November 13, 2015 | Posted in JAZZ | By



OK Computer is an album that profoundly effected me when I first heard it only 15 years ago. Truth is I had not paid much attention to Radiohead,¬† I was turned on to this album because I heard it was influenced by Miles Davis’ jazz rock masterpiece Bitches Brew.

I listen mainly to jazz artists like Davis or John Coltrane, modern Jazz mainly. The reviews were so good for this being an original modern rock classic, I had to check it out. After a few dozen listens, I was still not quite sure what they were talking about.

Jonny Greenwood’s respect of Miles Davis

Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood in 2001 mentioned in glowing terms his respect for Miles Davis, both pre and post Bitches Brew.

Greenwood mentions how he feels a bit uncomfortable even admitting an influence of Miles Davis, feeling as if what he did was so beyond anything that they have done. Perhaps the past 13 years has brought Radiohead closer to Miles in Greenwood’s mind, I have grown like the music I know that?

I suppose the overall aesthetic of OK Computer, with its moody icy production, and mournful sound compares a little? The electronic sprinkling here and there do draw a legitimate comparison, reportedly Chick Corea used the same model of electric piano as was used on OK Computer.

If it is influenced by Bitches Brew, you sure don’t hear any overt funk like “Miles Runs the Voodoo Down” on OK Computer. The comparison is in the cold and desolate mood of tracks like “Pharoahs Dance” and the title track.

I am still grateful though for the comparison, otherwise I would have not experienced Radiohead¬† at all. It is a wonderful album, is it progressive rock? Well, maybe, but I can see where it would make many a prog rocker’s head spin debating the issue. It doesn’t matter, it is a fantastic fully realized album just the same.

Not a prog band?

Thomas Yorke, the main man behind Radiohead states that the band is not a progressive rock band, though to my ears, for this album at least, every track flows so perfectly to the next, and the that icy production brings it all together, it feels like a progressive rock album to me.

Paranoid Android is my favorite track from the album, it is also the longest track. The track was inspired by The Beatles “Happiness is a Warm Gun” With the pasting together of seemingly different section to form the tune.

“Subterranean Home sick Alien” is the track that offers the best example of the Miles Davis Bitches Brew influence in my opinion, the electronic keyboards in particular.

  • Thom Yorke – vocals, guitar, piano, laptop
  • Jonny Greenwood – guitar, keyboards, piano, organ, glockenspiel, string arrangements
  • Ed O’Brien – guitar, backing vocals
  • Colin Greenwood – bass guitar, keyboards
  • Phil Selway – drums

“Pharaoh’s Dance”

The Bitches Brew Influence?

Joe Zawinul (July 7, 1932 – September 11, 2007) was one of the most underrated musicians of the 20th Century, Joe composed the track Pharoah’s Dance from Bitches Brew, Joe who was an immigrant from Vienna Austria mentioned that he was always amazed how the track was ultimately arranged by Davis, and in particular producer Teo Macero.

“It sounded like a new Piece of music” said Zawinul”

I think it Captured exactly the moods and feelings he, “Zawinul” had after arriving in New York years before, the chaotic concrete jungle and so forth.

I personally had this bustling urban jungle mood in mind the first time heard the Bitches Brew, long before Zawinul affirmed that to me as a reader.

Here’s some more reading on Bitches brew sounding different from what was recorded by the musicians.

That “sound” is ultimately what I feel influenced OK Computer:

While you certainly would not say this is a sister recording to Bitches Brew or anything, and after repeated listens, its influence does not smack you in the face in any way shape or form.

A subtler, enigmatic influence is indeed present, the atmosphere for one, a desolate barren landscape. Then all of these colors are dripped across the canvas, much like a Jackson Pollock action painting.

Thomas Yorke explained that he started with the idea of Bitches Brew, building something up and tearing down, he stated Bitches Brew was an incredibly dense and terrifying sound.

Taking OK Computer in that context I can see the logic in it, I have really tried to hear Bitches Brew in OK Computer over the years, something is there, but Radiohead’s music in this case is very original, and stunningly beautiful.

Bitches Brew was completely original in its own right, but maybe both are beautiful and ugly at the same time, you can judge for your self.

Jason Sositko

Jason Sositko, a freelance writer and entrepreneur is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. I also use services such as Viglink and Skimlinks to earn income via links placed inside articles.

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