You’d think that such a visionary band like Radiohead, a group synonymous with artistic integrity and creative zeal, would have chosen their name after a long period of deliberation. You’d assume that their appellation was carefully designed to fit into their grand musical plan. Strangely, that’s not the case. Before signing a recording contract they were known as “On a Friday” (named after they day of the week they practiced). Their recording company asked them to change it and they did. They picked “Radiohead,” which is the name of a song from the Talking Heads album True Stories.
Radiohead is comprised of lead singer Thom Yorke, lead guitarist Jonny Greenwood, guitarist Ed O’Brien, bassist Colin Greenwood, and drummer Phil Selway. Jonny and Colin are brothers. The quintet from Abingdon, Oxfordshire has sold more than 30 million albums and hundreds of thousands of Radiohead tickets. They are best known, however, for their innovating and pioneering blend of alternative rock and studio experimentation. Radiohead bridged the gap from the 20th to the 21st centuries as well as from alternative music to rock. In many regards, Radiohead is an anachronism. They always seem to be ahead of their time and their sound consistently contradicts prevailing trends.
Radiohead can trace its origins all the way back to 1985 when the lads formed a band while attending what Americans would call high school. The band released its first album, Pablo Honey, in February of 1993. The album languished in the band’s native land but made waves in Israel and San Francisco. Those waves eventually grew, and before too long, the music video for “Creep,” the album’s lead single, was in heavy rotation on MTV. The band’s sophomore effort, The Bends, dropped in March of 1995. The album did quite well in the U.K. and finally earned them fame in their home country. In the United States, The Bends peaked at #88, it’s far and away the worst showing of their career.
OK Computer came out in June of 1997. It propelled the band to international stardom and won a Grammy Award for Best Alternative Album. OK Computer is considered Radiohead’s masterpiece and one of the greatest albums of all-time.
In 2000, Radiohead released its fourth studio album, Kid A. Like OK Computer, it received a Grammy nomination for Album of the Year. Despite Kid A’s success, it divided Radiohead fans. Some thought it was their best work while others thought it was intentionally difficult. Even to this day, Kid A divides Radiohead faithful.
Amnesiac dropped in June of 2011 and Hail to the Thief in 2003. After a world tour, and appearances at the Glastonbury and Coachella Festivals, the band went on hiatus. Radiohead’s next work, In Rainbows, didn’t come to fruition until 2007. It was released as a digital download on the band’s Website and fans could pay whatever they wanted for the album including nothing at all. In 2011, Radiohead released The King of Limbs. This collection saw Radiohead being more spontaneous than they were during the recording of its predecessor.