Recent photo from Rockcellar Magazine
Origin: Abingdon, Oxfordshire, England
Genres: Alternative rock, art rock experimental rock, electronic
Years active: 1985–present
Labels: XL Ticker Tape Ltd. Hostess TBD Parlophone Capitol
Associated acts: Atoms for Peace 7 Worlds Collide
Discography at Wikipedia
Colin Greenwood – bass guitar, keyboards, percussion (1985–present)
Jonny Greenwood – guitar, keyboards, ondes Martenot, analogue synthesisers, drums (1985–present)
Ed O'Brien – guitar, percussion, backing vocals, drums (1985–present)
Philip Selway – drums, percussion, backing vocals (1985–present)
Thom Yorke – lead vocals, guitar, keyboards, piano, bass guitar (1985–present)
Additional live members
Clive Deamer – drums, percussion, backing vocals (2011–present)
Radiohead are an English rock band from Abingdon, Oxfordshire, formed in 1985. The band consists of Thom Yorke (lead vocals, guitar, piano), Jonny Greenwood (lead guitar, keyboards, other instruments), Colin Greenwood (bass), Phil Selway (drums, percussion, backing vocals) and Ed O'Brien (guitar, backing vocals).
Radiohead released their debut single "Creep" in 1992. It became a worldwide hit after the release of the band's debut album, Pablo Honey (1993). Their popularity rose in the United Kingdom with the release of their second album, The Bends (1995). Radiohead's third album, OK Computer (1997), propelled them to international fame; featuring an expansive sound and themes of modern alienation, OK Computer is often acclaimed as one of the landmark records of the 1990s and one of the best albums of all time.
Kid A (2000) and Amnesiac (2001) marked a dramatic evolution in Radiohead's musical style, as they incorporated experimental electronic music, krautrock and jazz influences. Hail to the Thief (2003), a mix of piano and guitar rock, electronics, and lyrics inspired by war, was the band's final album for their record label, EMI. Radiohead self-released their seventh album In Rainbows (2007) as a digital download for which customers could set their own price, to critical and chart success. Their eighth album, The King of Limbs (2011), was an exploration of rhythm and quieter textures, and was also self-released.
Radiohead have sold more than 30 million albums worldwide. Their work places highly in both listener polls and critics' lists of the best music of the 1990s and 2000s. In 2005, they were ranked 73rd in Rolling Stone's list of "The Greatest Artists of All Time"; Jonny Greenwood (48th) and O'Brien were both included in Rolling Stone's list of greatest guitarists, and Yorke (66th) in their list of greatest singers. In 2009, Rolling Stone readers voted the group the second best artist of the 2000s.
1985–91: Formation and first years
Abingdon School, where the band formed
The members of Radiohead met while attending Abingdon School, an independent school for boys in Abingdon, Oxfordshire. Guitarist and singer Thom Yorke and bassist Colin Greenwood were in the same year, guitarist Ed O'Brien and drummer Phil Selway were one year older and multi-instrumentalist Jonny Greenwood two years younger than his brother Colin. In 1985, they formed On a Friday, the name referring to the band's usual rehearsal day in the school's music room. Jonny Greenwood was the last to join, having previously been in a band called "Illiterate Hands" with Nigel Powell and Yorke's brother Andy Yorke. The group played their first gig in late 1986 at Oxford's Jericho Tavern; Jonny Greenwood joined as a harmonica and then keyboard player, but soon became the lead guitarist. At one point, the band featured a saxophone section.
Although all but Jonny had left Abingdon by 1987 to attend university, On a Friday continued to rehearse on weekends and holidays. At university, Yorke played with the band Headless Chickens, performing songs including future Radiohead material. In 1991 the band regrouped, recorded demos such as Manic Hedgehog, and performed in Oxford at venues such as the Jericho Tavern. Oxfordshire and the Thames Valley had an active independent music scene in the late 1980s, but it centred on shoegazing bands such as Ride and Slowdive.
As On a Friday's live performances increased, record labels and producers became interested. Chris Hufford, Slowdive's producer and the co-owner of Oxford's Courtyard Studios, attended an early On a Friday concert at the Jericho Tavern. Impressed, he and his partner Bryce Edge produced a demo tape and became On a Friday's managers; they remain Radiohead's managers today. In late 1991, after a chance meeting between Colin Greenwood and EMI A&R representative Keith Wozencroft at the record shop where Colin Greenwood worked, On a Friday signed a six-album recording contract with EMI. At the request of EMI, the band changed their name; "Radiohead" was taken from the song "Radio Head" on the Talking Heads album True Stories (1986).
1992–95: Pablo Honey, The Bends and early success
Radiohead recorded their debut release, the Drill EP, with Chris Hufford and Bryce Edge at Courtyard Studios. Released in May 1992, its chart performance was poor. The band enlisted Paul Kolderie and Sean Slade, who had worked with US indie bands Pixies and Dinosaur Jr., to produce their debut album, recorded quickly in an Oxford studio in 1992. With the release of the "Creep" single later that year, Radiohead began to receive attention in the British music press, not all of it favourable; NME described them as "a lily-livered excuse for a rock band", and "Creep" was blacklisted by BBC Radio 1 because it was deemed "too depressing".
Radiohead released their debut album, Pablo Honey, in February 1993. It stalled at number 22 in the UK charts, as "Creep" and its follow-up singles "Anyone Can Play Guitar" and "Stop Whispering" failed to become hits. "Pop Is Dead", a non-album single, also sold poorly. Some critics compared the band's early style to the wave of grunge music popular in the early 1990s, dubbing them "Nirvana-lite", and Pablo Honey failed to make a critical or a commercial splash upon its initial release. Despite shared influences with popular guitar acts, and some notice for Yorke's falsetto voice, Radiohead toured only British universities and clubs.
In early 1993, Radiohead began to attract listeners elsewhere. "Creep" had been played very frequently on Israeli radio by influential DJ Yoav Kutner, and in March, after the song became a hit in that country, Radiohead were invited to Tel Aviv for their first live gig overseas. Around the same time, the San Francisco alternative radio station KITS added "Creep" to its playlist. Soon other radio stations along the west coast of the United States followed suit. By the time Radiohead began their first North American tour in June 1993, the music video for "Creep" was in heavy rotation on MTV. The song rose to number two on the US modern rock chart, entered the lower reaches of the top 40 pop chart, and hit number seven in the UK Singles Chart when EMI rereleased it in the UK in September.
Unexpected attention for the single in America prompted EMI to improvise new promotional plans, and the band shuttled back and forth between continents, playing over 150 concerts in 1993. Radiohead nearly broke up due to the pressure of sudden success as the Pablo Honey supporting tour extended into its second year. The band members described the tour as difficult to adjust to, saying that towards its end they were "still playing the same songs that [they had] recorded two years previously ... like being held in a time warp," when they were eager to work on new songs.
Radiohead began work on their second album in 1994, hiring veteran Abbey Road Studios producer John Leckie. Tensions were high, with mounting expectations to deliver a follow-up to match the success of "Creep". Recording felt unnatural in the studio, with the band having over-rehearsed the material. Seeking a change of scenery, they toured the Far East, Australasia and Mexico and found greater confidence performing their new music live. However, troubled by the fame he had achieved, Yorke became disillusioned with being "at the sharp end of the sexy, sassy, MTV eye-candy lifestyle" he felt he was helping to sell to the world.
My Iron Lung, an EP and single released late in 1994, was Radiohead's reaction, marking a transition towards the greater depth they aimed for on their second album. Promoted through alternative radio stations, the hard-edged single's sales were better than expected, and suggested for the first time that the band had found a loyal fan base beyond one hit. Having introduced more new songs on tour, Radiohead finished recording their second album by year's end, and they released The Bends in March 1995. The album was driven by dense riffs and ethereal atmospheres from the band's three guitarists, with greater use of keyboards than their debut. It also received stronger reviews for both songwriting and performances.
While Radiohead were seen as outsiders to the Britpop scene that dominated the media's attention at the time, they were finally successful in their home country with The Bends, as singles "Fake Plastic Trees", "High and Dry", "Just", and "Street Spirit (Fade Out)" made their way to UK chart success; the latter song placed Radiohead in the top five for the first time. In 1995, Radiohead again toured North America and Europe, this time in support of R.E.M., one of their formative influences and at the time one of the biggest rock bands in the world. The buzz generated by such famous fans as Michael Stipe, along with distinctive music videos for "Just" and "Street Spirit", helped to sustain Radiohead's popularity outside the UK.
However, Radiohead's growing fan base was insufficient for them to repeat the commercial popularity of "Creep" worldwide. "High and Dry" became a modest hit, but The Bends peaked at 88 on the US album charts, which remains Radiohead's lowest showing there. Radiohead were satisfied with the album's reception. Jonny Greenwood said, "I think the turning point for us came about nine or twelve months after The Bends was released and it started appearing in people's [best of] polls for the end of the year. That's when it started to feel like we made the right choice about being a band".
1996–98: OK Computer, fame, and critical acclaim
In late 1995, Radiohead had already recorded one song that would make their next record. "Lucky", released as a single to promote the War Child charity's The Help Album, had come out of a brief session with Nigel Godrich, a young audio engineer who had assisted on The Bends and also produced a 1996 B-side, "Talk Show Host". The band decided to produce their next album with Godrich's assistance, and they began work in early 1996. By July they had recorded four songs at their rehearsal studio, Canned Applause, a converted apple shed in the countryside near Didcot, Oxfordshire.
In August 1996, Radiohead toured as the opening act for Alanis Morissette, seeking to perfect their new songs live before completing the record. They then resumed recording, again outside a traditional music studio, settling instead at a 15th-century mansion, St. Catherine's Court, near Bath. The recording sessions were relaxed, with the band playing at all hours of the day, recording songs in different rooms, and listening to the Beatles, DJ Shadow, Ennio Morricone and Miles Davis for inspiration. Radiohead contributed "Talk Show Host", as well as a newly recorded song called "Exit Music (For a Film)", to Baz Luhrmann's adaptation of Romeo + Juliet late in the year. Most of the rest of the album was complete by the end of 1996, and by March 1997, the record was mixed and mastered.
Radiohead released their third album, OK Computer, in June 1997. Largely composed of melodic rock songs, the new record also found the band experimenting with song structures and incorporating some ambient, avant garde and electronic influences, prompting Rolling Stone to call the album a 'stunning art-rock tour de force.' Radiohead denied being part of the progressive rock genre, but critics in the mid-'90s began to compare their work to Pink Floyd, a band whose early 1970s work influenced Greenwood's guitar parts at the time. Some compared OK Computer thematically to Floyd's best-seller The Dark Side of the Moon (1973), although Thom Yorke said the album's lyrics had been inspired by observing the "speed" of the world in the 1990s. Yorke's lyrics, embodying different characters, had expressed what one magazine called "end-of-the-millennium blues" in contrast to the more personal songs of The Bends. OK Computer met with great critical acclaim, and Yorke admitted that he was "amazed it got the reaction it did. None of us fucking knew any more whether it was good or bad. What really blew my head off was the fact that people got all the things, all the textures and the sounds and the atmospheres we were trying to create."
OK Computer was the band's first number one UK chart debut, propelling Radiohead to commercial success around the world. Despite peaking at number 21 in the US charts, the album eventually met with mainstream recognition there, receiving the first Grammy Awards recognition of the band's career, a win for Best Alternative Album and a nomination for Album of the Year. "Paranoid Android", "Karma Police" and "No Surprises" were released as singles from the album, of which "Karma Police" was most successful internationally.
The release of OK Computer was followed by the "Against Demons" world tour. Grant Gee, the director of the "No Surprises" video, accompanied and filmed the band, releasing the footage in the 1999 documentary Meeting People Is Easy. The film portrays the band's disaffection with the music industry and press, showing their burnout as they progressed from their first tour dates in mid-1997 to mid-1998, nearly a year later. The film is also notable for documenting earlier versions of songs that were never released or were not released until years later, such as "How to Disappear Completely", "Life in a Glasshouse", "I Will" and "Nude". The film screened within festivals such as the 1999 Maryland Film Festival, and had a limited theatrical release in select cities. During this time the band also released a music video compilation, 7 Television Commercials, as well as two EPs, Airbag/How Am I Driving? and No Surprises/Running from Demons, that compiled their B-sides from OK Computer singles.
1999–2001: Kid A, Amnesiac and change in sound
Radiohead were largely inactive following their 1997–1998 tour; after its end, their only public performance in 1998 was at an Amnesty International concert in Paris. Yorke later admitted that during that period the band came close to splitting up, and that he had developed severe depression. In early 1999, Radiohead began work on a follow-up to OK Computer. Although there was no longer any pressure or even a deadline from their record label, tension during this period was high. Band members all had different visions for Radiohead's future, and Yorke was experiencing writer's block, influencing him toward a more abstract, fragmented form of songwriting. Radiohead secluded themselves with producer Nigel Godrich in studios in Paris, Copenhagen, and Gloucester, and in their newly completed studio in Oxford. Eventually, all the members agreed on a new musical direction, redefining their instrumental roles in the band. After nearly 18 months, Radiohead's recording sessions were completed in April 2000.
In October 2000 Radiohead released their fourth album, Kid A, the first of two albums from these recording sessions. Rather than being a stylistic sequel to OK Computer, Kid A featured a minimalist and textured style with more diverse instrumentation including the ondes Martenot, programmed electronic beats, strings, and jazz horns. It debuted at number one in many countries, including the US, where its debut atop the Billboard chart marked a first for the band, and the first US number one album by any UK musician since the Spice Girls in 1996. This success was attributed variously to marketing, to the album's leak on the file-sharing network Napster a few months before its release, and to advance anticipation based, in part, on the success of OK Computer. Although Radiohead did not release any singles from Kid A, promos of "Optimistic" and "Idioteque" received radio play, and a series of "blips", or short videos set to portions of tracks, were played on music channels and released freely on the Internet. The band had read Naomi Klein's anti-globalisation book No Logo during the recording, and they decided to continue a summer 2000 tour of Europe later in the year in a custom-built tent free of advertising; they also promoted Kid A with three sold-out North American theatre concerts.
Kid A received a Grammy Award for Best Alternative Album and a nomination for Album of the Year in early 2001. It won both praise and criticism in independent music circles for appropriating underground styles of music; some mainstream British critics saw Kid A as a "commercial suicide note", labelling it "intentionally difficult" and longing for a return to the band's earlier style. Radiohead's fans were similarly divided; along with those who were appalled or mystified, there were many who saw the album as the band's best work. Yorke, however, denied that Radiohead had set out to eschew commercial expectations, saying: "I was really, really amazed at how badly [Kid A] was being viewed ... because the music's not that hard to grasp. We're not trying to be difficult ... We're actually trying to communicate but somewhere along the line, we just seemed to piss off a lot of people ... What we're doing isn't that radical."
Amnesiac, released in June 2001, comprised additional tracks from the Kid A recording sessions. The record topped the UK Albums Chart and reached number two in the US, being nominated for a Grammy Award and the Mercury Music Prize. Radiohead embarked on a world tour, visiting North America, Europe and Japan. "Pyramid Song" and "Knives Out", Radiohead's first singles since 1998, were modestly successful. A live album, I Might Be Wrong: Live Recordings, released in November 2001, features performances of seven songs from Kid A and Amnesiac along with the acoustic, previously unreleased "True Love Waits".
2002–04: Hail to the Thief and departure from EMI
In July and August 2002, Radiohead toured Portugal and Spain, playing a number of new songs. They recorded the new material in two weeks in a Los Angeles studio with Godrich, adding several tracks later in Oxford, where the band continued their work into the next year. Radiohead members described the recording process as relaxed, in contrast to the tense sessions for Kid A and Amnesiac. The band's sixth album, Hail to the Thief, was released in June 2003, combining guitar rock with electronic music. Its lyrics were influenced by what Yorke called "the general sense of ignorance and intolerance and panic and stupidity" following the 2000 election of US President George W. Bush.
The album debuted at number one in the UK and number three on the Billboard chart, and was eventually certified platinum in the UK and gold in the US. The singles "There There", "Go to Sleep" and "2 + 2 = 5" achieved were played on modern rock radio. At the 2003 Grammy Awards, Radiohead were again nominated for Best Alternative Album, and producer Godrich and engineer Darrell Thorp received the Grammy Award for Best Engineered Album. In May 2003, Radiohead embarked in on a world tour and headlined Glastonbury Festival. The tour finished in May 2004 with a performance at the Coachella Festival. A compilation of Hail to the Thief B-sides, remixes and live performances, COM LAG (2plus2isfive), was released in April 2004.
Radiohead's six-album record contract with EMI ended with the release of Hail to the Thief. In 2005, Yorke told Time: "I like the people at our record company, but the time is at hand when you have to ask why anyone needs one. And, yes, it probably would give us some perverse pleasure to say 'Fuck you' to this decaying business model." In 2006, the New York Times described Radiohead as "by far the world's most popular unsigned band".
2005–08: Solo work, In Rainbows and "pay what you want"
Following the Hail to the Thief tour, Radiohead went on hiatus to spend time with their families. Jonny Greenwood composed soundtracks for the films Bodysong (2004) and There Will Be Blood (2007). In July 2006, Yorke released his debut solo album, The Eraser. He told Pitchfork: "I've been in the band since we left school and never dared do anything on my own ... It was like, 'Man, I've got to find out what it feels like,' you know?"
Radiohead began work on their seventh album in February 2005 with no record label. In an effort to "get out of the comfort zone", they decided against involving producer Godrich, with whom they had recorded five albums, and hired producer Spike Stent. However, the collaboration with Stent was unsuccessful and ended in April 2006. In September 2005, Radiohead recorded "I Want None of This" for the War Child charity album Help: A Day in the Life. The album was sold online, with "I Want None of This" being the most downloaded track, though it was not released as a single. In late 2006, after touring Europe and North America with new material, the band resumed work with Godrich in London, Oxford and rural Somerset, England. Work was finished in June 2007 and the recordings were mastered the following month.
Radiohead's seventh album, In Rainbows, was released through the band's website in October 2007 as a download for any amount users wanted, including £0—a landmark use of the pay-what-you-want model for music sales. The pay-what-you-want release, the first for a major act, made headlines worldwide and sparked debate about the implications for the music industry. According to Mojo, the release was "hailed as a revolution in the way major bands sell their music", and the media's reaction was "almost overwhelmingly positive"; Time called it "easily the most important release in the recent history of the music business". 1.2 million downloads were reportedly sold by the day of release, but the band's management did not release official sales figures, claiming that the Internet-only distribution was intended to boost later retail sales. Colin Greenwood explained the internet release as a way of avoiding the "regulated playlists" and "straitened formats" of radio and TV, ensuring fans around the world could all experience the music at the same time, and preventing leaks in advance of a physical release. O'Brien said the self-release strategy sold fewer records, but made more money. A special "discbox" edition of In Rainbows, including a second disc from the recording sessions, vinyl and CD editions of the album, and a hardcover book of artwork, was also sold and shipped in late 2007.
In Rainbows was released physically in the UK in late December 2007 on XL Recordings and in North America in January 2008 on TBD Records, charting at number one both in the UK and in the US. The record's retail success in the US – after having been legally available for months as a free download – was Radiohead's highest chart success in that country since Kid A, while it was their fifth UK number one album. In Rainbows sold more than three million copies within one year. The album received critical acclaim for its more accessible sound and personal lyrics. It was nominated for the short list of the Mercury Music Prize and went on to win the 2009 Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album. Their production team won the Grammy for Best Boxed or Special Limited Edition Package, while Radiohead received their third nomination for Album of the Year. Along with three other nominations for the band, Godrich's production work and the "House of Cards" music video also received nominations.
Radiohead released a number of singles from In Rainbows: "Jigsaw Falling into Place" in January 2008, followed by "Nude", which debuted at number 37 in the Billboard Hot 100, Radiohead's first song to make that chart since 1995's "High and Dry" and their first top 40 hit in the US since "Creep". In July they released a digitally-shot video for "House of Cards". "House of Cards", along with "Bodysnatchers", also received a single release on radio. In September the band announced a fourth single, "Reckoner", and a remix competition similar to one organised for "Nude". In April 2008, Radiohead launched W.A.S.T.E. Central, a social networking service for Radiohead fans.
EMI released a greatest hits album, Radiohead: The Best Of, in June 2008. The compilation was made without Radiohead's input and only contains songs released under their recording contract with EMI. Yorke was critical of the release, saying: "There's nothing we can do about it. The work is really public property now anyway, in my head at least. It's a wasted opportunity in that if we'd been behind it, and we wanted to do it, then it might have been good." From mid-2008 to early 2009, Radiohead toured North America, Europe, Japan and South America to promote In Rainbows, and headlined the Reading and Leeds Festivals in August 2009.