Twenty Years Later, This Lost Radiohead Song Is Beautiful and Timeless

Watch the video for the previously unreleased "I Promise."
IMAGE Esquire

As the band approaches the 20th anniversary reissue of OK Computer, Radiohead has gotten retrospective, looking back at those defining years when they released one of the most acclaimed albums in modern music. In a rare, reflective interview with Rolling Stone, Thom Yorke recounted long hours on the tour bus where he "was basically catatonic," Yorke said. "The claustrophobia – just having no sense of reality at all."

It's those feelings that became the basis for OK Computer. One of those songs, recorded more than two decades ago, "I Promise," never made it onto the album. It remained somewhere in their vaults, forgotten as the band moved from that era onto the next reinventions of Radiohead's sound. Debuting I promise last night on BBC Radio, host Steve Lamacq said said Radiohead was "especially pleased to find [the song] in the vaults, because they thought it'd been lost over the years."

But finally, Radiohead has released the official studio version of "I Promise," a song that doesn't quite fit with the inventive atmosphere of OK Computer, but is nonetheless Radiohead at its most beautiful.

Along with the new song, Radiohead has released a video, one that captures the feeling that Yorke described of those days. It's a melancholy man staring out the window of a bus at all the people going about their business as he flies by. He seems content, but he's missing something. As the video shows, he's just an electronic head—separated from his own body and every other human he sees out his window.


What's amazing is that this song—like the rest of Radiohead's catalog—can emerge 20 years later and feel so absolutely timeless. Those emotions in Yorke's voice, in what inspired this album haven't faded with the years. Rather, they've been reserved, ready to reach a new generation of ears. There's more of this to come, too, as Radiohead reveals more unreleased track off the upcoming OK Computer reissue.

This story originally appeared on

* Minor edits have been made by the editors.

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Matt Miller
Matt Miller is the Associate Culture Editor for
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