Radiohead‘s “special edition” version of the OK Computer 20th anniversary edition ($130/£100) is a box set containing three vinyl records, three books of art, sketches, and lyrics, and a 78-minute C90 audio cassette. The tape, a soundscape of rare demos and odd audio experiments—distributed Tuesday as a digital download to anyone who preordered the box set—ends with about two minutes of computer tones. That inspired one fan, well acquainted with Radiohead’s sneaky ways, to load the mysterious audio into an emulator for Sinclair’s pioneering 1982 personal home computer the ZX Spectrum. And lo and behold, as Ars Technica reports,
the result is roughly 30 lines of code, with its functioning parts printing out a basic text greeting that lists the band members’ names alongside a note: “19th December 1996, with all our love.” (It’s unclear whether that is the date that the members coded a ZX-specific program, or whether it signifies the final day of the album’s recording sessions.) The greeting is followed by a minutes-long blast of randomly generated colors and beeps. The code’s first 10 or so lines are commented out with a hidden message that reads, “congratulations . . . you’ve found the secret message syd lives hmmmm. We should get out more.”
This message is particularly keen, because it may very well reference Syd Barrett, who got the boot from the band Pink Floyd when he began pushing experimental and psychedelic sounds (along with many other issues). OK Computer saw Radiohead push away from its own “traditional rock” sound and popularity with more synthesizers and textures. This aesthetic remained a band keystone for the rest of its career to date.
You can read more about some of music’s secret messages at Ars Technica.