Artists   >   R   >  Radiohead


Fact Sheet

Country  England, UK
Years active1982-
Radiohead is a British rock band formed at Oxford in 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. Their current moniker "Radiohead" was taken from a Talking Heads song. 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). Yorke and J. Greenwood are regarded as being the two staple artists behind the band, while the other members play supporting roles. Producer Nigel Godrich has worked with the band since the recording of The Bends, and has contributed significantly to their sound, often being dubbed the sixth member of the band. Another major contributor to the feel of the band has been Stanley Donwood, who has produced the artwork for the bands albums since The Bends in collaboration with "Dr. Tchock" which is generally considered to be a pseudonym of Yorke, whom he met at Oxford and the White Chocolate Farm.

The group first came to international notice with the single "Creep", which received extensive airplay and charted in many countries, striking a highly popular note of self loathing. They later came to hate the song and until recently refused to play it, feeling that its meaning was misinterpreted and given too much weight by their fan base. Their first album, Pablo Honey (1993), is almost folksy, with less of the force and experimentation of their later recordings, drawing heavily on 1960s influences as well as recent grunge music such as Pixies. The follow-up, The Bends (1995) saw them finding their feet, with a much more "rocking" feel and greater maturity, both lyrically and musically. Widely praised, it is often considered one of the better albums of the late 1990s. Notably, 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 heaviness and depth of The Bends.

After two years of relative quiet, Radiohead released the album OK Computer (1997), which received greater acclaim than The Bends, featuring prominently in many "best album" polls. OK Computer found Radiohead taking musical risks uncommon in the Britpop world, experimenting with ambience and noise.

Seemingly disconcerted by the attendant fame and on the verge of burnout following a huge world tour to support OK Computer, the band spent the latter part of 1998 and all of 1999 in relative quiet, performing only occasionally. In 2000 they returned to the studio to record Kid A, a more muted electronic album that replaced the lyrical and musical hooks of their earlier work with a more minimalist style and arrangements that have been likened to a meeting of Pink Floyd and Aphex Twin. The band were more experimental on this record, citing Alice Coltrane, Charles Mingus and Paul Lansky as influences, as well as the entire back catalogue of Warp Records. The following album, Amnesiac, which was released early in the following year, was comprised of further tracks from the recording sessions that produced Kid A, though it is by no means an 'out-takes' album; the two are similar in style and are linked by two different versions of the same song: "Morning Bell." To explain these two records, the band describes Kid A as seeing a fire from a great distance, whereas Amnesiac is akin to being inside the fire.

In 2003, the band released their sixth album, Hail to the Thief, which was less rooted in solely electronic experimentation than its two immediate predecessors but still a long way from the guitar-driven rock of their most universally popular period. Its title raised controversy, being interpreted as a reference to the 2000 U.S. Presidential election. Radiohead denies 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." He also claimed to have heard the phrase on a radio program describing the United States' 1888 presidential election. The recording process for 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 on end, they 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 debugged during the tour, the final recording process took only two and a half weeks spent in a Los Angeles studio.

While Radiohead is not normally referred to as a Britpop band, their influence on contemporary Britpop, especially bands such as Coldplay and Travis, is noticeable. Lately their electronic influence has placed them in Warp Records territory, though they remain basically an experimental pop group.

In 2003 Radiohead headlined the main (Pyramid) stage on the Saturday of the Glastonbury festival, to crowd acclaim and positive press reviews. They omitted the fan-pleasing "Creep", but the crowd got to hear it when it was covered by Sunday night's headliner, Moby.

During 2004 Johnny Greenwood became involved in the writing of a sound track for the avant-guarde film Bodysong and became "Composer in Residence" for the BBC, charged with creating modern classical pieces for the BBC Concert Orchestra.