Radiohead, often considered one of the greatest rock bands of all time (if not the most innovative), has offered its unique blend of alternative rock for over one quarter of a century. The band began in the mid 1980s within Abingdon, Oxfordshire all members were enrolled in the Abingdon School for boys. Consisting of Thom Yorke on songwriting, lead vocals, guitar, and piano, Jonny Greenwood on harmonica, keyboard, and eventually lead guitar, Colin Greenwood on bass, Phil Selway on drums and percussion, and Ed O’Brien on guitars and backup vocals, the group was originally called “On A Friday.” Their name was chosen because of the group’s one day per week access to Abingdon’s music room where they held practice. Since their first venue at Oxford’s Jericho Tavern, the group steadily gained a large following for their unique songs and talent throughout their 27 year career.
With moody themes, electric melodies, and a powerful sound, Radiohead has strongly and secured its place as one of the most evocative and innovative bands in history. With a well known presence and a powerful essence, Radiohead ranks as one of the best English rock bands of all time. Here’s the proof with the following 10 Best Radiohead Songs:
1. Karma Police
2. Talk Show Host
3. GIve Up The Ghost
4. Fake Plastic Trees
5. Life In A Glass House
6. I Will
7. Sail To The Moon (Brush The Cobwebs Out Of The Sky)
8. How To Disappear Completely
9. True Love Waits
Radiohead’s rise to fame featured a number of career highs and lows. Upon formation, the band concentrated on practicing, playing small venues and their studies. During 1987 all members but Johnny (due to his age) had graduated from Abington yet continued to focus on rehearsing during holidays and on weekends. By 1991, the group (with the exception of Johnny) had completed university level degree and focused on recording demos and performing live shows in Oxford and nearby surrounding areas. Despite a thriving independent music scene in Oxfordshire and Thames Valley, the group had difficulty “fitting” in and initially struggled to secure interest. That changed greatly after the band caught the attention of Slowdive’s producer, Chris Hufford. As a local shoegaze/alternative rock band which thrived significantly in comparison to On A Friday, with more performances and a record deal within a year of formation during 1989, On A Friday’s attention from Hufford propelled the band’s status. Hufford co-owned Oxford’s CourtYard Studio with his partner Bryce Edge and offered to manage the band following attendance at a Jericho Tavern gig. The band produced a demo tape, the Drill EP, under their new management and released the album during May of 1992. Despite the EP’s poor performance, a chance meeting with EMI A & R’s Keith Wozencroft at a record shop where Colin Greenwood was employed led to a six album recording contract during 1991, This meeting was a major transformation for the group as the band adopted its new name,.Radiohead, based upon a Talking Heads track from the album True Stories.
The band continued to play local performances and record materials for an upcoming album. During 1993 the group’s debut song, “Creep” from its first album Pablo Honey released. The single was largely unsuccessful and the group was deemed with bad press considered “a lily livered excuse for a rock band” by NME. The single was also blacklisted on BBC Radio for being “too depressing.” Despite the deepening criticism, the band’s rising popularity within the U.K. spurned several live performances at universities and clubs. Within months the group’s debut single and album rose to number 22 on UK charts and placed on international charts. This led to the band’s first international live performance in Tel Aviv during early 1993 after “Creep” topped the charts in Israel. Alternative radio stations located along the west coast of the U.S. gradually picked up the song which led to the band’s first music video, airing on MTV, and its first North American tour during June of that year. The song climbed charts within the U.S., landing in the number two position on modern rock charts and within the lower ranks of Top 40 charts. By September, the song placed seventh on UK Singles Charts following EMI’s re-release in the U.K. The group played over 150 concerts during the 1993 North American tour promoting Pablo Honey and nearly fractured due to the pressures of traveling, unexpected American attention, and instant success. Band members often likened the second year of the tour to “being held in a time warp” as they wrestled the desire to create new material while performing the old.
A turning point for the group occurred in 1994, when former Abbey Road Studios producer John Leckie assisted the group in recording its second album. Internal tensions within the band and external pressures to meet the expectation of a successful follow up to “Creep” added difficulty for recording a new album. In an attempt to alleviate the stress and to adjust to performing new material, the band toured the Far East, Australasia, and Mexico. At this point, having gained massive popularity, Thom was largely “disillusioned” by the attention fame brought and stated he felt he was “helping to sell the world.” As a result, the release of the band’s EP My Iron Lung in late 1994 was the band’s response to their success. Alternative radio station promotions caused album sales to soar and only added to the momentum of the band’s success.
The 1995 release of the band’s second album, The Bends, was a turning point in solidifying the band’s talent as songwriters, musicians, and performers yet bittersweet for bandmates. Pressures of fame, exhaustion, and stress took its toll on all members of the band. The album secured the group’s success within the UK, placing the band within the top five of UK charts for the first time since the release of their debut album. A tour promoting The Bends began in Boston, Massachusetts, during May 1995 but was fraught with Thom’s “breakdown” which included pleading with Tim Greaves (the band’s tour manager) to fly Thom home to England, yelling at a crowd during a Boston, Massachusetts show, and also using his guitar to hit an audience member. The tour pushed forward despite Thom’s instability and led to another tour throughout North America and the U.S. during July 1995, joining the European tour of most popular worldwide group of the era: R.E.M. Michael Stipe, lead of R.E.M. quipped at a Tel Aviv show that “There aren’t many things that scare me, but Radiohead are so good they scare me.” The sentiment was returned when Thom wrote of Stipe: “I’ve never believed in hero worship but I have to admit to myself that I’m fighting for breath.” The band returned to touring throughout the U.S, U.K., opening for R.E.M. and Soul Asylum for stateside performances. The tour was halted when Greenwood suffered hearing problems, Thom lost his voice and fainted on stage, and the band’s equipment was stolen. All members returned to England during December 1995 and concentrated on regaining their strength to concentrate on recording. The band worked with Nigel Godrich, an audio engineer who assisted with The Bends album and a B-side song titled “Talk Show Host.” Godrich also helped the band in releasing the song “Lucky” to raise funds to benefit War Child, a charity organization. The song was part of The Help Album. Godrich worked with the band producing these tracks from their rehearsal studio within a former apple shed called Canned Applause in Didcot, Oxfordshire.
By August the group was again touring, opening for Alanis Morissette, and playing their new material before finishing the album at St. Catherine’s Court, a 15th century mansion near Bath. The group finished the work for the 1997 release of their third album, OK Computer, as well as two tracks for the motion picture soundtrack to Baz Lurhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet including “Talk Show Host” and “Exit Music (For A Film).” Often praised as a landmark album of the 1990s, the success of OK Computer propelled the band international fame and pushed the band to evolve.
OK Computer was considered an experimental third album and its release during June 1997 was met with tremendous praise. The album climbed quickly to the top of UK charts and blasted the band to worldwide recognition. The record earned the band its first Grammy for Best Alternative Album and received a nomination for Album of The Year. Considered a “landmark album,” OK Computer was likened to a 1990s version of the epic 1973 album Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. Applauded by Rolling Stone as a “stunning art-rock tour de force,” the band was shocked by the amount of attention it gained to the point that Thom stated they were: “amazed it got the reaction it did. None of us f**king 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 sounds and the atmospheres we were trying to create.” The band promoted the album with the Against Demons international tour complete with film footage completed by director Grant Gee later released as the 1999 documentary Meeting People Is Easy. The band also appeared in several music videos, made tracks for television commercials, and completed two EPs from B-sides off of the OK Computer album.
The band stepped out of the spotlight during 1998 following the Against Demons tour. Appearing once for Paris’ 1998 Amnesty International concert, the band nearly split up due to internal tension, burn out, stress, and Thom’s battle against severe depression. Additionally, all members had differing ideals in terms of the direction they wanted the band to go. Despite obstacles, the band pulled through and began a one and a half year journey to complete work for their fourth album. Working closely with Nigel Godrich in Paris, Copenhagen, Gloucester, and the band’s new studio in Oxford, the band completed two albums. Kid A, the band’s fourth album, was finished during April 2000 and released during October. Experimenting with electronics, jazz, and Krautrock, Kid A pushed the band into new directions and added to its success. Critics and fans often praise Kid A as one of the most important albums of 2000.
The album received instant success and charted to the number one positions in the U.S. and U.K. as well as other international countries. A summer 2000 tour throughout Europe followed and the band performed three sold out North American shows. The album earned the band its second Grammy for Best Alternative Album as well as a nomination for Album of the Year in February 2001. Four months later, the band released Amnesiac, its fifth album, produced from tracks unused on Kid A. The album followed Kid A’s suit in terms of critical and commercial success. Amnesia topped the UK charts, earned nominations for a Grammy,earned the Mercury Music Prize, and placed at number 2 in the U.S. A world tour throughout North America, Europe, and Japan followed and the band released its first live album, titled I Might Be Wrong: Live Recordings during November 2001.
During the summer of 2002, the band wrapped a tour through Portugal and Spain and then returned to the studio with Nigel Godrich. With more unity and less tension, the group easily recorded its sixth album (and last for EMI), titled Hail to The Thief. The June 2003 release of the album featured piano and guitar driven electric rock, blending the sounds of the band’s previous work. The album’s debut garnered instant commercial success and earned the band the number one spot on UK charts and number three on the U.S. Billboard chart. This album also earned certified platinum status in the UK and gold status in the U.S. The band was again nominated for a Best Alternative Rock Album Grammy during 2003 and earned producer Godrich and engineer Darrell Thorp the Grammy for Best Engineered Album. The band also released another EP, titled COM LAG, consisting of B-sides from their sixth album. That same year the group began another world tour and headlined the Glastonbury Festival and Coachella Festival. After the tour wrapped in 2004, the band fulfilled the obligations to their EMI contract and began a hiatus to focus on their families, solo projects, and collaborated with producer Mark Stent for material for their next album. During the Fall of 2005 the group produced “I Want None Of This” for the album Help: A Day In the Life to support the War Child charity and continued to concentrate their efforts on producing their next album. Following a late 2006 tour through Europe and North America, the group returned to London and Oxford studios to complete their album with help from Nigel Godrich. They also played several small venues in Somerset.
During June 2007, Radiohead released their seventh album, In Rainbows, independently allowing customers to set their own price for the album as a digital download. The album was also released in its physical form. During October 2007 the band independently released its highly anticipated seventh album, In Rainbows. The album was available at the band’s official website for a “pay what you want” price. The album “sold” over 1.2 million downloads with just ten days advance notice before its release which allowed the band to avoid conventional industry distribution strategies. The two disc physical copy of In Rainbows was released in December 2007 by XL Recordings in the UK and by TDB Records in the U.S. one month later. The band earned significant praise for the album and topped both UK and US music charts. The album also earned the band and producers the 2009 Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album, Best Boxed or Special Limited Edition Package, and three other nominations, including Album of the Year. In June of the same year EMI released The Best Of greatest hits album despite disapproval from the band, of which Thom stated “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.”
The band began another tour through North America, Mexico, South America, Japan, and Europe promoting In Rainbows from May 2008 to March 2009. Three months after the tour ended, the group began recording with Nigel Godrich to produce “Harry Patch (In Memory Of)” to raise funds for the British Legion as a tribute to the late Harry Patch, the last living British WWI soldier. The band also released its first single “These Are My Twisted Words” as a free download and to promote their upcoming album. They also concentrated on charity events to support disaster relief following the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti. They also played a benefit for Oxfam at the Henry Ford Theater in Los Angeles with tickets auctioned to the highest bidders to assist in raising over $500,000 for NGO’s Haitian earthquake relief attempts. This performance was the only live venue they held as they concentrated on recording their eighth album. Fans created a multi camera film available via You Tube and Torrents during December 2010 with another “pay what you want” option to support Oxfam with all proceeds going to the organization. Fans also produced a free only video of the group’s 2009 performance in Prague in cooperation with the band which rendered over 100,000 downloads and supported the band’s dedication to non-commercially distributed Internet philosophy and “openness” to their fan base.
During February 2011, the group released King Of Limbs digitally via their website and weeks later in physical form. The group also released a compilation of art, lyrics, stories, and poetry in the form of a custom newspaper called “The Universal Sigh.” The newspaper was again produced for free and given away through select worldwide cities. By late March 2011, the King Of Limbs placed at number seven within UK charts. and number three in the U.S. By July the album had become the best selling vinyl record of the year. One month later the band offered “Supercollider/The Butcher” a seven minute song available on vinyl for free to those who had purchased The King Of LImbs in honor of Record Store Day. They also offered remixed songs for the album TKOL RMX 1234567 featuring different versions of The King Of Limbs tracks and collaborations with caribou, Lone and Four Tet, and Jacques Greene. In June, the band revealed its newest song, “Staircase,” via an uploaded You Tube and also played the Glastonbury Festival as a “secret” guest act. During the Glastonbury performance, the band offered another new song, titled “The Daily Mail” and other tracks from the King Of Limbs album with guest drummer Clive Dearner of Portishead. The show was recorded and distributed during July 2011 via the television series From The Basement. The group also performed two shows at the Roseland Ballroom in New York City and appeared on for an exclusive one hour episode of The Colbert Report. The group also announced that they would begin their first tour in four years with ten shows throughout the U.S. during February and March 2012. The tour was cancelled due to unexpected tragedy when drum technician Scott Johnson was killed and three others were injured just hours before a Downsview Park, Toronto show when the roof of the stage collapsed. Though 40,000 tickets were sold, the band postponed the concert and refunded the costs as they managed the loss.