Monday, May 26, 1997

Radiohead “Paranoid Android” released

Paranoid Android


Writer(s):Radiohead (see lyrics here)

Released: May 26, 1997

Peak: 3 UK (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): --

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 22.8 video, -- streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

“If you had to play somebody one Radiohead song to convince them of the band's brilliance, it should probably be ‘Paranoid Android.’” RS’11 This is “their first truly original artistic statement” RB and “very possibly the best rock song of the millennium, the last few decades and maybe even ever.” PS’16 “They distilled everything that makes them great, the energy, the beauty, the experimentation, the abrasiveness, the gentleness, the fearlessness, the fears, the transcendence of those fears, the songwriting, the musicianship, the uniqueness, the utter, unadulterated brilliance, the whole ball of wax, into one crazy, untamable beast of a song.” AS “Nothing about ‘Paranoid Android’… makes sense: The chords don’t go together. The sections feel jumbled. There’s no clear narrative. The melodies are too strange. The choir sounds cut off. The song’s too long! But these are also reasons why it's one of Radiohead's best songs.” RB

This is “a towering pop mutation” RB “clocking in at a tortured, schizophrenic 6-and-a-half minutes.” BZ It is “as tricky and complex as anything found in ‘70s prog,” DF “a ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ for the nineties.” AD It also “draws comparisons to The Beatles’ ‘A Day in the Life’” RV and its three stitched-together parts from other songs was inspired by the Beatles’ “Happiness Is a Warm Gun.” RS’11 “tethered…by a pleading urgency in which Yorke lashes out at his unnamed opposition in between distorted guitar screeches and dead-eyed harmonies.” BB Guitarist Ed O’Brien described the song as “Queen meets the Pixes.” RG The initial version was “a 14-minute sprawler that included organ” CS which producer Nigel Godrich said delved into “Deep Purple territory” RG while Yorke jokingly described the song as a “Pink Floyd cover.” FT

“The comparisons to ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ were inevitable, but whereas Queen’s song suite bursts with melodic joy, the moody “Paranoid Android” is full of anxiety and lacks any obvious hooks.” BB “There’s absolutely no interest in coddling listeners or adhering to trends” SA and when Radiohead released it as the album’s first single, they refused to cut it down for radio. RS’11 It is “a lumbering Frankenstein’s monster of sludgy prog-rock and stuttery electronica” SA which “incorporates several different styles into a single bombastic symphony of dread.” RV

The epic is packed with “alternating time signatures, wild dynamic shifts, drama and adrenaline to spare.” VH1 “This dizzying suite begins as a creepy lullaby” EX and then “combusts with speaker-blown alt-rock,” EX “morphing and rocketing around like a firework with a broken fuse.” CS“Just when you think you’ve had enough, it slows back down” SP to “the Gregorian-chant pace working subtle magic on our defenses that have already been battered by the first two parts,” AS “before finally being sucked down into hell with a squalling guitar freakout.” EX “Greenwood gives you every reason to practice your air guitar, where everything sounds as if it’s burning down.” CS

It is long enough that one of its “three sections…even has its own sub-section. There’s a terrific, jazzy 7/8 part with electric piano and deep-grooving bass; there’s a hefty dose of blistering rock (with two guitar solos); and there’s a truly awesome vocal harmony sequence reminiscent of a load of monks chanting a particularly intense extract from David Bowie’s ‘The Man Who Sold the World.’” QM

“Yorke delivers some of his best singing here, pleading for redemption from on high only to be rebuffed by another version of himself snapping him back to reality.” AS Listening to the song is about spending time “with either a manic-depressive or a brief thunderstorm.” SP Yorke wrote it after encountering a woman at a bar who turned violent when someone spilled a drink on her. BZ He said it was about “the fall of the Roman Empire, but good luck finding anything in the lyrics that seem related to that topic in any way.” RS’11 The title refers to Marvin the Paranoid Android from Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, CS but that also seems to have nothing to do with the song. “As unhinged as the lyrics…may seem, there is a consistent thread of dread running through them, the feeling that all of these seemingly unreal acts of tyranny and fascism are committed on a smaller scale every single day.” AS

The video “interestingly seems to reflect the sound as heard.” DG-54 “The adventures of the cartoon protagonists seem to match the music.” DG-54


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First posted 6/9/2022.

Friday, May 23, 1997

Puff Daddy released “I’ll Be Missing You,” his memorial to Notorious B.I.G.

I’ll Me Missing You

Puff Daddy with Faith Evans & 112

Writer(s): Sting, Faith Evans, Todd Gaither, Albert E. Brumley (see lyrics here)

Released: May 23, 1997

First Charted: June 14, 1997

Peak: 111 US, 13 RR, 18 RB, 16 UK, 4 CN, 15 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 3.1 US, 2.0 UK, 8.0 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 0.3 radio, 92.5 video, -- streaming

Awards: (Click on award for more details).

About the Song:

On March 9, 1997, rapper Christopher Wallace, better known as The Notorious B.I.G., was gunned down. He was only 24 years old. His 1994 album Ready to Die had made him a superstar. His 1997 album Life After Death, released just two weeks after his death, immortalized him.

Devastated over the loss of his best friend, rapper Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs wrote a tribute around samples of The Police’s 1983 #1 hit “Every Breath You Take.” Combs tapped singer Faith Evans, B.I.G.’s widow, to sing the song with him alongside R&B group 112. The song made its chart debut on June 14, 1997. It was huge from the onset. According to the Guinness World Records British Hit Singles, it was the first to debut at #1 in both the United States and England. DR It was only the fifth song in history to debut atop the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart. (See full list here).

“I’ll Be Missing You” also claimed the title of biggest selling rap song of all-time. DR Only Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” has logged more time on top (although pop-meets-rap group Black Eyed Peas went to #1 for 12 weeks with “Boom Boom Pow” and “I Got a Feeling” hit the summit for 14 weeks).

1997 was a mixed blessing for Combs. Even as he mourned his friend, he capped one of the most successful years in pop history. His song “Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down” topped the chart for 6 weeks right after B.I.G.’s death. It was replaced by B.I.G.’s “Hypnotize,” a song which Combs helped write and produce, for three weeks. A three-week stint by Hanson’s “Mmmbop” interrupted the Combs/B.I.G. stranglehold briefly – then “I’ll Be Missing You” began its chart run. It was supplanted by “Mo Money Mo Problems,” another B.I.G. hit with Combs featured as a writer and producer. All told, Combs spent 22 weeks on top of the Hot 100 chart in 1997 as a writer, producer, and/or performer.

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First posted 6/14/2011; last updated 4/1/2021.

Monday, May 19, 1997

Fish released Sunsets on Empire

Sunsets on Empire


Released: May 19, 1997

Peak: -- US, 42 UK

Sales (in millions): --

Genre: neo-progressive rock


Song Title (Writers) [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. The Perception of Johnny Punter (Dick, Wilson) [8:36]
  2. Goldfish & Clowns (Dick, Wilson) [6:36] (8/11/97, --)
  3. Change of Heart (Dick, Boult) [3:41] (8/11/97, --)
  4. What Colour is God? (Dick, Wilson) [5:50]
  5. Tara (Dick, Paterson) [5:11]
  6. Jungle Ride (Dick, Boult) [7:33]
  7. Worm in a Bottle (Dick, Boult) [6:23]
  8. Brother 52 (Dick, Wilson) [Dick, Wilson] (4/28/97, --)
  9. Sunsets on Empire (Dick, Wilson) [6:54]
  10. Say It with Flowers (Dick, Wilson, Tim Bowness) [4:15]

Total Running Time: 61:04

The Players:

  • Derek W. Dick, aka “Fish” (vocals)
  • Steven Wilson (guitars, keyboards)
  • Robin Boult, Frank Usher (guitar)
  • Foss Paterson (keyboards, piano)
  • Ewen Vernal (bass)
  • Dave Stewart (drums)
  • Dave Haswell (percussion)
  • Chris Gaugh (cello)
  • Brian Hale, Martyn Bennett (violin)
  • Terence Jones (French horn)
  • Frasier Speirs (harmonica)
  • Doc (voice on “Brother 52”)
  • Loran Bannon, Katherine Garrett, Don Jack, Chris Thomson, Annie McCraig (backing vocals)


3.085 out of 5.00 (average of 17 ratings)

Awards: (Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

“The album is quite a change from the SuitsES album Fish released three years prior to this. “After toying with wild plans like a complete album of dance songs (thank God that never happened) [Fish] decided to go for a combination of rock music with dance influences and the ‘grooves’ he had experimented with on earlier albums. Fish was an admirer of Steve Wilson’s bands Porcupine Tree and No Man. Steve in his turn had been a Marillion fan in the eighties so it didn’t take much to get these two together. Sunsets on Empire was arranged, produced and co-written (6 out of 11 songs) by Steve. You can definitely tell on certain tracks.” ES

“Steve Wilson brought in lots of new (daring) arrangements and the album features new instruments like violin, percussion and Hammong Organ.” ES “Steve also played a lot of the music on the album: lead guitar on two songs, rhythm guitar on four, slide guitar on one and keyboard on all songs except ‘Worm in a Bottle.’ He also took care of the samples and loops for some songs.” ES

“Tim Bowness, Wilson’s partner in No-Man, has additional writing credits on one track. Two permanent members of Fish’s line-up, keyboardist Foster Paterson and guitarist Robin Boult co-wrote one and two tracks, respectively.” WK “The rest of the band consisted of…Ewan Vernal on bass, [and] Dave ‘Sqeaky’ Stewart (drums)…Frank Usher is also present on most songs, but far less prominent than in the past; he only plays lead guitar on 4 songs” ES so “his typical howling guitar which has dominated Fish’s work since the beginning of his solo carreer is never obviously present on this album.” ES

“Besides these familiar names, there are another bunch of other musicians playing percussion, cello, violins, french horn, harmonica and doing backing vocals on the album, turning it into a very versatile recording.” ES

Best of all, “Fish is angry at the world around him again! And that’s the mood which has always created the best material.” ES

The Perception of Johnny Pointer is “one of the best songs Fish has made since the Vigil album” ES that kicked off his solo career. It “starts with a guitar riff which forms the basis for the whole track. After a lyrically daring opening the rest of the band kicks in to perform one of those venemous tracks Fish is (in)famous for. In the middle there’s an intermezzo where the music quiets down and Fish tells a story about his experiences in Bosnia. The track also features good female backing vocals and a roaring guitar solo by Steve Wilson. A great change from the normal howling Usher solo’s! At the end the electrical violence dies down and the song ends with cello and violin.” ES

Goldfish and Clowns is another wonderful track which starts very quietly with a single repeated piano note and guitars. When the rhythm section joins, another powerful song with emotional vocals follows.” ES

Change of Heart is a simple (semi-)acoustic track. Not one of the highlights but a very nice tune nevertheless.” ES

What Colour is God? is a track in which Fish builds further on the ‘groove’ he experimented with on Suits. It features percussion with an Eastern feel, samples of religious speakers, drum loops and a pumping bass line. There’s even a bit where Fish goes into a rap! It’s still got a lot of anger and power though.” ES

Tara is “a sentimental song about Fish’s daughter. Nothing wrong with that if they would have turned it into a ballad like ‘Gentleman’s Excuse Me.’ Instead they made this song so sweet and soft with a jazzy feel (Foss co-wrote it), female backing vocals and violins that it is completely out of place on the album. It also has Fish trying to go for vocal altitudes he no longer is able to reach.” ES

Jungle Ride is a track which lots of acoustic guitars, percussion and mainly spoken lyrics. It’s a fantastic song” ES except for “the duet with the female backing vocalist in the refrain.” ES The live version from Tales from the Bus “has more anger in the vocals, the album version sounds more mysterious. The track also features violin and harmonica.” ES

Worm in a Bottle is another ‘groove’ song with a simple but effective bass and drum line and a slightly minimalistic feel. The guitar effects and Hammond Organ add to the atmosphere of the song which gives you the feeling of being in a seedy bar. Great stuff!” ES

Brother 52 is a song in which Fish finally succeeds in combining dance rhythms with rock music. It features a fine bass line, Hammond, ripping guitar and energetic violin solos and the voice of a friend over the telephone, telling the tragical story of ‘Brother 52’. It might sound a bit strange for a Fish song, but isn’t that far from tunes like ‘Big Wedge.’” ES

“The title track of the album, Sunsets on Empire, is track which would not have been out of place on a Roger Waters (ballad with piano) or older Pink Floyd album. The track slowly builds to a climax with a female vocalist trying to create a new ‘Great Gig in the Sky.’ There’s no real guitar solo but lots of rhythm and slide guitar. The song ends rather strangely with a menacing piano melody.” ES

Say it with Flowers is a simple track with just vocals, (acoustic) guitar and keyboards. Lots of people don't like this song…Certainly it’s not a highlight, but it’s not as bad as some people think either…After all, the strength of this song is in the lyrics, not in the music.” ES

“Unfortunately, the album and tour were flops and lost Fish hundreds of pounds, which meant he had to fold his Dick Brothers label. Roadrunner and Chocolate Frog/Snapper would reissue the album in future.” WK “In contrast with the other remasters, this one does not feature liner notes, which is a shame because there’s probably a lot of interesting stories to tell…The album does of course contain all the pictures and lyrics of the original version.” ES

Notes: “Do Not Walk Outside This Area,” a B-side for “Brother 52,” was added to a reissue.

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Last updated 6/13/2021.