The alternative/indie rock scene of the 80’s and 90’s brought some incredible bands to the music world. Groups like The Smiths, The Cure, Nirvana, R.E.M., The Pixies, Weezer, Oasis, Pavement, Neutral Milk Hotel, Sonic Youth, and Depeche Mode ruled the scene. Their music still remains popular to this day. Another band on that list who I failed to mention just released their 9th album on May 8th (digital release only; physical release June 17th). Their music spans over the last three decades and surprise, surprise, like many other legendary bands, they’re from the U.K.
Radiohead was formed in 1985 while band members, Thom Yorke (lead vocals, guitar, keyboards, piano), Jonny Greenwood (guitar, keyboards, synth), Colin Greenwood (bass), Ed O’Brien (guitar, back-up vocals, percussion), and Philip Selway (drums, percussion, back-up vocals), attended Abingdon School in Abingdon, Oxfordshire together. At the time they decided to call their band On A Friday because they would get together to rehearse in the school’s music room on Fridays. The band stayed together while the boys attended University by rehearsing on weekends and holidays. It wasn’t until 1991 that they recorded their first demos and began playing shows. That same year the band signed a six album recording deal with EMI and changed their name per request of their label. The name Radiohead comes from The Talking Heads song “Radio Head”.
In 1992 Radiohead released their first EP, Drill. The EP did not have much chart success. Their first album Pablo Honey came out in February 1993 with the song “Creep” as the first single off the album. The song and album wasn’t received well. In fact, “Creep” was blacklisted by BBC Radio 1 for being “too depressing”. By early summer of that year though, “Creep” was receiving airplay internationally in Israel and on the west coast of the United States, which prompted the group to go overseas to play shows. Eventually the song reached the number 7 spot on the U.K. Singles Chart when it was re-released in September 1993 after its international success.
Radiohead’s second album The Bends was released in March of 1995. Prior to The Bends, they released an EP in late 1994 called My Iron Lung (it featured a song of the same name that was also on The Bends). Their second album finally gave them the success they were looking for in the U.K. Several singles from the album received chart success. However internationally their second album didn’t match up to the success of their first and particularly the single “Creep”. Nonetheless, the band was satisfied with the album’s reception and they toured the U.S. and Europe in support of R.E.M. following its release.
OK Computer, the band’s self-produced third album, was released in 1997. It’s arguably Radiohead’s best album to date and was compared to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon upon its release. The band received worldwide success with OK Computer including topping the U.K. albums chart, receiving a Grammy Award for Best Alternative Album, and a nomination for Album of the Year. Since its release the album has gone triple platinum in the U.K., double platinum in the U.S., and multiple certification in other international markets.
Following OK Computer, Radiohead released Kid A in October 2000. The album received mixed reviews yet still received a Grammy Award for Best Alternative Album and a nomination for Album of the Year much like its predecessor. Amnesiac was released a year and a half later in June 2001. The album topped U.K. music charts and reached the number two spot in the U.S. It also received a Grammy nomination and a Mercury Music Prize nomination.
Radiohead’s sixth album Hail to the Thief was released in June 2003. It debuted at number one on the U.K. music charts and reached the number three spot in the U.S. eventually going platinum and gold in each respective country. The album release also signaled the end for their contract with EMI. A month before the album release Radiohead embarked on a world tour which included a stop to headline the Glastonbury Festival. They finished by headlining Coachella. Radiohead played Glastonbury many times before their headlining performance in 2003, including their first time as a headliner in 1997 after the release of OK Computer, but 2004 marked the group’s first Coachella appearance (they made their return to Indio as a headliner in 2012).
Since 2003 Radiohead has released three more albums, In Rainbows, The King of Limbs, and most recently A Moon Shaped Pool. In Rainbows and The King of Limbs each received similar praises and awards as other Radiohead albums which included award nominations (and win for In Rainbows; 2009 Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album) and high chart rankings. With Radiohead’s release of consistent musical masterpieces, A Moon Shaped Pool will probably follow suit to the many albums that came before it.
Radiohead’s music falls in the alternative rock/indie rock genres. Over the last 24 years, they’ve combined a bunch of other musical styles into their records such as electronic, jazz, and hip hop. However, even with influences from other music genres and their development over the years, their sound primarily suits the alternative/indie rock scene.
Radiohead is a legendary band for any person interested in alternative or indie rock. The first time I listened to any Radiohead songs pre-dated my indie/hipster days. I knew of the band, but never listened to any of their music until one of my high school friends suggested we cover “Creep” while we were together playing music on our spring break. Then in 2011 once I hit my hipster era I began listening to more of their music. Even then though, my Radiohead music collection was limited. It still is despite receiving Pablo Honey on vinyl from a friend for Christmas one year (you think that would have made me want to get all their albums). However, I believe Radiohead is one of the best indie rock bands ever and Thom Yorke (primary song writer) is a genius. I feel like every time I’m introduced to a new Radiohead song I end up liking it. I’d love to see them live some day. I hear they’re amazing live, but they’re pretty amazing in general so that’s not hard to believe. They’ve come a long way since those Fridays in the music room. If you’ve never listened to Radiohead and are now curious about this incredible rock band, please check out these songs:
- High And Dry
- 15 Step
- Thinking About You
- Karma Police
- Talk Show Host
- No Surprises
- Fake Plastic Trees
- Burn the Witch
- There, There
- Everything In Its Right Place
- Paranoid Android
- Pyramid Song