of the time I spent in Holland.
    Cheers mate

  • Waiting with such anticipation for some new Radiohead music after Ok Computer.
    I was blown away with Kid A ! Radiohead reinvented themselves, yet again! 10 years later, I still consider them my favorite group, especially live! I can only hope that 10 years from now, we are talking about another ground breaking release from them!

  • Ah, sweet memories:)
    I ” discovered” Radiohead in 2000. My first 3 live gigs were (indeed) Berlin and Nijmegen (twice). Berlin was mindblowing. If I could ever re-do a day, it would be Juli 3rd 2010. The release of Kid A : I remember going to the local record store on Saturday morning, buying the album and driving home listening to it, I was home too soon. At home I played it over and over. My first ” real time” radiohead experience and it got me hooked forever.
    Thanks for bringing back the memory, Adriaan. I played the album twice today and it still gets better:)

  • Wow, the Kid A blips! Now that’s a blast from the past! I remember trying and failing to watch a lot of those on crappy dial up internet.

    As an album, Kid A threw caution to the wind and the band have been able to release whatever they bloody liked, however they liked, ever since! …which is a good thing.

  • I remember when I purchased this album. Like the rest of the world I too was waiting for this release. Sitting down with some friends to listen to this album that same evening will never escape my memory. This music changed everything.

  • I was driving from Colorado to South Florida, and stopped somewhere in Kansas for the night. The next morning (literally 10 years later to the day), I bought the album and loved it immediately. It didn’t hurt that at the time, I was obsessed with Radiohead.

    I listened to it 16 times in a row and stopped in St. Louis to see family and let my mind rest. In Limbo is my favorite song, and I heard it at my cousin’s when he downloaded it off the net. It blew us away!

  • Five years ago I made a live assemblage of KID A from start to finish. Today I thought someone else might like to listen. It’s especially nice if you’ve heard the album so many times that, as a musician friend once put it, “you stop hearing that it’s good,
    and start knowing that it’s good.”

    Download: http://bit.ly/afPx1Q

    Torrent: http://bit.ly/a8Yzsz

    en/joy

  • most of what i remember was listening to the horns in “the national anthem” and thinking what the fuck, when i was in Brazil. also, listened repeatedly to “how to disappear completely”. my favorite album ever.

  • I got into this album despite my intentions. I disliked Radiohead, except “Street Spirit” and “Airbag”, at the time. A friend at my dorm kept listening to “Idioteque” and I quite liked the melody after hearing it a few times. Then some prick would play the album full blast in the dorm room below me and, even though I had no idea it was Radiohead, when it came time to buy the album in 2003, I realized I had heard some of this stuff before; I might have also heard it in the music store HMV. I don’t love everything on it, but “Idioteque,” “How to Disappear Completely,” and “Motion Picture Soundtrack” are among the very best and least tiring upon repeated listens of their catalogue. Some brilliant work on there.

  • Kid A took some listening to to really get it for lots of people I knew – in my case it was the early morning and late evening drives in the dark to/from a job about 3 hours away. I started off just forcing myself to listen, then one or two tracks would be a highlight, and then the album listen just gelled to the point everything else stops for 45 minutes for sheer excellence. One of the best and most coherent pieces of music that will be released in my lifetime.

    I saw them 2 days after the Nijmegen concert you mention in a suburb of Paris and that rates as one of the most intense concerts I have ever been to in a great way. I still refer back to that concert with awe as seeing a band at the top of their game pushing their creativeness further and further.

    Euan

  • Wow, ten years gone by. I remember buying a bootleg off of Ebay for about $80 bucks of the early demos from Kid A/Amnesiac, about a year before it came out. I remember that first version I heard of How to Disappear just completely blew me away.

    When the release day finally came around, I went to the midnight sale, waited in line for an hour and got the special edition, and regular edition (with the hidden booklet under the tray). I had never anticipated an album like this. Got home, got blazed, and listened to this on repeat with my friends while playing Tony Hawk. All collective minds were blown. No other album or piece of art has influenced me like this album has. I’ll never forget it.

  • I woke up in 1999. I cleared the sleep from my eye in 2000. Upon my first listen, KID A caused a neurological deconstruction of sorts; ever since then I have taught myself piano, come to understand a comprehensive history of the world esp. Pacific rim economies and I tend to fuck a whole lot better. Not to mention noticing the inherent beauty in sadness and seeing the world no less beautiful because its harmony is unplanned. All because of KID A, I swear. Not joking. A life changer. I can provide stunning documentation.

  • writting from Puerto Rico… dont know why, I never comment here but this post hit my nostalgic nerves.

    I remember anticipating the release, reading as much as I could find on the internet, all those articles about how KidA was going to be dissapointing yada yada…i had a deep feeling everyone was wrong… I dont think I’ve ever been so completely gripped by an album ever. I remember buying it at the local CD store, crossing my fingers on the way there because i wasnt even sure they would have it…. but they did, and on the bus back to the university i just looked at the booklet (I had a discman, but I wasnt going to play it with all the background noise in a bus)…so I arrived at my dad’s office at the uni and locked myself in the conference room….and flew away…

    i also remember discovering the hidden booklet almost a year after I had bought the record!…it was like a brand new KidA album in my hands.

    cant wait for the new radiohead album to come out…

    although KidA is and I think always will be my favorite, each release one is something extremely special and different. – René G.

  • DUDE!!! – they had been seriously recording versions of True Love Waits, Follow Me Around, Wolf At The Door, and I Will back during the Kid A days!?!
    DAMN, I want to get ahold of that material ASAP!
    If only EMI would give us a boxset of their unreleased/rare material, and included such studio gems as these!!
    *Crosses fingers* Hopefully, they’ll see it makes perfect business sense one of these days, and do so. I eagerly wait until that day comes …

  • There are a few albums that really altered my personal musical landscape. Kid A is one of those. I suppose I was already a fan of Radiohead before it came out; as a dumb teen I know I sang along to Creep and High and Dry as they played on our terrible radio stations. As a college student given free broadband internet in the Napster age I quickly was exposed to and devoured OKC, all the existing B-sides, and the actual albums whose singles I thought I knew. So by the time Kid A was released I knew I was a fan. I purposely avoided seeking out leaks or live performances, already sensing it would be something I did not want to spoil.

    Anyway, Kid A was the first Radiohead album that I bought when it was released, that I listened to properly front to back and just absorbed. I remember spending the night after I got it just lying in bed in the dark, not wanting any of my other senses to interfere. I don’t really remember what expectations I had for it but they would have been destroyed; I don’t think anyone could have expected what we got. It’s an album that subsequently has always demanded my full attention when I decide I want to listen to it. I can manage to listen to songs like How to Disappear, Idioteque, or Motion Picture Soundtrack on their own, but most of the time hearing a Kid A track makes me want to sit in the dark and listen to the whole thing and do nothing else.

  • October 2nd. Every year this day is special to me, it has become a landmark in my life. As most of you I anticipated this record eagerly, reading Ed’s diary, listening to studio webcasts from the band (which was such a revolutionairy thing at that time) and counting the days to the release of the follow up to OK Computer, this giant of an album.
    I remember going to the record shop, shaking with excitement. In those times we used Napster or some other p2p, but usually you would still go to a record shop to buy the thing and get your news out of music magazines. I was (and still am) one of those who celebrate the first listen to an album in awe, hearing the first chords, flicking through the good smelling paper of the booklet….aaahh…nothing beats that feeling.
    In case of Kid A this experience sure was just exciting as with other albums but it did not take me long to realize that this was not what I had expected. First track: Ok, let’s see. Second: WTF? Third: Aah, some drums and bass. We’re getting there! Fourth: Yaay, guitars!!. Fifth: No, I won’t skip forward!! Sixth: That sounds a bit like the old stuff! And so on….I was confused, I have to admit. A bit like “that’s it”? I hit the play button again. And again and…..Wait a minute. Now I get this song. This is really good. Now I realize what you guys are doing there! I don’t remember when exactly it broke through to me but soon after I had a little brother called Kid A and I took him with me everywhere I went. I don’t know how many times I listened to this album or let myself carry away to sleep by it but it never got boring and never will. This piece of music has changed my whole perspective on music and many other things. I opened up to new genres and it taught me to listen in new ways. I still play some songs on the piano or guitar frequently, ten years after they still have the same power, they still give you goosebumps. Just as the first chords of “Everything In It’s Right Place” still send me a shiver down my spine. They are the opening to one of the most extrodinary fantasy worlds in music (the most beautiful world in the world).

    P.S. Thanks for this very great website all those years!

  • Kid A changed my life,an absolute masterpiece.

  • My all time favorite album by Radiohead! I love the hidden booklet that came with the CD!

    In my opinion, Kid A was Radiohead’s “Ummagumma” album! 2 great experimental art works by Radiohead & Pink Floyd!

  • [...] on October 2 we marked the 10th anniversary of ‘Kid A’, Radiohead’s “difficult” fourth [...]

  • [...] been looking back on the release of Radiohead’s Kid A this past month (here and here), but there’s more coming from a journalist’s perspective in the form of a new [...]

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