Our favorite alt-rock/punk/jazz/experimental/all-around awesome band have finally announced their tour dates for 2016! Radiohead, the iconic and brilliant five-man-band have been quiet the past few years, but for a while rumors abounded about a ninth studio album, and last week, they started announcing tour dates.
So far, only a few shows have been confirmed. In honor of this, we’ve put together some of our favorite facts for the Radiohead lover, plus some rare recordings, photos, and interviews.
Ever heard the crazy 9/11 conspiracy around Kid A?
Writer Chuck Klosterman believes that Radiohead predicted 9/11 on their Kid A album. Read an analysis of his essay here. It seems like a bit of a stretch at times, but it’s a fun read. With a bit of poetic license, it can even seem plausible.
What was the first thing they called themselves, and why?
The band was formed in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, where the members were all in school together. 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 a band called “On a Friday”, because they would meet on Fridays to practice.
The band got their start in a tavern in Oxford. How did they end up getting discovered?
Their first gig took place at the Jericho Tavern in Oxford in 1986. The band initially featured a saxophone section, and Jonny Greenwood played harmonica. In fact, the band was “discovered” in the Jericho Tavern.
Their current managers, Bryce Edge and Chris Hufford, heard them play there and in 1991, had a chance meeting with the EMI record label. EMI signed them, but made them change their name to Radiohead.
The name Radiohead comes from the song “Radio Head” on the Talking Heads album True Stories.
Why did they wait so long to form the band?
An Educated Bunch
The group are famously cerebral. All of the members have attended college, some of them even completing their masters. In fact, even though they formed the band in 1985, things didn’t take off until they’d finished schooling.
Jonny Greenwood is the only member who didn’t finish his college education, dropping out to join the band full-time in 1991.
Speaking of, why do smart people like this band?
I Hope He’s Right…!
There is an interesting theory that smart people like Radiohead. In a…uh…highly scientific study, a software application engineer named Virgil Griffith has charted musical tastes based on the average SAT score of a given institution of higher learning.
Griffith looks at the average SAT score of a given school, and compare that with the most popular bands at that school, and mapped it out on his website. Other websites took the information and turned it into a more easy to read infographic.
The main gist is that schools with a higher median SAT score were more likely to call Radiohead their favorite band, or one of the top 10 favorites. On the other side of the scale, the lower SAT score schools liked Beyonce, Lil Wayne, and The Used more.
Are they known for being party animals?
Enjoy a Drink Now and Then
Given that Radiohead are considered quite cerebral (hello, all you smart people!) it isn’t shocking that the band avoided classic rock ‘n roll hijinks. All are in long-term relationships, and all have two or more children.
That being said, frontman Thom Yorke is not immune to a drink. When Radiohead first started out, he would sometimes drink heavily, to the point of being unable to preform live.
What’s the funny story behind Fitter Happier?
Fitter Happier More Productive
In another drunk Thom Yorke incident, one night he got particularly trashed and was unable to get up from the floor. While lying there, he began to work on the song, “Fitter Happier.” Most people thought the robotic voice at the beginning belonged to Stephen Hawking; in reality, it was Thom, drunk, playing around on his Macbook and fiddling with the piano.
According to band member Ed: “By the computer saying it, it doesn’t become a bit of pretentious art-wank, it’s something neutral in the way that the computer stumbles over words and doesn’t get the pronunciation or the inflections right.”
What did Rolling Stone Magazine call Thom Yorke?
A Great Falsetto
Thom has also expressed reservations about his voice. Rolling Stone Magazine ranked him #66 of the best singers of all time, but he has said, “It annoys me how pretty my voice is… how polite it can sound when perhaps what I’m singing is deeply acidic.” Perhaps that led to him speaking on certain tracks, such as “Myxomatosis” and “A Wolf at the Door.”
Which musician was influential to this band?
Jeff Buckleys Influence
Another famous falsetto singer, Jeff Buckley, seems to be a source of deep inspiration for the band. After seeing him preform live once, Thom rushed to the studio, recorded “Fake Plastic Trees” (from The Bends) in three takes, and burst into tears.
Where did the inspiration for Pablo Honey come from?
Their debut album, Pablo Honey has an interesting origin story. Jonny Greenwood, lead guitarist for the band, found a bootlegged copy of The Jerky Boys (popular prank callers from the early 90s) and got the whole band obsessed with the silly contents of the tape.
Pablo Honey was taken from one of the prank calls where the caller keeps saying, “Pablo, honey? Please come to Florida!”
Where did the iconic guitar sounds in “Creep” come from?
It’s not unusual for bands to dislike some of their popular songs, as they get sick of constantly playing them. This is most widely seen with “Creep”, their super popular song from 1992. Jonny Greenwood hated the song so much that he tried to sabotage it by throwing in some super heavy guitar sounds, which obviously became iconic.
Band members would respond to requests for the song at concerts with a hearty “f*** off, we’re tired of it.”
Ever seen the Prince version of “Creep?”
The Prince of Limbs
Prince famously covered “Creep” at Coachella 2008, but the well-known technophobe ordered the song taken down from YouTube for years. When asked about it, Thom Yorke seemed dumbfounded that Prince had maintained a copyright over that song, saying, “Really? He’s blocked it? Well, tell him to unblock it. It’s our … song.”
You can finally catch it online, as it is back (despite Prince changing his mind several times and taking it down). Personally, we prefer the original version (even if Radiohead members are sick of it!) Check it out below.
Did you see them on South Park?
The band was on South Park! In the episode “Scott Tenerman Must Die”, where they play the favorite band of Cartmans classmate, Scott Tenerman. This episode is one of the writers favorites, and is widely considered to be up there with some of the best episodes of the series.
During the voice recording sessions, Matt Stone (co-creator of South Park) had to coach this famously emotional band on how to inject more emotion into their voices, saying, “It’s such a funny line to give some guy who’s such a brilliant singer and who’s so brilliant at emoting perfectly, exactly, in such a complex and beautiful way. I’m just trying to get him to do this dumb line, and I have to say, ‘Hey man, you’ve got to put some feeling into it!'”
In Rainbows was released in an unusual manner – how much did it make?
Reinventing the Wheel
Radiohead are constantly reinventing themselves and challenging conceptions of what music should sound like, be sold, and how it should be distributed. They put themselves firmly on the side of the consumer when they decided to release their 2007 album In Rainbows online, with a “pay what you want” model for downloading it. They made about £3 million from the album, according to Wired magazine.
However, the average paid per download was only £2.60, with around 60% of downloaders taking the album for free.
Did you ever see the hidden artwork in Kid A?
Radiohead often hides messages in their albums. For example, when Kid A was released, there was a hidden booklet of art underneath the albums tray. You had to really look to find it.
To the dedicated fan who discovered it, it was simply a booklet of weird art and snippets of poetry, but a year later, when Amnesiac came out, and then three years later, when Hail to the Thief was released, all the pieces fell into place – the artwork was from the next two albums. That’s some serious advance planning.
What about the OK Computer / In Rainbows theory?
My personal favorite fan theory is that 1997’s Ok Computer and 2007’s In Rainbows are really meant to be played together in alternating tracks, with a 10 second fade in and out between each song. The ending of many songs flows directly into the next song.
Also, In Rainbows came out on 10/10/2007, 10 years after OK Computer, and there are 10 letters in the names of both albums. Additionally, OK Computer‘s original working title was Zeroes and Ones, or “01”. The release of In Rainbows was announced 10 days before it was dropped, with a series of 10 cryptic messages alluding to the release, all containing the letter “X”, which is the Roman numeral for 10.
The similarities seem like something the band would have planned, and while it’s never been confirmed, someone close to Radiohead says Thom Yorke was annoyed it took people so long to get it.
What prompted Thom Yorke’s obsession with car crashes?
In 1987, Thom Yorke and his girlfriend were in a bad car crash. They were both fine (she suffered from whiplash) but it led to his fear, and distrust of cars. He wrote about it in many songs, including ‘Airbag’, ‘Killer Cars’, ‘Stupid Car’ and ‘Drunkk Machine’.
What are those strange numbers on “Airbag/How Am I Driving”?
Communication With the Band
A strange number, 1426148550, was on the cover of the “Airbag/How Am I Driving” EP. Fans quickly discovered that it was a pager number, which, when dialed, featured a recording of Thom saying “hello.” In fact, it was the original number of Thoms old pager.
What does the band think of “High & Dry”?
Dedicated To all the Old Folk
Another song the band hates is “High and Dry” from The Bends. It was originally envisaged as a funky, soulful tune, but while the band were messing around in the studio when recording Pablo, Honey, the acoustic version was created. The band thought little of it and set it aside.
When recording The Bends, they came across the song and it fit in well with the album, so it was included. It is widely considered one of their most accessible pop hits, but the band themselves dislike the song.
Thom said he “had his arm twisted… to put [the song] anywhere” and described it in the following words: “It’s not bad, you know. It’s not bad… it’s very bad.” He has dedicated it to older people who don’t like loud music.
What does King of Trees even mean?
King of Trees
Radiohead’s eighth studio album, The King of Limbs might be named after an ancient oak tree in Wiltshire’s Savernake Forest, near where they recorded part of ‘In Rainbows’. The phrase also appears in the 23rd chapter of the Qu’ran.
What was the inspiration for “Just”?
Just Two Guys Having a Good Time
Many fans consider “Just” to be Radioheads best song. In fact, it was a competition between Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood to see how many chords they could get into a song! (Over 9, at last count.)
What does Thom Yorke’s penchant for frilly blouses have to do with anything?
According to Thom, he only ended up forming the band because he and Colin Greenwood both had terrible dress sense. “We always ended up at the same parties. He’d be wearing a beret and a catsuit, or something pretty f***ing weird and I’d be in a frilly blouse and crushed velvet dinner suit and we’d pass round the Joy Division records.” We have no complaints – in fact, we wish we could have been flies on those parties walls.
Are these rock stars also family guys?
These guys are family guys: many of their songs are dedicated to their kids. ‘Hail To The Thief’ is dedicated to Jonny’s firstborn son Tamir born in 2002; ‘Amnesiac’ is dedicated to Thom’s son, Noah who was born in 2001; while Thom’s daughter, Agnes, born in 2004, had his solo effort ‘The Eraser’ dedicated to her.
Where can you find Thom Yorke’s middle finger?
His Van Gogh Moment
In 2004, Thom Yorke sold his middle finger on eBay for £248. No, he didn’t pull a Van Gogh, the middle finger was one he’d deliberately smashed off his recently acquired NME Award, declaring the bird-flicking middle finger to be offensive.
You know all Radiohead’s albums, but do you know these tracks?
Radiohead are prolific musicians, with a huge library of music to chose from. Check out Stereogum’s list of 30 essential non-album tracks to get your true Radiohead geekdom on.
What’s one of the most important causes to this band?
Thom Yorke (and the rest of the band) are famous for their commitment to the environment. The band has threatened to stop touring, given the huge amounts of waste that tours create, unless things changed.
“I think it’s a necessary part of what I do, to tour or play live, but I find it unacceptable, what the consequences of that are,” Yorke has said to The Guardian.
“Some of our best ever shows have been in the US, but there’s 80,000 people there and they’ve all been sitting in traffic jams for five or six hours with their engines running to get there, which is bollocks.”
Finally, check out this great interview they gave.
The band is definitely known for being more than a bit shy and reserved, so it’s nice to see them looking at ease and joking around, like in this interview. Check it out, and let us know what you think of their upcoming tours on Facebook!
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