What happened when Radiohead’s record label heard OK Computer for the first time

From Dalton Caldwell’s blog. He used to be the CEO of imeem:

This is a story I heard from someone that worked at Radiohead’s record label during this time. Given that this story was told to me as a casual anecdote, it should be treated as such.

Paraphrased from my imperfect memory:

We were having trouble with the band because they refused to let us listen to the album during production. The recording process was arduous and behind schedule and we wanted to know what the record sounded like so we could start planning label support.

Finally, after a lot of drama, they sent us over the final mix of “OK Computer”. We all got in a conference room, sat around the table and put it on.

We listened to it all the way through in one sitting. Some people took notes.

After the album finished playing, there was silence, and the people in the room looked despondent. Someone finally said: “what the f-ck did we just listen to… how are we supposed to market that?”

After he told me this, I went back and listened to that record, and tried to pretend that I had no context at all: no album artwork, no reviews, no testimonials to it’s greatness. That made it much easier for me to imagine the emotions they felt in that conference room.

Making sense of something on the fly, without any context, is difficult.