Radiohead is a British rock band from Oxford. Their current moniker, "Radiohead", was taken from the Talking Heads song "Radio Head". The band consists of Thom Yorke (vocals, rhythm guitar and keyboards), Ed O'Brien (guitars, vocals), Jonny Greenwood (guitars and electronics), his brother Colin Greenwood (bass guitar), and Phil Selway (drums and percussions). Yorke and J. Greenwood are often regarded as being the two main artists behind the band. The band has cited as influences artists such as Elvis Costello, Nirvana, Queen, the Pixies and corner-stones like Pink Floyd, U2, R.E.M., The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.
Producer Nigel Godrich has worked with the band since the recording of The Bends, and is said to have contributed significantly to their sound, often being dubbed the "sixth member" of the band. Another major contributor has been Stanley Donwood, who has produced the artwork for the band's albums since The Bends in collaboration with "Dr. Tchock"—a pseudonym for Yorke. Donwood and Yorke met at Oxford, and also produce the official band website, Radiohead.com http://www.radiohead.com/ .
While Radiohead are not normally referred to as a Britpop band, their influence on contemporary Britpop, especially bands such as Coldplay, Stereophonics, Muse and Travis, is noticeable. Lately their electronic influence has placed them in Warp Records territory, though they remain basically an experimental alternative rock group.
One hit wonders (1991–1993)
Radiohead formed during the late 1980s, originally under the name On A Friday, a name referring to the only time where all band members were able to practice. They first came to international attention in the early 1990s, when their single "Creep" received extensive airplay and charted in many countries. Striking a highly popular and sympathetic note of similar self-loathing among fans, "Creep" was released around the same time as other so-called "slacker" anthems such as Beck's "Loser".
The band weren't unanimously keen on Creep and, until recently, refused to play it, believing that its meaning had been misinterpreted and given too much weight by fans. Legend says that Jonny's famous guitar crunches were supposedly an attempt to ruin a song he didn't like. "Jonny played the piano at the end of the song and it was gorgeous" notes producer Paul Kolderie. "Everyone who heard Creep just started going insane. So that's what got us the job doing the album." The album was finished in three weeks. The single "Creep" was released in September 1992, while the album was scheduled for February next year. Meanwhile, unbeknown to the band, a radio station in San Fransisco, "Live 105" had just named Pablo Honey its favourite record of the year and quickly crossed over onto L.A.'s KROQ and other West Coast stations. The single eventually peaked at a modest 34 in the US, but Pablo Honey went gold. A year after its original release, a reissued "Creep" finally hit the UK charts, peaking at number 7. Because the album kept on breaking around the world, the Pablo Honey supporting tour lumberd into its second year. Pablo Honey was a solid, if unremarkable recording, that lacks both the force and experimentation of their later work. Regardless, their potential sparked with songs like the infamous "Creep", "Anyone Can Play Guitar", "Thinking About You" and "You".
Breakthrough and rising to success (1994–1995)
The edifice marked "follow-up to Creep" casted a long shadow over the sessions for their second album. "It was either going to be Sulk, The Bends, Nice Dream or Just," remembers producer John Leckie. "We had to give those absolute attention, make the amazing, instant smash hits number 1 in America. Everyone was pulling their hair and saying, 'It's not good enough! We were trying too hard.'" The EP My Iron Lung (1994) was released between the two albums, and saw the band in a transitional stage between the poppy simplicity of Pablo Honey and the musical depth of their next album, The Bends. The solution was a change of scenario: they quit the studio and toured Australasia and the Far East. "It made them re-evaluate what they were good at and enjoyed doing," claimed Hufford. "Playing live again put the perspective back on what they'd lost in the studio." Having worked the songs in on the road, they returned to Britain and completed the album in a fortnight.
Drawing heavily on 1960s influences as well as the then popular grunge music exemplified by groups such as Nirvana and R.E.M., the album was a significant step forward for the group with Yorke's vocal style to the fore. Tracks such as "Planet Telex", "Street Spirit [fade out]" and "Fake Plastic Trees" were striking, original and indicators of the group's subsequent developments. Although the album helped the band shake off the popular conception that they were "one hit wonders", it wasn't until the fifth single, "Street Spirit [fade out]", that the band would hit the top 10 again after "Creep". Widely praised at the time of its release, The Bends now is considered by many critics as one of the best albums of the mid-1990s.
At the height of their popularity (1996–1998)
Radiohead began writing OK Computer in early 1996 at their rehearsal studio, Canned Applause, a converted apple shed near their homes in Oxford, England. By July they had recorded four songs with producer Nigel Godrich. Having learnt from The Bends, they decided to break the songs in live before completing the record.By July 1996, Canned Applause was set up for recording. It was the first time the band had attempted to cut album tracks outside of a conventional studio environment. Despite the experimental and unconventional setting, four songs from Canned Applause found their way onto the album. The songs were "Subterranean Homesick Alien", "Electioneering", "The Tourist" and "No Surprises". At July and August, they returned briefly for touring to present and try the new songs. In September they moved to St. Catherine's Court—a mansion owned by actress Jane Seymour—where they recorded the rest of OK Computer, without pressure. They made much use of the various different rooms and atmospheres throughout the house, and the isolation from the outside world encouraged time to run at a different pace, making working hours more flexible and spontaneous. A couple of songs—"Exit Music (for a film)" and "Let Down"—were recorded live. By Christmas 1996, the album was finished, and in February and March was mixed. "The biggest pressure was actually completing it," remembers Ed O'Brien. "We weren't given any deadlines and we had complete freedom to do what we wanted. We were delaying it because we were a bit frightened of actually finishing stuff."
In 16 June 1997 OK Computer was released and received even greater acclaim than The Bends, featuring prominently in many "best album" polls, then and now. It found Radiohead taking musical risks uncommon in the Britpop genre, experimenting with ambience and noise to create a set of songs that many consider to be a high point of late-twentieth century rock music. It received a Grammy Award for Best Alternative Album and was followed by their big "Against Demons World Tour". Grant Gee, the director of the "No Surprises" video, accompanied the band on their tour and filmed it, which resulted in the "on the fly" documentary Meeting People Is Easy. Colin Greenwood said about the album: "I think the overall mood on the record is starker than The Bends. I think that there is a consistent sound to 80 percent of the new album. I think we made things a little bit more extreme on this record. The important thing for us on this record was that we produce it ourselves. We had to learn how to make decisions amongst the six of us. There was the five people in the band and the engineer/mixer Nigel Goodrich. We learned a lot from doing it on our own and in retrospect, we are very proud of this record."
The band released two EPs No Surprises/Running From Demons (1997) and Airbag/How Am I Driving?(1998), which differ only by a couple of songs. The more notable is the second, which has few songs that could be best be described as a bridge between the progressive alternative rock of OK Computer and their subsequent experimental work. Now, OK Computer is regarded by some as one of the greatest rock albums and still tops peaks of various charts. It nailed Radiohead as top superstars and defined them as one of the greatest bands of their time, threatening the leadership of seminal acts like R.E.M. and U2.
Experimental work (1999–2001)
Exhausted by their fame and on the verge of burnout following the OK Computer tour, the band spent the latter part of 1998 in relative quiet. The band only appeared at the Amnesty International Concert in Paris (December 10, 1998), where Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood performed at the Tibetan Freedom Concert in Amsterdam, where a new song, "Pyramid Song", made its live debut.Thom Yorke admitted that after the tour the band was on the verge of splitting up. He also added that he fell in depression and Michael Stipe (R.E.M.'s singer) helped him a lot to recover and continue songwriting and recording. After O'Brien's collaboration for the BBC drama series "Eureka Street", the band returned to the studio to record Kid A, a defiantly experimental album that complemented the lyrical and musical hooks of their earlier work with a more minimalist style.
Kid A was finished in April 2000 and with no singles, yet with promos, the album was promoted mainly on the Internet. This is where Radiohead's infamous relationship with Napster came into play. Three months prior to the release of Kid A MP3 tracks of the entire album made their way onto the file sharing service. As Richard Menta of MP3 Newswire detailed in his essay "Did Napster Take Radiohead's New Album to Number 1?" millions of fans had possession of this music by the time the CD hit stores. The record industry assumed the album was now doomed to failure since fans already had the music for free. Instead the opposite happened and the band, which had never hit the US top 20 before, captured the number one spot in Kid As debut week. With the record's absence of radio airplay, big time marketing, and any other factor that may have explained this stunning success, Menta declared this was proof of the promotional powers of file trading and of word-of-mouth generated by the Net.
Even Oasis' chief Noel Gallagher admitted that Kid As great marketing scheme was its lack of any promotion: "If you refuse to talk about your own album, that just stirs the pot and makes everyone else start talking about it." While others agreed with Gallagher's assessment, it ignored any potential effect of Napster despite the fact it distributed Kid A to a huge number of music fans. Whatever the reason for the record's success on the charts, Kid A took the band from indie faves to burgeoning supergroup. The album's arrangements have been likened to a meeting of Pink Floyd and Aphex Twin. Kid A was released in October 2000. The band cited Alice Coltrane, Charles Mingus and Paul Lansky as influences, as well as the entire back catalogue of Warp Records. Kid A received the same Grammy Award for Best Alternative Album as its predecessor, which fired them to superstardom. Today, Kid A is considered by fans and critics as one of the greatest electronic albums made by a rock band and one of Radiohead's best albums.
The follow up, Amnesiac, which was released in June of the following year, was comprised of further tracks from the same recording sessions as Kid A. Conceived as two separate sequences of songs, the two albums are similar in style and are linked by two different versions of the same song: "Morning Bell."While explaining the decision to release two albums rather than one, Thom illuminates his artistic intentions and further clarifies the relationship between Kid A and Amnesiac: "They are separate because they cannot run in a straight line with each other. They cancel each other out as overall finished things. They come from two different places, I think...In some weird way, I think Amnesiac gives another take on Kid A, a form of explanation." He continues: "Something traumatic is happening in Kid A, and this is looking back at it, trying to piece together what has happened. Go back and listen to Kid A after listening to Amnesiac, and I think you'll hear it."
And about the differences with the previous record he adds: "Kid A was kind of like an electric shock. Amnesiac is more about being in the woods, in the countryside. I think the artwork is the best way of explaining it. The artwork to Kid A was all in the distance. The fires were all going on the other side of the hill. With Amnesiac, you're actually in the forest while the fire's happening. With Kid A, when you sequenced certain tracks together, this play started appearing." Indeed, while Kid A is a more soulful, melodic, and inviting record, albeit slightly dark, Amnesiac is instantly unsettling and more uncomfortable to the listener. Nevertheless the album was received very well and nearly reached Kid As sales. While fans tend to like Kid A more than Amnesiac, the latter should be considered as the next successful and experimental chapter of their expedition in the musical world.
After the release of the album, the band staged their own mini-festival in Oxford's South Park, featuring Sigur Ros, Supergrass, Humphrey Lyttelton (who played trumpet on "Life in a Glass House", the closing track on Amnesiac), and themselves. It was at this concert that the band finally played "Creep," after having refused to perform the song for many years. Initially the band wanted to release I Might Be Wrong as their new single after "Pyramid Song" and "Knives Out", but soon the idea expanded into a full-fledged live record. In the fall of 2001, they released their first live album: I Might Be Wrong: Live Recordings, featuring performances from Berlin, Paris, London and a couple of other concerts and also including one unreleased track, "True Love Waits".
Mixing from everything (2002-2003)
Hail to the Thief
The recording process for their next record, Hail to the Thief, was remarkably different from those for the previous three studio albums. Rather than holing themselves up in a studio for months, the band elected instead to take their new material on the road in Portugal and Spain during July and August of 2002 prior to recording it. With the songs fleshed out and finalised during the tour, the recording process took only 3 weeks in Los Angeles studio.In 2003 the band released their sixth album, which was rooted in less overt experimentation than its two immediate predecessors but was still a long way from their earlier guitar-driven material. The album's title raised controversy in the U.S., being interpreted as a reference to the 2000 U.S. Presidential election. The band deny this claim. In the June 2003 issue of Spin Magazine, Thom Yorke was quoted as saying "If the motivation for naming our album had been based solely on the U.S. election, I'd find that to be pretty shallow." Instead, Yorke claimed that he had gotten the phrase from a radio program about the also controversial 1888 U.S. presidential election. That being said, he couldn't deny that the phrase "Hail to the thief" was additionally used as an anti-Bush slogan by protestors at the end of the controversial 2000 election campaign that put him into the White House. On the day of his inauguration, Bush was greeted in Washington by thousands of protestors with banners, who shouted "Hail to the thief, our commander in chief!".
Two months before the album release, an unfinished version of the album was stolen, apparently from the recording studio where they were working, and uploaded to the internet several weeks before it was officially released. Unfortunately for them, the original album recordings also met the same fate, but the band remained adamant, didn't pull the album for an earlier date, and released it on the announced day: June 9, 2003. Even though the album was leaked, its sales overgrew those of their last two records in the first week and overall as well. After that, Radiohead embarked on a huge international tour, which continued for about a year. It saw the band visiting Australia and Japan for the first time for more than 6 years, since their OK Computer tour in 1997–1998. Radiohead headlined the main (Pyramid) stage on the Saturday of the Glastonbury 2003, to huge crowd acclaim and positive press reviews. They omitted the traditional fan-pleasing "Creep", to no-one's surprise. The same year, Jonny Greenwood, with the help of his brother fellow bandmember Colin Greenwood, recorded and produced the soundtrack Bodysong for the avant-garde documentary of the same name. Exactly the same happened with COM LAG (2plus2isfive). While on their tour at Australia and Japan in 2004 their EP was released one year after Hail to the Thief. The difference with COM LAG is that it's a bit longer than their previous releases. While the first half is filled with standalone songs like Airbag/How Am I Driving? and My Iron Lung, the second half consists of b-sides, recording demos and different versions of some of the album's songs. The band finished touring promoting Hail to the Thief in mid-2004 with a spectacular performance at Coachella festival.
Now and beyond (2004–2005)
In the middle of the year, drummer Phil Selway stated that the band will probably start recording their next record in 2005. He said in an interview for NME that such a marked change in direction with their next album as Kid A is unexpected.
In 2004, all the members of the band were working on separate projects. Jonny Greenwood became "Composer in Residence" for the BBC, charged with creating modern classical pieces for the BBC Concert Orchestra. There were a few rumours and reports that Thom is working on solo project, and Phil Selway is involved with the Samaritans' Health organization. Most recently, Jonny (on guitar) and Thom (on piano) combined their talents with Sir Paul McCartney (on bass) and Supergrass' Danny Goffey (on drums) for the Band Aid 20 project to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the original song, which featured stars like George Michael, Duran Duran and Phil Collins. The project was helmed by chief Radiohead and Travis producer Nigel Godrich. It features collaborations of members from the most famous bands in the world, such as Damon Albarn of Blur, Bono of U2, The Thrills, Sugababes and The Darkness. It was released on November 29, 2004.
On 1 December 2004, the band released a new DVD. Thom Yorke said that this is a collection of songs, previously unreleased, that couldn't be found on the web or in Radiohead's entire back-catalogue. A new Radiohead book by Joseph Tate will be released in January, entitled The Music and Art of Radiohead. Some new work from Thom and Jonny will see the light, performed by the London Synfonietta at the Ether Festival in March. Phil and Jonny will appear in the new Harry Potter movie, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, as the 'Wyrd Sisters'.
As for a new album, the band had said they'll enter the studio, and it is also rumoured that there will be a Thom Yorke solo effort. And the Field Day Festival organizer wants Radiohead to perform on his 2005 edition of the festival again. Fans have to wait and see if anything from these two actually takes place.
|UK||US||(approximative genre overview)|
||Pablo Honey||(22 February, 1993)||#22||#32||indie rock|
||The Bends||(13 March, 1995)||#4||#88||alternative rock|
||OK Computer||(16 June, 1997)||#1||#21||progressive rock|
||Kid A||(2 October, 2000)||#1||#1||experimental ambient rock|
||Amnesiac||(4 June, 2001)||#1||#2||experimental abstract rock w/jazz|
||Hail to the Thief||(9 June, 2003)||#1||#3||electro progressive rock|
- Drill (1992)
- Itch (1993) - Japan Only
- My Iron Lung (1994) - Australian CD
- Live Au Forum (1995) - France Only
- The Bends Pinkpop (1996) - Dutch Single
- No Surprises/Running From Demons (1997) - Japan Only
- Airbag/How Am I Driving? (1998); #56 US (album chart) - US aimed release
- Amnesiac College EP (2001) - US College Radio
- I Might Be Wrong: Live Recordings (2001); #23 UK (album chart), #44 US (album chart)
- COM LAG (2plus2isfive) (2004); #37 UK (album chart) - Japan release
- "Anyone Can Play Guitar" (1993); #32 UK
- "Creep" (1993); #7 UK, #34 US
- "Pop Is Dead" (1993); #42 UK
- "Stop Whispering" (1993) *U.S. only
- "The Bends" (1996)
- "My Iron Lung" (1994); #24 UK
- "Planet Telex/High & Dry" (1995); #17 UK, #78 US
- "Fake Plastic Trees" (1995); #20 UK
- "Just" (1995); #19 UK
- "Street Spirit (Fade Out)" (1996); #5 UK
- "Paranoid Android" (1997); #3 UK
- "Karma Police" (1997); #8 UK
- "No Surprises" (1998); #4 UK
- "The National Anthem" (2000) (promo only)
- "Pyramid Song" (2001); #5 UK
- "Knives Out" (2001); #13 UK
- "I Might Be Wrong" (2001) (promo only)
- "There There." (2003); #4 UK
- "Go To Sleep." (2003); #12 UK
- "2 + 2 = 5" (2003); #15 UK
- "Bones Promo"
02. Black Star
- "Let Down Promo" (1997)
01. Let Down
- "Lucky French Promo"
02. Meeeting In The Aisle
03. Climbing Up The Walls (fila brazillia mix)
- "Optimistic UK Promo" (2000)
- "Optimistic US Promo" (2000)
- "Idioteque UK Promo" (2000)
- "Idioteque UK 12" Promo" (2000)
- "How to Disappear Completely Promo" (2000)
01. How to Disappear Completely
- "A Punch Up At a Wedding US Promo"
01. A Punch Up At a Wedding
"El President" Thom shared vocals with Isabel from the band Drugstore on the band's first single, "El President," off their album White Magic For Lovers.
- Come Again
"Wish You Were Here" Thom collaborated with Sparklehorse on a cover of Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here." Thom sang his part on the telephone from his hotel room where you can hear his TV in the background.
"Rabbit In Your Headlights" Thom and DJ Shadow got together during the OK Computer tour in San Francisco and recorded "Rabbit in Your Headlights" for the James Lavelle projext going under the name UNKLE. The album is called Psyence Fiction.
Thom and Jonny got together with Bernard Butler, Andy Mackay, and Paul Kimble to form the band, The Venus in Furs. They recorded five songs for the Michael Stipe produced movie, Velvet Goldmine. The tracks are:
"BABY'S ON FIRE"
Jonny Greenwood played harmonica on Pavement's LP, Terror Twilight. He played on the songs "Platform Blues" and "Billie". Also notice that the album was produced and mixed by Nigel Godrich ( which explains why Jonny had a little part on it)
Many thanks to Vince
Thom and Björk sang a duet called "I've Seen It All" on Selmasongs, the soundtrack to Dancer in the Dark
Thom had a strong presence on PJ Harvey's 2000 release, Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea. Thom did a duet with Harvey on the song "This Mess We're In" and sang back-up on two other songs: "One Line" and "Beautiful Feeling".
Radiohead collaborated with a few members of the Posies to create the song "Blowout."
- Clueless Movie Soundtrack
"Fake Plastic Trees (Acoustic)"
- Romeo and Juliet Movie Soundtrack
"Talk Show Host (Remix)"
- S.F.W. Movie Soundtrack
- Nowhere Movie Soundtrack
"How Can You Be Sure?"
- Vital Brits
"Planet Telex (Live), High and Dry, Fake Plastic Trees"
- Sharks Patrol These Waters Vol 13
- 2 Meter Sessies vol 6
"My Iron Lung"
- Tibetan Freedom Concert
"Fake Plastic Trees (Live)"
- Sharks Patrol These Waters vol 7
"Stupid Car (Tinitus Mix)"
- Hold On
"Street Spirit (Live)"
- MTV 120 Minutes Live
"Fake Plastic Trees (Live)"
- This is Fort Apache
"Anyone Can Play Guitar"
- Now That's What I Call Music 1998
- The Best Album in the World Ever
- Mud For It - Glastonbury 1997
- Long Live Tibet
"The Bends (Four Track Demo)"
- Rock Garden 5
"Fake Plastic Trees"
- What's Up 2
- Reservoir Rock vol 2
- Shine - The Best of '97
- MTV Buzz Bin
VHS and DVDs
- Live at the Astoria (1995) VHS
- Seven Television Commercials (1997) VHS/DVD
- Meeting People Is Easy (1999) VHS/DVD
- 7 Television Commercials (August 5, 2003) DVD
- The Most Gigantic Lying Mouth Of All Time (December 1, 2004) DVD
- Radiohead: An Illustrated Biography by Nick Johnstone (1997)
- by Jonathan Hale (1999)
- by Martin Clarke (2000)
- by Mac Randall (2000)
- by James Doheny (2002)
- by Tim Footman and Billy Dancer (2002)
- The Music and Art of Radiohead by Joseph Tate (2005)
Radiohead by others
Radiohead's music has inspired musicians from other disciplines, from string quartet to classical and jazz piano.
In September 1998, American jazz pianist Brad Mehldau included his version of Radiohead's "Exit Music (For a Film)" on his album The Art Of The Trio, Vol. 3 . In August 2002 he released the album Largo which featured Radiohead's "Paranoid Android". Both of these tracks are taken from OK Computer. The Anything Goes album, released February 2004, includes a re-working of the track "Everything in its Right Place" from Radiohead's Kid A. All three albums were released by Warner Brothers.
The Section, a string quartet of violin, viola and cello, released two albums (on independent record label Vitamin Records ) covering Radiohead: 2001's Strung Out On OK Computer is a track for track replica of OK Computer ; while 2003's Enigmatic draws mostly from Kid A and Amnesiac and a few tracks from The Bends.
In 2003 pianist Christopher O'Riley recorded True Love Waits, a collection of Radiohead tracks from various albums arranged for solo piano. It was published by Sony Music.
The Radiohead Messageboard (also called RHMB) is an online messageboard on Radiohead's official website http://www.radiohead.com , which has gathered a cult following. Members of the band occasionally post there.
- Radiohead.com http://www.radiohead.com/ – The band's official website.
- At Ease http://www.ateaseweb.com/ – The largest fansite with detailed information on the band. Has an extremely popular message board.
- Green Plastic Radiohead http://www.greenplastic.com – Another Radiohead fan and news site.
- Monkey Picture Soundtrack http://www.geocities.com/radiohead_lyrics/ – An independent transcription and analysis of Radiohead's lyrics, devoted to demystifying Yorke's unclear vocal deliveries.
- Pulk-Pull http://pulk-pull.org/ – An on-going investigation of the band's music and art.
- Radiohead Unpackt http://www.sas.upenn.edu/~adrivera/ – An in-depth interpretation of OK Computer, Kid A, and Amnesiac
- Rodeohead http://www.hardnphirm.com/rodeohead.html – A humorous Country & Western medley of Radiohead songs.
- Slowly Downward http://www.slowlydownward.com – Website of Stanley Donwood.
- Climbing Up The Walls http://www.climbingupthewalls.com/ – A Radiohead fan site.
- Radiohead Lyrics http://lyrics.rare-lyrics.com/R/Radiohead.html – Unofficial collection of Radiohead lyrics.
- Treefingers http://www.treefingers.com/ – Small Radiohead fansite.
- Did Napster Take Radiohead's New Album to Number 1? http://www.mp3newswire.net/stories/2000/radiohead.html - Article lays out the argument in favor of Napster's role in Kid A's sales success.
- Radiohead http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?P=amg&sql=11:wo8e4jo70wa4 at the All Music Guide
History of Radiohead | Long-term influence | Britpop | Parlophone | Nigel Godrich | Radioheadesque | Discography | Bootlegs | Radioheadmania