From Academic Kids

Missing image
From left to right: Ed O'Brien, Jonny Greenwood, Thom Yorke, Phil Selway and Colin Greenwood

Radiohead are a British alternative rock band from Oxford. Many fans and media commentators regard them as a seminal rock outfit and the natural inheritors of R.E.M. and Pink Floyd's mantle. The band consists of:

Yorke and Jonny Greenwood are chiefly responsible for songwriting, most often with Yorke creating songs and Greenwood building on them. It should be noted that the band's line-up hasn't changed since its formation, unlike many contemporaries. While the band has unquestionably passed through some strain, none of the bandmembers have departed: Radiohead has a 15-year career behind them and the ever-stable and strong line-up has undeniably helped make them the band they are. Drummer Phil Selway stated that, after years of partnership, each one of them has developed confidence and respect for each other's talent and musicality as well as self-confidence and self-respect regarding their own abilities.

Producer Nigel Godrich has worked with the band since the recording of The Bends, where he assisted producer John Leckie, and has 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 their My Iron Lung EP in collaboration with "Dr. Tchock"—a pseudonym for Yorke. Donwood and Yorke met at the University of Exeter, and together produce the official band website, (

The band's early influences include artists such as Elvis Costello, the Pixies, Pink Floyd, R.E.M., U2, Talking Heads, The Beatles, The Smiths, and Mancunian post-punk acts The Fall, Joy Division, and Magazine. Later influences include German art-rock band Can, electronic artists such as Autechre and Aphex Twin, and jazz artists such as Charles Mingus and Miles Davis. The band's Kid A album is rumored to be largely influenced by the Icelandic band Sigur Rós.

Conversely, many believe Radiohead has had a strong influence on contemporary Britpop bands including Coldplay, Muse, and Travis. Other bands have also cited Radiohead as an influence, particularly albums The Bends and OK Computer. However, it has become clear that the band isn't so keen on the new generation of Britpop musicians, inspired by Radiohead's work though they may be, and when asked in 2001 by The New Yorker: "How do you guys feel about the fact that bands like Travis, Coldplay, and Muse are making a career sounding exactly like your records did in 1997?", Yorke replied with his usual wry wit: "Good luck with Kid A." Coldplay's frontman Chris Martin, who frequently says that Radiohead has had a strong influence on his band as well as his songwriting and musical development, recently spoke to a reporter: "We're like an eager dog just yapping around their heels, and they're trying to kick us away" he joked. "It's like unrequited love. I'm in love with a lot of things. Some of those things love me back. And some of them don't—and one of them is Radiohead."



(1991–1995) One hit wonders and rise to success: Pablo Honey and The Bends

Radiohead formed during the late 1980s, originally under the name On A Friday (referring to the only time all band members were able to practice). After forming in 1988, the band disbanded for a couple of years so that bandmembers could devote themselves to study and other work. In 1991 the band reemerged to release its first demo tapes. Their first one – the Manic Hedgehog Demo (named after an Oxford record shop) – brought the group to another gig in the Jericho Tavern. In the meantime the band had already appeared on the cover of Curfew, a magazine based in Oxford. On A Friday were booked for gigs frequently. Various record labels showed interest and eventually the group signed a recording contract with EMI. Responding to the critic in Curfew who characterised their name as mundane, the band decided to swap it for the title of a cod-reggae tune, "Radio Head" on Talking Heads' True Stories album. The record is a band favorite and would later be a major influence on their own Kid A.

The band's debut release was a self-produced EP, described by Chris Hufford as "not a clever move". "A huge conflict of interests. I think Thom was very insecure of my involvement. I'd had that happen to me as an artist when one of our managers acted as producer. There was definitely some friction on that front. Otherwise it was a treat, we fired out the songs." The 4-track Drill EP came out in March 1992 with Prove Yourself as the lead track. It reached 101 in the UK singles chart. The band hired Paul Kolderie and Sean Slade, who produced Buffalo Tom's "Let me come over" and later was the frontman for Morphine, as producers.

Then the band came up with their "Scott Walker song" – "Creep". The song, whose self-loathing lyrics struck a chord with many fans, was released around the same time as other so-called "slacker" anthems such as Beck's "Loser". The band were not unanimously pleased with "Creep" and, until recently, refused to play it, believing that its meaning had been misinterpreted and given too much weight by fans. Rumour states that Greenwood'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" stated 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 in an Oxford studio.

The single "Creep" was released in September 1992, while the album was scheduled for February next year. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to the band, a San Francisco radio station called "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 #7. Although representing a style from which the band would later move, songs like the aforementioned "Creep", "Anyone Can Play Guitar", "Thinking About You" and "You" were popular. Because the album kept on breaking around the world, the Pablo Honey supporting tour lumbered into its second year.

The band tried new songs while touring, which helped in making their second album in 1995The Bends. The band spent some time attempting to duplicate their earlier success. Producer John Leckie said "It was either going to be Sulk, The Bends, Nice Dream or Just,". "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 band responded by seeking a change of scenery, quitting the studio and touring Australasia and the Far East. Chris Hufford claimed that "it made them re-evaluate what they were good at and enjoyed doing. Playing live again put the perspective back on what they'd lost in the studio." The EP My Iron Lung (1994) was released between the two albums while the band were touring and saw them in a transitional stage between the pop-like Pablo Honey and the musical depth of their next album. Having worked the songs in on the road, they returned to Britain and completed the album at once in a fortnight. The album drew heavily on 1960s influences as well as the then popular music exemplified by groups such as the Pixies and R.E.M..

Although not regarded as a properly Britpop album, it was associated with the movement and in early 1996 – widely praised a year after the album's release – Radiohead took part in Cool Britannia, battling famous acts like Oasis, Blur, Pulp and Suede. Now, The Bends is considered by many critics and fans as one of the best albums of the mid-1990s.

(1996–1998) At the height of popularity: OK Computer

L to R: Jonny Greenwood, Phil Selway, Thom Yorke, Ed O'Brien, Colin Greenwood
L to R: Jonny Greenwood, Phil Selway, Thom Yorke, Ed O'Brien, Colin Greenwood
Radiohead began writing OK Computer in early 1996 at their rehearsal studio, Canned Applause, a converted fruit shed with the latest recording equipment. By July they had recorded four songs with producer Nigel Godrich. Having learned from The Bends, they decided to perform the songs 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 late 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. Ed O'Brien said: "The biggest pressure was actually completing it, 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 introducing uncommon musical elements, 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, which showed the band starting from their first and foremost tours and finishing in their late burn-out dates in middle 1998.

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 Godrich. 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 best be described as a bridge between the progressive alternative rock of OK Computer and their subsequent experimental work.

OK Computer and The Verve's final album – Urban Hymns – were regarded as a boost to the already dying Britpop movement, despite the fact that both records departed from the style. Nevertheless OK Computer is regarded by some as one of the greatest rock albums and still tops various charts. It defined Radiohead as top superstars and elevated them to the pantheon of the greatest bands of 90s, among such seminal acts as R.E.M. and U2.

(1999–2001) Experimental work: Kid A and Amnesiac

Exhausted by their fame and on the verge of burning out following the end of the "Against Demons World Tour" in middle 1998, the band spent the next year in relative quiet. Thom Yorke admitted that after the tour the band was close to splitting up, and that he himself had fallen into depression for a time.

The band only appeared at the Amnesty International Concert in Paris (10 December 1998), and Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood performed at the Tibetan Freedom Concert in Amsterdam, where a new song, "Pyramid Song", made its live debut. After O'Brien's collaboration for the BBC drama series "Eureka Street" in middle 1999, the band finally holed to the studio to record Kid A. Radiohead refused to make a follow-up of OK Computer in the same musical vein and choose to be even more ambitious than before, creating an experimental electronic album with minimal guitar work that complemented the lyrical and musical hooks of their earlier work with a more minimalist style. Yorke explained that the band wanted "to experiment and find new angles, leave the old paths. We tried to treat the album like a song, let the album develop itself rather than giving it a shape and molding it into a shape, and it worked. It was a completely different way we used for work and it was rather liberating." (

The record was finished in April 2000, though no singles were released. Instead, the album was promoted mainly though 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?" [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 occurred and the band, which had never hit the US top 20 before, captured the number one spot in Kid A's debut week. With the record's absence of radio airplay, big time marketing, or 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 through the internet.

Even Oasis' chief Noel Gallagher admitted that Kid A's 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 spread the band's popularity outside the indie scene and rendered them a 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 a Grammy Award for Best Alternative Album just as its predecessor did, which fired them to superstardom. The band were accused by some critics for creating a radio-unfriendly record, though most of the band's fans hailed it as a masterpiece, and it is now considered one of their finest records.

The follow-up Amnesiac, which was released in June of the following year, comprised 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, Yorke illuminated his artistic point of view concerning them: "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 continued: "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."

About the differences with the previous record he says: "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." The album was received very well and nearly reached Kid A's sales, marking a further musical exploration of the band.

After the release of the album, the band staged their own mini-festival in Oxford's South Park, featuring Sigur Rós, Supergrass, Humphrey Lyttelton (who played trumpet on "Life in a Glass House", the closing track on Amnesiac), and themselves. 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".

(2002–2004) Mixing from everything: Hail to the Thief

Missing image
Band leader Thom Yorke.

The recording process for their next record, Hail to the Thief, was remarkably different from those for the previous three studio albums. They were comparable more to the pace of the Bends sessions, rather than the usual holing up in a studio for months. The band elected to take their new material on the road in Portugal and Spain during July and August 2002 prior to recording it. With the songs fleshed out and finalised during the tour, the band completed the album in a Los Angeles studio in a fortnight. 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 members of 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 1888 U.S. presidential election. That being said, he couldn't deny that the phrase was additionally used as an anti-Bush slogan by protestors at the end of the controversial 2000 election campaign.

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. The original album recordings were similarly uploaded, but the band refused to change the album's release date, June 9, 2003. Even though the album was leaked, its sales overgrew those of their last two records both in its first week of release and overall. Hail to the Thief displayed influences from Radiohead's last three records, containing some electronic and ambient pieces and some new experimental sounds. It is generally considered to be a more guitar-based record than Kid A and Amnesiac. It was greeted warmly by both fans and the press.

Thereafter, Radiohead embarked on a vast international tour, lasting about a year. It saw the band visiting Australia and Japan for the first time since their OK Computer tour in 19971998, more than 6 years previous. Many Australian fans were deeply upset by the cancellation of the last show merely hours before its scheduled start due to problems with Yorke's throat. Radiohead headlined the main (Pyramid) stage on the Saturday of the Glastonbury 2003, to huge crowd acclaim and positive press reviews. The same year, Jonny Greenwood, with the help of his brother Colin Greenwood, recorded and produced the soundtrack to the avant-garde documentary movie Bodysong. About one year after the release of Hail to the Thief, Radiohead released a new EP entitled COM LAG (2plus2isfive), while on their 2004 tour in Australia and Japan. With 10 tracks, COM LAG is longer than the average Radiohead EP. It features live takes, remixes, and different versions of Hail to the Thief-era songs, as well as a handful of acoustic and electronic numbers. The band finished touring and promoting Hail to the Thief in mid-2004 with an acclaimed performance at the Coachella Festival.

(2004–present) Collaborative work and next recording sessions

After the lengthy tour, the rest of 2004 passed with band members devoting themselves to solo projects and recordings with other artists, before working again. Chief artists Jonny Greenwood and Thom Yorke were mostly at the fore. Drummer Phil Selway, unlike previous years, also started doing collaborative work. He was working with the longtime collaborators Samaritans Health Organizations. Other band members Ed O'Brien and Colin Greenwood weren't making solo projects, partly because both were becoming fathers: a son Salvador was born to the former in early 2004 and at the time the latter also was expecting a child. The band only gave note of themselves as a whole, releasing the DVD The Most Gigantic Lying Mouth Of All Time. Jonny Greenwood, along with Phil Selway, will have a cameo role in the next Harry Potter movie – HP and the Goblet of Fire. Jonny became a composer for the BBC, charged with creating classical pieces. He and Thom participated in the Band Aid 20 project, playing respectively guitar and piano, collaborating with myriad of famous artists. Thom and Jonny presented some new work with the London Sinfonietta Orchestra on 27 March 2005 and 28 March 2005 at the Ether Festival in London. Thom sang from some lyrics sheets the ocean themed debut song "Arpeggi", including the lines "in the deepest ocean", "the bottom of the sea" and "sunk without a trace", which can also be found at the official website. Jonny presented his new work "Piano For Children", performed by the Sinfonietta, also. The performances were attended by Nigel Godrich, Ed, Colin, and Beck.

After a year out of the spotlight Radiohead returned again to recording sessions. On 15 April Thom Yorke at the Trade Justice Movement performed a couple of new tracks, which he called "House of Cards" and "Last Flowers (til the Hospital)". The latter title has been mentioned before – it was a song Jonny wrote for possible inclusion on OK Computer. On 17 April, he revealed that the band are working on the new track "Arpeggi", which debuted live at the Ether Festival. Thom said the song is nearly finished, but couldn't say if it will appear on Radiohead's upcoming album.

On 12 May the big on-line community Green Plastic reported that Radiohead are working on 15 songs at the moment with two of them described as "already done and amazing" – possibly the two aforementioned tracks. The band first got together back in January and Thom played a bunch of his new songs for the others. According to GP, "They are in high spirits and happy to be playing together." Having never heard the songs before, the rest of the band just jumped in and started adding their own parts. The whole recording process has been described as "unorganized" and very different than the usual ways Radiohead has recorded before – holing in the studio recording material for months or working and polishing tracks while on tour.

It's unknown whether Nigel Godrich will produce the album, but it's very likely. It's been reported that Nigel is frequently visiting the studio, where the band are recording, and that Thom gave him a tape with the new songs. At the moment Nigel is producing the new record of Paul McCartney (Timelines - tentative) and possibly he'll return in the studio, helping the band finish their new album by December. According to the band the new LP should be finished by December with a release date in February or March 2006. Touring will possibly begin in February 2006. At this point is unknown what would the new album sound like, but considering the band's taste of experimenting, new sounds are highly expected.

Recently Thom Yorke has told (, that sessions for their new album remind him of working on Kid A. He said that early sessions had seen the band changing the way they work, reminding him of the change between the third and fourth album. He said: "It's going well. It's a bit like Kid A - we're going through a period of change. But that's good. We'll get there". Songs touted for the record include "House Of Cards", "Glass Flowers", "Reckoner" and "Arpeggi".

In June 2005, Radiohead featured in the Spin Magazine's top 100 albums of the last 20 years.


Studio albums

(6 albums with 71 tracks)
Index Title Date UK US (approximative genre overview)
Pablo Honey(22 February, 1993) #25#32indie rock
The Bends(6 March, 1995) #4 #88alternative rock
OK Computer(16 June, 1997) #1 #21alternative rock
Kid A(2 October, 2000) #1 #1 experimental modernist rock
Amnesiac(4 June, 2001) #1 #2 experimental alternate rock
Hail to the Thief(9 June, 2003) #1 #3 alternative rock


  1. Drill (1992)
  2. Itch (1993) - Japan/New Zealand Only
  3. My Iron Lung (1994) - Australian CD
  4. No Surprises/Running From Demons (1997) - Japan Only
  5. Airbag/How Am I Driving? (1998); #56 US (album chart) - US aimed release
  6. Amnesiac College EP (2001) - US College Radio
  7. I Might Be Wrong: Live Recordings (2001); #22 UK (album chart), #44 US (album chart)
  8. COM LAG (2plus2isfive) (2004); #37 UK (album chart) - Japan release





Radiohead by others

  • 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.
  • In 2003 classical 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. On 12 April 2005 Christopher O'Riley released his second Radiohead tribute. "Harmonia Mundi" is the name of the new label for the True Love Waits follow-up. Hold me to this contains 14 new piano interpretations of Radiohead songs.

External links

General links

  • ( – The official Radiohead website. The Messageboard has gathered a cult following. Members of the band occasionally post there.
  • At Ease ( – The largest fansite with detailed information on the band. Has an extremely popular message board.
  • Green Plastic ( – Another large Radiohead fan and news site.

Lyrics links

  • Radiohead Lyrics & Tabs @ Green Plastic ( – Probably the best source for reliable Radiohead lyrics and Radiohead tabs.
  • Radiohead Lyrics @ Rare-lyrics ( – Unofficial collection of Radiohead lyrics (various errors and typos, though).
  • Monkey Picture Soundtrack ( – An independent transcription and analysis of Radiohead's lyrics, devoted to demystifying Yorke's unclear vocal deliveries.
  • Radiohead Unpackt ( – An in-depth interpretation of OK Computer, Kid A, and Amnesiac
  • Pulk-Pull ( – An on-going investigation of the band's music and art.

Misc links

bg:Radiohead da:Radiohead de:Radiohead es:Radiohead eo:Radiohead et:Radiohead fi:Radiohead fr:Radiohead he:רדיוהד nl:Radiohead no:Radiohead pl:Radiohead pt:Radiohead sk:Radiohead


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