Skip to main content
Select Source:

Radiohead

Radiohead

Alternative rock band

Arty British rockers Radiohead have found themselves starring in one the most unusual success stories in alternative music. Dismissed as one-hit wonders for their unexpected 1993 hit "Creep," in subsequent years the band slowly accrued critical adoration and a devoted cult following. By late 1997 their third album, OK Computer, had appeared on year-end lists as one of the most outstanding releases of the year, in publications as diverse as People and the Village Voice.

"This is one of the few bands in recent years to surf a brief wave of post-Nirvana success in the early 1990s, watch it die and then paddle out again in search of the big one," wrote Rolling Stone's Matt Hendrickson, of Radiohead. Much of the group's musical persona is centered on lead singer Thom Yorke. Born in 1968 and once described as a cross between onetime Sex Pistol Johnny Lydon and comic actor Martin Short, the gaunt, orange-haired Yorke grew up in Scotland and in Oxford, England. Yorke was thin, suffered from a lazy eye, and was often pummeled by the other boys at his boarding school. His father, an industrial salesman, had been a champion boxer, and he tried to teach Yorke the sport, but usually succeeded only in flattening him. These traumas of his youth led Yorke to form his first band around the age of ten, in which he played guitar while a friend destroyed television sets. But later, at the detested boarding school, he taught himself to sing in the rehearsal rooms there.

Recorded Debut Album

It was also at school that he met fellow boarder Colin Greenwood, and the duo formed a punk band called TNT. Back in Oxford, in 1987 Yorke and Greenwood put together another band called On a Friday with friends Ed O'Brien and Phil Selway. At their first gig, Colin's younger brother Jonny sat near the stage with his harmonica until he was finally invited on stage. The band dissolved after a short while, and most members departed to different universities in England. Yorke studied English literature at Exeter University, where he became politically active in the anti-fascist movement, which once again made him an easy target for battery. In 1991 he found himself back in Oxford, where he reassembled his friends once more; this time they called themselves Radiohead, borrowing the name from a Talking Heads song.

Radiohead quickly became a fixture on the Oxford club scene. Most bands in the British Isles, after some hometown success, head to London to play what is called "showcase" gigs in the city's thriving club scene. The venues in London are frequented by Artist and Repretoire (A&R) people from labels looking for new acts to sign. Radiohead refused advice to play London and stubbornly stayed put in Oxford, but buzz about their sound grew so loud that at one Oxford gig, 30 record industry people from London were in attendance. Later in 1991 the group signed to Parlophone, part of the EMI family, who put them on tour. They played 100 shows around Britain in 1992. They also headed into the studio to record their debut album, Pablo Honey. The album was released in the United States in 1993, and went gold only because of the success of "Creep," a wry homage to Yorke's personal demons. "I wish I was special," he laments in its chorus. "I don't belong here." He later tired of interviews that wanted to discuss the song and his self-esteem. "Self-loathing is something we can all relate to," guitarist Ed O'Brien explained to Billboard's David Sprague, about the impetus for the song. "Every day, we see people who are better-looking or richer or more worthy than we feel."

The Bends a Critical Success

Other tracks from Pablo Honey, when released as subsequent singles, failed to make a similar impact on the American modern-rock charts, and by the time of their 1995 release The Bends, few were expecting a repeat of "Creep." Though it sold nowhere near as many copies as their debut, The Bends established Radiohead as a solid, lyrical force. "Alternately quivering with heart-rending insecurity and self-deprecating anguish," wrote Rolling Stone's Jon Wiederhorn, the record "is an emotional seesaw that never remains balanced." Singles such as the title track and "Fake Plastic Trees" hit a good nerve with music industry insiders, and the alternative press penned homages to Radiohead and their record that were almost unanimous in approval. Wiederhorn called The Bends "dynamic and passionate," granting that it was a bit less accessible than their debut, but termed it an "amalgam of experimental noise and meditative beauty."

For the Record …

Members include Colin Greenwood , bass; Jonny Greenwood , guitar, keyboards; Ed O'Brien , guitar, vocals; Phil Selway (born c. 1967), drums; Thom E. Yorke (born 1968, in Wellingborough, England; son of an industrial salesperson; attended Exeter University, late 1980s), vocals, guitar. Education: attended Exeter University, late 1980s

Band formed in Oxford, England, as "On a Friday," 1987; disbanded for a time; reformed and renamed themselves Radiohead, 1991; signed with Parlophone/EMI (United Kingdom), 1991; released first single, "Creep,"1993; released debut album, Pablo Honey, Capitol, 1993; issued OK Computer, 1997, Kid A, 2000, Amnesiac, 2001, and Hail to the Thief, 2003; left Capital Records following EP COM LAG, 2006; self-released In Rainbows, 2007; issued Best Of on Capitol, 2008.

Awards: OK Computer named in several entertainment industry listings as "Album of the Year," 1997; Grammy Award, Best Alternative Music Performance; 1997, Rolling Stone Critics Poll, Band of the Year, 1998; Grammy Award, Best Alternative Album, for Kid A, 2000.

Addresses: Record company—Capitol Records, 304 Park Ave. South, 3rd Fl., New York, NY 10010. Web site—Radiohead Official Web site: http://www.radiohead.com/deadairspace/.

That same year, Radiohead was paired as an opening act for R.E.M., a contact that had a profound influence on the way they would handle their creative and business careers from then on. They also opened for Alanis Morissette during 1996, which presumably made less of an impact but gave them great exposure. The band returned to England to record a third album, much of which was done in a gothic manse near Bath that actress Jane Seymour often rented out to bands for extended stays.

Near-Unanimous Accolades

When OK Computer was finished, the record company did an unusual and expensive publicity stunt to promote it: an advance cassette was glued into a Walkman and sent out to critics. It was an almost unnecessary act, though: the music press was almost unanimous in its praise. Entertainment Weekly named it "Album of the Year" for 1997, as did numerous other year-end polls and lists, and the weekly's music critic David Browne called it a "subtly resplendent opus. … No other piece of music this year so eloquently captured fin de siecle wariness." Eric Weisbard of the Village Voice compared Radiohead to Pink Floyd, as had some other critics, and wrote that "the sounds on OK Computer … range from twinkly-tone steely guitar lullabies to jarring crash landings, often within the same number," and lauded it for the "gorgeous mood of elegy that takes over toward the close."

Hendrickson, writing in Rolling Stone, found OK Computer to be "a glorious piece of moody, spaced-out art-rock madness," and the magazine named Radiohead Band of the Year, as did its competitor, Spin magazine. The latter's Pat Blashill described the album as "full of spindly guitars and freaked-out noise [and] poppy songs … and it's especially full of mystery. Nothing is explained, everything is suggested." The band explained that influences for some of their bizarre tunes, such as "Subterranean Homesick Alien" and "Karma Police," among others, ranged from Miles Davis to seventies-era German experimentalist rockers Faust to overblown Genesis albums they despised.

The Lovable Creep

Yorke seemed more comfortable handling the press and interview questions after a few years' experience. Indeed, some critics have felt that the real impetus behind Radiohead's unusual, though accessible, music has been its frontman's cantankerous persona. "A self-described perfectionist and control freak, Yorke is also a moody codger," wrote Hendrickson. "It is this unpredictability that drives his band mates, who feed off the singer's mania and channel it into an explosive, complex and melodic mix of guitar rock and electronics." The rest of the band members have also won critical recognition for their musicianship and daring.

In 1998 Radiohead released the mini-EP Airbag/How Am I Driving?. Vehicles and automobile accidents have remained somewhat of a songwriting fixation for Yorke. When asked about Airbag and some previous songs about car crashes, Yorke explained to Spin's Blashill, "I just think that people get up too early to leave houses where they don't want to live to drive to jobs where they don't want to be in one of the most dangerous forms of transport on earth. I've just never gotten used to that."

Radiohead supported OK Computer by touring in 1997-98, and then took a temporary hiatus. It was later revealed that the band had nearly broken up, and that Yorke had been suffering from severe depression. Yorke was also suffering from writer's block, but Radiohead nonetheless returned to the studio at the beginning of 1999, and over the next 18 months the band revamped its method of songwriting, a method that included a more equal input from all members.

Two albums evolved from the sessions, Kid A (2000), and Amnesiac (2001). Both albums featured a radically new sound, one that eschewed guitar rock for an electronic sound. While critical attention continued to recognize Radiohead as innovators, the music on Kid A and Amnesiac was considered less accessible to the average listener. Still, Kid A received a Grammy Award for Best Alternative Album and Amnesiac was also nominated for a Grammy.

Unlike the lengthy sessions that produced Kid A and Amnesiac, Radiohead recorded its sixth album in Los Angeles and Oxford in only two weeks in 2002. Released in mid-2003, Hail to the Thief charted and received good reviews, but was perceived as following in the wake of the previous two albums. Many critics also believed that the title of the album was a direct comment on the 2000 presidential election in the United States, though Yorke noted that he had first heard the phrase in a discussion about John Quincy Adams on Radio 4.

Following the issue of the 2006 EP COM LAG, mostly featuring Hail to the Thief b-sides, Radiohead's contract with EMI came to an end. The band finished recording its seventh album, In Rainbows, in June of 2007, and issued the tracks as digital downloads in October of the same year. Besides receiving rave reviews, the album drew media attention because of Radiohead's decision to allow the buyer to choose a price for the album. In 2008, Radiohead planned to tour Europe, North America, and South America in support of In Rainbows.

Selected discography

Pablo Honey, Capitol, 1993.

The Bends, Capitol, 1995.

OK Computer, Capitol, 1997.

Airbag/How Am I Driving?, Capitol, 1998.

Kid A, Capitol, 2000.

Amnesiac, Capitol, 2001.

Hail to the Thief, Capitol, 2003.

In Rainbows, Radiohead, 2007.

Best Of, Capitol, 2008.

Sources

Periodicals

Billboard, May 15, 1993, pp. 17, 20.

Entertainment Weekly, December 26, 1997.

Rolling Stone, September 7, 1995, pp. 19, 21; October 16, 1997, pp. 64-69; January 22, 1998; May 28, 1998, p. 58.

Spin, January 1998, p. 64.

Village Voice, August 26, 1997, p. 63.

Online

"Radiohead," All Music guide,http://www.allmusic.com/ (June 15, 2008).

"Radiohead," Pitchfork,http://www.pitchfork.com (June 15, 2008).

Additional information for this profile was provided by Capitol Records publicity materials, 1998.

—Carol Brennan and Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Radiohead." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 Nov. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Radiohead." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 23, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/radiohead-0

"Radiohead." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved November 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/radiohead-0

Radiohead

Radiohead

Alternative rock band

For the Record

The Bends a Critical Success

Near-Unanimous Accolades

The Lovable Creep

Selected discography

Sources

Arty English rockers Radiohead have found themselves starring in one the most unusual success stories in alternative music. Dismissed as one-hit wonders for their unexpected 1993 hit Creep, in subsequent years the band slowly accrued critical adoration and a devoted cult following; by late 1997, their third album, OK Computer, appeared on year-end lists of one of the most outstanding releases of the year in publications as diverse as People and the Village Voice.

This is one of the few bands in recent years to surf a brief wave of post-Nirvana success in the early4 90s, watch it die and then paddle out again in search of the big one, wrote Rolling Stones Matt Hendrickson of Radiohead. Much of the group and its musical persona is centered upon lead singer Thorn Yorke. Born in 1968 and once described as a cross between onetime Sex Pistol Johnny Lydon and comic actor Martin Short, the gaunt, orange-haired Yorke grew up in both Scotland and Oxford, England. He also spent time at a boys boarding school, institutions that are somewhat notorious in the British Isles for their sadistic atmosphere.

For the Record

Members include Colin Greenwood , bass; Jonny llGreenwood , guitar, keyboards; Ed OBrien , guitar, vocals; Phil Sel way ,(born ? 1967), drums; Thorn E. Yorke ,(born 1968, in Wellingborough, England; son of an industrial salesperson; attended Exeter University, late 1980s), vocals, guitar.

Band formed in Oxford, England, as On a Friday, 1987; disbanded for a time; reformed and renamed themselves Radiohead, 1991; signed with Parlophone/EMI (United Kingdom), 1991; released first single, Creep, 1993; debut album, Pablo Honey, Capitol, 1993.

Awards: OK Computer, named in several entertainment industry listings as Album of the Year, 1997; received Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Performance, 1997, Band of the Year in the 1998 Rolling Stone Critics Poll.

Addresses: Record company Capitol Records, 304 Park Ave. South., 3rd Floor, New York, NY 10010.

Yorke was thin, suffered from a lazy eye, and was often pummeled. His father, an industrial salesman, had once been a champion boxer, and had tried to teach Yorke the sport, but usually succeeded only in flattening him. These traumas of his youth led Yorke to form his first band around the age of ten, in which he played guitar while a friend destroyed television sets. But later, at the detestable boarding school, he taught himself to sing in the rehearsal rooms there.

It was also at school that he met fellow boarder Colin Greenwood. The duo formed a punk band called TNT before graduation. Back in Oxford, Yorke and Greenwood put together another band called On a Friday in 1987 with friends Ed OBrien and Phil Selway. At their first gig, Colins younger brother Jonny sat near the stage with his harmonica until he was finally invited on stage. The band dissolved a short while later after most members departed to different universities in England. Yorke studied English literature at Exeter University, where he became politically active in the anti-fascist movement, which once again made him an easy target for battery. In 1991, he found himself back in Oxford and reassembled his friends once more; this time they called themselves Radiohead, borrowing the name from a Talking Heads song.

Radiohead quickly became a fixture on the Oxford club scene. Most bands in the British Isles, after some hometown success, head to London to play what is called showcase gigs in the citys thriving club scene; the venues in London are frequented by Artist and Repretoire (A&R) people from labels looking for new acts to sign. Radiohead refused advice to play London and stubbornly stayed put; buzz about them and their sound grew so loud that at one Oxford gig, thirty recordindustry people from London were in attendance. Later in 1991, they signed to Parlophone, part of the EMI family, who put them on tour. They played a hundred shows around Britain in 1992. They also headed into the studio to record their debut album, Pablo Honey. The album was released in the United States in 1993 and went gold only because of the success of Creep, a wry homage to Yorkes personal demons. I wish I was special, he laments in its chorus. I dont belong here. He later tired of interviews that wanted to discuss the song and his self-esteem. Self-loathing is something we can all relate to, guitarist Ed OBrien explained to Billboards David Sprague about the impetus for the song. Every day, we see people who are better-looking or richer or more worthy than we feel.

The Bends a Critical Success

The other tracks from Pablo Honey, when released as subsequent singles, failed to make a similar impact on the American modern-rock charts and, by the time of their 1995 release, The Bends, few were expecting a repeat of Creep. Though it sold nowhere near as many copies as their debut, The Bends established them as a solid, lyrical force. Alternately quivering with heartrending insecurity and self-deprecating anguish, wrote Rolling Stones Jon Wiederhorn, the record is an emotional seesaw that never remains balanced. Singles such as the title track and Fake Plastic Trees hit a good nerve with music-industry insiders, and the alternative press penned homages to Radiohead and their record that were almost unanimous in approval. Wiederhorn called The Bends dynamic and passionate, granting that it was a bit less accessible than their debut, but termed it an amalgam of experimental noise and meditative beauty.

That same year, Radiohead was paired as an opening actforR.E.M., a contact that made a profound influence on the way they would handle their creative/business career from then on. They also opened for Alanis Morissette during 1996, which presumably made less of an impact but gave them great exposure. The band returned to England to record a third album, much of which was done in a gothic manse near Bath that actress Jane Seymour often rents out to bands for extended stays. Everyone said, οιι sell six or seven million if you bring out The Bends, Part 2, OBrien recounted to Rolling Stones Hendrickson. And were like, Teah, right. But were noi going to do that. The one thing you dont want to say to us is what we should do, because well kick against that and do exactly the opposite.

Near-Unanimous Accolades

When OKComputerwas finished, their record company did an unusual and expensive publicity stunt to promote it: an advance cassette was glued into a Walkman and sent out to critics. It was an almost unnecessary act, though: the music press frothed over it. Entertainment Weekly named it Album of the Year for 1997, as did numerous other year-end polls and lists, and its music critic David Browne called it a subtly resplendent opus. No other piece of music this year so eloquently captured fin de siede wariness. Eric Weisbard of the Village Voice compared Radiohead to Pink Floyd, as had some other critics, and wrote that the sounds on OK Computer range from twinkly-tone steely guitar lullabies to jarring crash landings, often within the same number, and lauded itfor the gorgeous mood of elegy that takes over toward the close.

Hendrickson, writing in Rolling Stone, found OK Computer glorious piece of moody, spaced-out art-rock madness, and his magazine named Radiohead Band of the Year, as did its competitor Spin magazine. The latters Pat Blashill described OK Computer as full of spindly guitars and freaked-out noise, poppy songs with Beatles in-jokes and other numbers that ramble on for minutes before they actually become songs, and its especially full of mystery. Nothing is explained, everything is suggested. The band said influences for some of the bizarre tunesSubterranean Homesick Alien and Karma Police among their titlesranged from Miles Davis to seventies-era German experimentalist rockers Faust to overblown Genesis albums they despised.

The Lovable Creep

Yorke seemed more comfortable handling the press and dumb interview questions after a few years experience. Indeed, some have noted that the real impetus behind Radiohead and its unusual, though accessible, music, has its origins in the frontmans cantankerous persona. A self-described perfectionist and control freak, Yorke is also a moody codger, wrote Hendrickson. It is this unpredictability that drives his band mates, who feed off the singers mania and channel it into an explosive, complex and melodic mix of guitar rock and electronics. The rest of the band have also won critical recognition for their musicianship and daring. Thorn writes these songs that sound like a slightly more sinister Elvis Costello, Colin Greenwood told Wiederhorn in Rolling Stone, then I come in and add extra structures and chords to make it more interesting. I have such a low boredom threshold that I need something more than good songs to keep my attention.

In 1998, Radiohead released the mini-EP Airbag/How Am I Driving?, the first of which was a single from OK Computer. Vehicles and automobile accidents remain somewhat of a songwriting fixation for Yorke. When asked about this and some other previous songs about car crashes, Yorke explained to Spins Blashill, I just think that people get up too early to leave houses where they dont want to live to drive to jobs where they dont want to be in one of the most dangerous forms of transport on earth. Ive just never gotten used to that. The rest of the band seems to agree. The record company always wants to send us limos, Colin Greenwood told Rolling Stones Hendrickson. I hate them. Its much better to have a van. Theres no cachet anymore with limos. Whats the point?

Selected discography

Pablo Honey, Capitol, 1993.

The Bends, Capitol, 1995.

OK Computer, Capitol, 1997.

Airbag/How Am I Driving?,(EP), Capitol, 1998.

Sources

Billboard, May 15, 1993, pp. 17, 20.

Entertainment Weekly, December 26, 1997.

Rolling Stone, September 7, 1995, pp. 19, 21; October 16, 1997, pp. 64-69; January 22, 1998; May 28, 1998, p. 58.

Spin, January 1998, p. 64.

Village Voice, August 26, 1997, p. 63.

Additional information for this profile was provided by Capitol Records publicity materials, 1998.

Carol Brennan

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Radiohead." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 Nov. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Radiohead." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 23, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/radiohead

"Radiohead." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved November 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/radiohead

Radiohead

RADIOHEAD

Formed: 1987, Oxford, England

Members: Colin Greenwood, bass (born Oxford, England, 26 June 1969); Jonny Greenwood, guitar (born Oxford, England, 5 November 1971); Ed O'Brien, guitar, vocals (born Oxford, England, 15 April 1968); Phil Selway, drums (born Hemingford Grey, Cambridgeshire, England, 23 May 1967); Thom Yorke, vocals, guitar (born Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, England, 7 October 1968).

Genre: Rock

Best-selling album since 1990: Kid A (2000)

Hit songs since 1990: "Creep," "Paranoid Android," "Karma Police"


Following the Britpop boom of the mid-1990s, when bands like Oasis and Blur threatened to leave a sizable mark on the United States, a group that actually fulfilled the promise emerged in their wake. Radiohead escaped the ghetto of cultdom to become one of the most important new rock acts to emerge from the British Isles since Ireland's U2 in the 1980s. In a series of ever-developing albums, Radiohead revived memories of the progressive rock experimentalists of the late 1960s, winning comparisons to early innovators such as Pink Floyd. But they have managed to avoid the confining straitjacket that such associations could have created for them. Instead, in a decade of fervent and sometimes challenging invention, they established their own unique place in the contemporary rock firmament.


Beginnings

Formed initially as On a Friday in the late 1980s, Radiohead are a rare British band because their members have benefited from university education. Only Jonny Greenwood, younger brother of Colin, lacks a degreehe dropped out of Oxford University after three months to pursue the group's possibilities at the beginning of the 1990s.

Originally a gathering of school friends, the band adopted its current identity in 1991 as the various individuals returned to their home city of Oxford after
graduation: Thom Yorke had studied English and fine art in Exeter, Phil Selway had studied English and history at Liverpool, Ed O'Brien had been to Manchester, and Colin Greenwood had done literature at Cambridge.


Attention Grabbing

Still performing as On a Friday, they began to attract the attention of the talent scouts, and in the fall of 1991, the quintet was snapped up by the EMI subsidiary Parlophone, the Beatles' original U.K. label. In early 1992 they adopted their new name, Radiohead, a reference to a song by Talking Heads. Radiohead's intense, unsettling music-making set them apart from the mainstream scene. While their music employed elements of guitar-fueled alternative rock, their use of other, more experimental production techniques and melancholic lyrical content allowed the group to stand out from the crowd. At first, the band struggled to live up to Parlophone's faith as the EP Drill (1992) stalled commercially and the singles "Creep" (1992) and "Anyone Can Play Guitar" (1993) made scant impression.

Yet there were some promising signscritical reaction to the early work had been quite positive, and, when the first album, Pablo Honey (1993), came out, it scrambled into the lower reaches of the Top 30. More significantly, it included the song "Creep," an unnerving slice of self-pity that found its way on to U.S. college radio, where its mooda searing blend of outsider anguish and jagged guitar noiseresonated with listeners and gave the group a Top 40 hit. Before 1993 had drawn to a close, the debut album had been certified platinum in the United States.

In 1994 Radiohead built on this platform, playing important summer festivals at Glastonbury and Reading, undertaking an intensive U.K. tour, and beginning work in the fall on their second album. The resulting collection, entitled The Bends (1995), produced by John Leckie, clinched a Top 10 album placing in the U.K. and drew interest in the United States.

The new album spawned a number of notable hits with "Fake Plastic Trees" (also included on the movie soundtrack to Clueless ), "Street Spirit (Fade Out)," and "Just" all scoring in the U.K. Top 20. The latter track also left its mark on MTV with a bleak but diverting video, directed by Jamie Thraves, of a man lying on the sidewalk. Such dark and disturbing images became increasingly associated with the band's single-minded approach to their craft.


Benefit Album

Summer 1995 saw Radiohead support R.E.M. on a U.S. tour, opening further avenues in America. Shortly afterwards, Yorke found common cause with former Roxy Music star and producer Brian Eno on a compilation benefit album, Help!, aimed at raising funds for charitable efforts in strife-torn Bosnia. In the following months the band joined tours with Soul Asylum and, in the summer of 1996, Alanis Morissette, who was including her own version of "Fake Plastic Trees" in her set.

The third album was recorded at a medieval mansion in Bath, England. With a working title of "Ones and Zeroes," a reference to the binary language of computers, the result was the impressive OK Computer (1997). It is an ambitious affair that blends a rock format with studio trickery, eliciting comparisons to Pink Floyd and prompting press speculation that it signalled a progressive rock resurrection. Trailed by an epic single, the six-and-a-half minute "Paranoid Android"a passing reference to a character in Douglas Adams's sci-fi novel The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy the album prompted the most critically favorable reception so far.

Other tracks from the album placed in the U.K. Top 40. "Karma Police" and "No Surprises" were typical pieces in the OK Computer jigsaw: maudlin, mysterious, and introspective but also strangely sinister. Much of the writing and lyrical content seemed to owe something to Yorke's long-term interest in Outsider Artpaintings and other artworks created by untrained, sometimes mentally unstable, practitioners.

Band of the Year

Questioned in some quarters for an apparent obsession with the downbeat, the miserable, and the doom-laden, the record nonetheless seemed to distill the spirit of the moment. In the United States, the magazines Spin and Rolling Stone both named Radiohead band of the year in 1997. In the time before the recording of their eagerly anticipated follow-up, the band fully exploited the opportunities offered by the Internet, offering previews of most of the new set's tracks via MP3 files. So effective was the tactic in building consumer fascination that the new recording Kid A (2000) entered the U.S. charts at number one.

Produced by the band with Nigel Godrich, Kid A took the band farther away from the rock structures featured on earlier releases. The three-guitar attack, which had been employed to potent effect on the first trio of albums, was now largely sidelined as electronic washes wrapped Yorke's disembodied vocals in an ethereal soundscape.

The opener, "Everything in Its Right Place," sets the tone with waves of keyboards at its core, while "The National Anthem," a storming, stomping, bass-heavy track with the artillery of the brass leading from the front, is an assault on the senses. In contrast, the fragile tones of "Idioteque" entices rather than ensnares the listener.

Companion Edition

It would not be long before another album appeared from the same recording sessions. The following summer, Amnesiac (2001) provided a companion collection to Kid A and, if anything, suggested an even darker setting. Although the band insisted that the new record was more than mere outtakes from the original project, the rationale for issuing a further set of songs was never fully explained.

Nonetheless, there was no discernible decline in quality. Amnesiac was more moving and haunting than its predecessor, with the extraordinary "Packt Like Sardines in a Crushd Tin Box," a plaintive and desperate plea, leading into a maze of melancholy cameos; the terse domestic drama of "Morning Bell," an amended reprise of a Kid A track; and the mournful, contemporary blues of "Life in a Glasshouse," replete with the New Orleans stylings of Humphrey Lyttelton's traditional jazz band.

Late in 2001, the rush of releases continued as I Might Be a Wrong: Live Recordings completed a trio of related recordings. It features live performances recorded around Europe and offers some of the finest bits of Kid A and Amnesiac, including "The National Anthem" and "Like Spinning Plates."


Legacy

During the 1990s Radiohead managed to avoid the mainstream. They attained success on their own, idiosyncratic terms, side-stepping the star-making machinerythe standard promotional interview, for exampleand pursuing an agenda of their own that included uncompromising videos and band images that rejected the merely photogenic. Distanced from the Britpop surge, with its strong tendency to nostalgia, the band followed an increasingly experimental line. At one stage it seemed that they might be at the heart of a progressive rock revival, but then they moved to another stage by sculpting a pair of minimal, electronically based albums. They earned high ratings from the critics, who seemed to yearn for a band that takes chances and has the courage to risk failure at a time when the popular music scene was driven by the visual cliché, the machismo of rap, and the guitar posturing of nu-metal.

Radiohead managed to break a 1990s pattern of U.K. groups routinely stumbling at the challenge of the huge U.S. market; Radiohead surmounted this hurdle through a shrewd use of the Internet as a promotional tool. A band of originality and intelligence, Radiohead has left an indelible mark on the evolution of rock music.

Spot Light: "Creep"

If any song transformed Radiohead from unknowns with potential into stars in the making, it was "Creep." A song with more than a note of self-pity, even self-loathing, the piece quickly became associated with its singer, Thom Yorke. It tells the tale of unrequited romance and focuses on the sense of inadequacy the rejected lover suffers: "But I'm a creep, I'm a weirdo / what the hell am I doing here?" It was when this most unlikely of rock classics began to attract the attention of radio stations in San Francisco and then in Los Angeles in 1993 that Radiohead knew it would become one of their signature songs. One problem that faced Yorke was the general assumption that the song was autobiographical. When Yorke was asked, "Are you the 'Creep' guy?," the group would retort, "Yeah, we're the 'Creep' guys."

SELECTIVE DISCOGRAPHY:

Pablo Honey (Capitol, 1993); The Bends (Capitol, 1995); OK Computer (Capitol, 1997); Kid A (Capitol, 2000); Amnesiac (Capitol, 2001); I Might Be Wrong: Live Recordings (Capitol, 2001); Hail to the Thief (Capitol, 2003).

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

S. Malins, Radiohead: Coming Up for

Air (London, 1997); M. Randall, Exit Music: The Radiohead Story (London, 2000); J. Doheny, Radiohead-Karma Police: The Story Behind Every Song (London, 2002); M. Clarke, Radiohead (London, 2003).

WEBSITE:

www.radiohead.com.

simon warner

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Radiohead." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 Nov. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Radiohead." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 23, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/radiohead

"Radiohead." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Retrieved November 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/radiohead