“No Surprises” by Radiohead 

It has been put forth that this song is about a man taking his own life via the ingestion of carbon monoxide. And such is a reasonable theory considering, for starters, that the lyrics are premised on how terribly he perceives his life. 

You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for Radiohead's No Surprises at Lyrics.org.


The first verse, which is the most descriptive, concludes with the vocalist proclaiming that he will “take a quiet life”, which includes “a handshake of carbon monoxide”. This is an expression that can definitely be taken as an allusion to suicide.

Then the chorus that follows is dominated by the line “no alarms and no surprises”. Now as far as the reference to “alarms” goes, it has been noted that fire alarms do in fact detect carbon monoxide. So that line can be interpreted as further proof that the vocalist is desiring to take his own life via this deadly gas, as in not wanting any alarm to be sounded or for anyone to intervene if he does. 

The second verse also proceeds to suggest that such an instance, i.e. self-poisoning, may actually be going down.

However, the third verse, as ambiguous as it is, leading into the final chorus does imply something. It implies that despite being fatally pessimistic, the narrator may be fantasizing about suicide but not desiring it per se. It is especially the ad-lib of the final chorus, the request for someone to “get (him) out of here”, which insinuates that even though the vocalist may be depressed, he isn’t actually looking for a “final” solution.

But that said, it is once again obvious that he perceives his personal situation, indeed the world at large even, as being very much less than ideal. The vocalist will most likely live on. But that does not change the fact, at least as far as the immediate future appears, that he feels utterly powerless in terms of bettering his condition.

Lyrics of Radiohead's "No Surprises"

Release Date of “No Surprises”

This track is from “OK Computer”. “OK Computer” is the title of a project which many apparently consider to be Radiohead’s signature work (or in the very least their breakthrough album). Said outing hit the shelves on 21 May 1997, with “No Surprises” subsequently being issued as its final single in early 1998 also.

On its own the song fared admirably, achieving gold status in Canada, Italy and the United Kingdom. And it also managed to rank within the top five of the UK Singles Chart.

“No Surprise” was a top-20 hit in these places:

  • United Kingdom (4)
  • Scotland (6)
  • Ireland (13)
  • Iceland (9)
  • Belgium (13)

Credits for “No Surprises”?

Radiohead bandmates are acknowledged individually as the authors of “No Surprises”, with the band as a whole being granting co-production credit. 

And the other producer is Nigel Godrich. On top of being a regular Radiohead collaborator, Nigel is known to have a close professional relationship with frontman Yorke in particular.

The full songwriting credits for “No Surprises” are as follows:

  • Philip Selway
  • Thom Yorke
  • Jonny Greenwood
  • Colin Greenwood
  • Ed O’Brien

Another artist who is intimately familiar with Radiohead (as in having directed a documentary about the band), Grant Gee, was responsible for putting together the ‘torturous’ music video to “No Surprises”.

More Facts

To note, there is also a 1997 Radiohead EP entitled “No Surprises / Running from Demons”. This was marketed specifically in Japan.

The sound of this song was inspired by a couple of legendary African-American singers, Marvin Gaye and Louis Armstrong. More specifically, Armstrong’s quintessential hit “What a Wonderful World” (1967) served as inspiration.

Also acknowledged in terms of influencing “No Surprises” is an album the Beach Boys put out back in the day called “Pet Sounds” (1966) and more directly a classic single found thereupon entitled Wouldn’t It Be Nice. So basically, despite its serious subject matter, this song was designed to sound giddy.

Apparently the working title of this song, in its original incarnation, was “No Surprises Please”.

No Surprises

Radiohead’s “OK Computer”

On May 21 of 1997, Radiohead released their third studio album with the title, “OK Computer”. It was was jointly released through Parlophone Records and Capitol Records.

A reissue of the album, “OK Computer OKNOTOK 1997 2017” was released in June of 2017. This reissue was to mark the album’s 20th-anniversary.

Godrich and Radiohead hold production credits for the album.

“OK Computer” peaked at No. 1 in the UK, Scotland, New Zealand and Belgium. It debuted at No. 21 on the Billboard 200. Furthermore, it ranked within the top-10 in several countries, including:

  • Canada – 2
  • France – 3
  • Ireland – 2
  • Norway – 4

The album turned out to be a commercial success, despite EMI’s earlier prediction of poor sales. It claimed the album was going to be difficult to market.

“OK Computer”, since its release has sold over 7.8 million copies globally. In the process, it has earned several certifications in many countries.

  • Australia – Platinum
  • Belgium – 2x Platinum
  • Canada – 4x Platinum
  • France – Gold
  • Italy – Platinum
  • Japan – Gold
  • New Zealand – Platinum
  • Norway – Gold
  • Spain – Gold
  • United Kingdom – 5x Platinum
  • US – 5x Platinum

 It earned many accolades including, nominations for the awards, “Best Alternative Music Album” and “Album of the Year” at the Grammys held in 1998. On the night of the event, it took home the former and lost the latter to Bob Dylan’s “Time Out of Mind”.

In all, four singles (including “No Surprises”) emerged from “OK Computer”. The remaining three are:

1 Response

  1. carlo says:

    this is sick yo

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