Radiohead are an English rock band from Abingdon, Oxfordshire, formed in 1985. The band consists of Thom Yorke (vocals, guitar, piano, keyboards), brothers Jonny Greenwood (lead guitar, keyboards, other instruments) and Colin Greenwood (bass), Ed O'Brien (guitar, backing vocals) and Philip Selway (drums, percussion). They have worked with producer Nigel Godrich and cover artist Stanley Donwood since 1994.
|Also known as||On a Friday (1985-1992)|
|Origin||Abingdon, Oxfordshire, England|
After signing to EMI in 1991, Radiohead released their debut single "Creep" in 1992. It became a worldwide hit after the release of their debut album, Pablo Honey (1993). Their popularity and critical standing rose in the United Kingdom with the release of their second album, The Bends (1995). Radiohead's third album, OK Computer (1997), propelled them to international fame; noted for its complex production and themes of modern alienation, it is often acclaimed as a landmark record of the 1990s and one of the best albums in popular music. The group's next albums Kid A (2000) and Amnesiac (2001), recorded simultaneously, marked a dramatic change in style, incorporating influences from experimental electronic music, 20th-century classical music, krautrock, and jazz. Kid A divided listeners but was named the best album of the decade by Rolling Stone, Pitchfork and the Times.
Radiohead's sixth album, Hail to the Thief (2003), mixed rock and electronic music with lyrics inspired by the War on Terror, and was the band's final album for EMI. Their subsequent releases have pioneered alternative release platforms such as pay-what-you-want and BitTorrent; Radiohead self-released their seventh album, In Rainbows (2007), as a download for which customers could set their own price, to critical and chart success. Their eighth album, The King of Limbs (2011), an exploration of rhythm, was developed using extensive looping and sampling. A Moon Shaped Pool (2016) prominently featured Jonny Greenwood's orchestral arrangements.
Radiohead had sold more than 30 million albums worldwide by 2011. Their work places highly in both listener polls and critics' lists of the best music of the 1990s and 2000s. In 2005, they were ranked 73rd in Rolling Stone's list of "The Greatest Artists of All Time"; Jonny Greenwood (48th) and O'Brien (59th) were both included in Rolling Stone's list of greatest guitarists, and Yorke (66th) in their list of greatest singers. In 2009, Rolling Stone readers voted the group the second-best artist of the 2000s. In 2017, they were nominated for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, in their first year of eligibility.
1985–1992: Formation and first years
The members of Radiohead met while attending Abingdon School, an independent school for boys in Abingdon, Oxfordshire. Guitarist and singer Thom Yorke and bassist Colin Greenwood were in the same year, guitarist Ed O'Brien and drummer Philip Selway the year above, and multi-instrumentalist Jonny Greenwood, brother of Colin, two years below. In 1985, they formed On a Friday, the name referring to the band's usual rehearsal day in the school's music room. Jonny was the last to join, first on harmonica and then keyboards, but soon became the lead guitarist; he had previously been in another band, Illiterate Hands, with musician Nigel Powell and Yorke's brother Andy Yorke. According to Colin, the band members picked their instruments because they wanted to play music together, rather than through an interest in the particular instrument: "It was more of a collective angle, and if you could contribute by having someone else play your instrument, then that was really cool." At one point, On a Friday featured a saxophone section.
The band disliked the school's strict atmosphere—the headmaster once charged the band for using a rehearsal room on a Sunday—and found solace in the school's music department. They credited their music teacher for introducing them to jazz, film scores, postwar avant-garde music, and 20th-century classical music. Oxfordshire and the Thames Valley had an active independent music scene in the late 1980s, but it centred on shoegazing bands such as Ride and Slowdive.
Although all but Jonny had left Abingdon by 1987 to attend university, On a Friday continued to rehearse on weekends and holidays. At the University of Exeter, Yorke played with the band Headless Chickens, performing songs including future Radiohead material, and met artist Stanley Donwood, who would later create artwork for the band. In 1991, On a Friday regrouped, sharing a house on the corner of Magdalen Road and Ridgefield Road, Oxford.
As On a Friday continued to perform in Oxford, including more performances at the Jericho Tavern, record labels and producers became interested. Chris Hufford, Slowdive's producer and co-owner of Oxford's Courtyard Studios, attended an early On a Friday concert at the Jericho Tavern. Impressed, he and his partner Bryce Edge produced a demo tape and became On a Friday's managers; they remain Radiohead's managers today. In late 1991, after a chance meeting between Colin and EMI A&R representative Keith Wozencroft at Our Price, the record shop where Colin worked, On a Friday band signed a six-album recording contract with EMI. At the label's request, the band changed their name; "Radiohead" was taken from the song "Radio Head" on the Talking Heads album True Stories (1986).
1992–1994: "Creep", Pablo Honey and early success
Radiohead recorded their debut release, the Drill EP, with Chris Hufford and Bryce Edge at Courtyard Studios. Released in May 1992, its chart performance was poor. The band enlisted Paul Kolderie and Sean Slade, who had worked with US indie bands Pixies and Dinosaur Jr., to produce their debut album, recorded quickly in an Oxford studio in 1992. With the release of the "Creep" single later that year, Radiohead began to receive attention in the British music press, not all of it favourable; NME described them as "a lily-livered excuse for a rock band", and "Creep" was blacklisted by BBC Radio 1 because it was deemed "too depressing".
Radiohead released their debut album, Pablo Honey, in February 1993. It stalled at number 22 in the UK charts, as "Creep" and its follow-up singles "Anyone Can Play Guitar" and "Stop Whispering" failed to become hits. "Pop Is Dead", a non-album single, also sold poorly. Some critics compared the band's early style to the wave of grunge music popular in the early 1990s, dubbing them "Nirvana-lite", and Pablo Honey failed to make a critical or a commercial impact upon its initial release. Despite shared influences with popular guitar acts, and some notice for Yorke's falsetto, Radiohead toured only British universities and clubs.[better source needed]
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In early 1993, Radiohead began to attract listeners elsewhere. "Creep" had been played frequently on Israeli radio by influential DJ Yoav Kutner, and in March, after the song became a hit in that country, Radiohead were invited to Tel Aviv for their first live gig overseas. Around the same time, the San Francisco alternative radio station KITS added "Creep" to its playlist. Soon other radio stations along the west coast of the United States followed suit. By the time Radiohead began their first North American tour in June 1993, the music video for "Creep" was in heavy rotation on MTV. The song rose to number two on the US modern rock chart, entered the lower reaches of the top 40 pop chart, and hit number seven in the UK Singles Chart when EMI rereleased it in the UK in September.
Unexpected attention for the single in the US prompted EMI to improvise new promotional plans, and the band shuttled back and forth between continents, playing more than 150 concerts in 1993. Radiohead nearly broke up due to the pressure of sudden success as the Pablo Honey supporting tour extended into its second year. The band members described the tour as difficult to adjust to, saying that towards its end they were "still playing the same songs that [they had] recorded two years previously ... like being held in a time warp", when they were eager to work on new songs.
1994–1995: The Bends, critical recognition and growing fanbase
Radiohead began work on their second album in 1994 with veteran Abbey Road Studios producer John Leckie. Tensions were high, with mounting expectations to match the success of "Creep". Recording felt unnatural in the studio, with the band having over-rehearsed the material. Seeking a change of scenery, they toured the Far East, Australasia and Mexico and found greater confidence performing their new music live. However, troubled by his new fame, Yorke became disillusioned with being "at the sharp end of the sexy, sassy, MTV eye-candy lifestyle" he felt he was helping to sell to the world.
The My Iron Lung EP and single, released in 1994, was Radiohead's reaction, marking a transition towards the greater depth they aimed for on their second album. It was their first time working with their future producer Nigel Godrich, then working under Leckie as an audio engineer. It was also Radiohead's first collaboration with artist Stanley Donwood, who has produced all of their artwork since. Promoted through alternative radio stations, My Iron Lung's sales were better than expected, and suggested for the first time that the band had found a loyal fanbase and were not one-hit wonders.
Having introduced more new songs on tour, Radiohead finished recording their second album by year's end, and released The Bends in March 1995. The album was driven by dense riffs and ethereal atmospheres from the band's three guitarists, with greater use of keyboards than their debut. It received stronger reviews for its songwriting and performances. While Radiohead were seen as outsiders to the Britpop scene that dominated music media at the time, they were finally successful in their home country with The Bends, as singles "Fake Plastic Trees", "High and Dry", "Just", and "Street Spirit (Fade Out)" made their way to chart success; "Street Spirit" placed Radiohead in the top five for the first time.
In 1995, Radiohead again toured North America and Europe, this time in support of R.E.M., one of their formative influences and at the time one of the biggest rock bands in the world. The buzz generated by such famous fans as R.E.M. singer Michael Stipe, along with distinctive music videos for "Just" and "Street Spirit", helped to sustain Radiohead's popularity outside the UK. The night before a scheduled performance in Denver, Colorado, Radiohead's tour van was stolen, and with it their musical equipment. Yorke and Jonny Greenwood performed a stripped-down acoustic set with rented instruments, and several shows were canceled. In 2015, Greenwood was reunited with one of the stolen guitars after a fan recognised it as one they had purchased in Denver in the 1990s.
"High and Dry" became a modest hit, but Radiohead's growing fanbase was insufficient to repeat the worldwide success of "Creep". The Bends peaked at No. 88 on the US album charts, which remains Radiohead's lowest showing there. Nonetheless, Radiohead were satisfied with the album's reception. Jonny Greenwood said: "I think the turning point for us came about nine or twelve months after The Bends was released and it started appearing in people's [best of] polls for the end of the year. That's when it started to feel like we made the right choice about being a band." In later years, The Bends appeared in many publications' lists of the best albums of all time, including Rolling Stone's 2012 edition of the "500 Greatest Albums of All Time" at No. 111.
1995–1998: OK Computer and critical acclaim
By late 1995, Radiohead had already recorded one song that would appear on their next record. "Lucky", released as a single to promote the War Child charity's The Help Album, was recorded in a brief session with Nigel Godrich, the young audio engineer who had assisted on The Bends and produced a 1996 B-side, "Talk Show Host". The band decided to self-produce their next album with Godrich, and began work in early 1996. By July they had recorded four songs at their rehearsal studio, Canned Applause, a converted apple shed in the countryside near Didcot, Oxfordshire.
In August 1996, Radiohead toured as the opening act for Alanis Morissette. They resumed recording not at a studio but at St. Catherine's Court, a 15th-century mansion near Bath. The sessions were relaxed, with the band playing at all hours of the day, recording in different rooms, and listening to the Beatles, DJ Shadow, Ennio Morricone and Miles Davis for inspiration.
Radiohead released their third album, OK Computer, in June 1997. The album found the band experimenting with song structures and incorporating ambient, avant garde and electronic influences, prompting Rolling Stone to call the album a "stunning art-rock tour de force". Radiohead denied being part of the progressive rock genre, but critics began to compare their work to Pink Floyd, a band whose early 1970s work influenced Greenwood's guitar parts at the time. Some compared OK Computer thematically to Floyd's bestseller The Dark Side of the Moon (1973), although Yorke said the album's lyrics were inspired by observing the "speed" of the world in the 1990s. Yorke's lyrics, embodying different characters, had expressed what one magazine called "end-of-the-millennium blues" in contrast to the more personal songs of The Bends. According to journalist Alex Ross, the band had become "the poster boys for a certain kind of knowing alienation—as the Talking Heads and R.E.M. had been before." OK Computer met with critical acclaim. Yorke said he was "amazed it got the reaction it did. None of us fucking 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 the sounds and the atmospheres we were trying to create."
"Paranoid Android" is a three-part song, mixing acoustic guitars, abrasive electric solos and layered choirs. The first single from OK Computer, it marks Radiohead's UK singles chart peak (number three).
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OK Computer was Radiohead's first number-one UK chart debut, propelling them to commercial success around the world. Despite peaking at number 21 in the US charts, the album eventually met with mainstream recognition there, earning Radiohead their first Grammy Awards recognition, winning Best Alternative Album and a nomination for Album of the Year. "Paranoid Android", "Karma Police" and "No Surprises" were released as singles from the album, of which "Karma Police" was most successful internationally. OK Computer went on to become a staple of "best-of" British album lists. In the same year, Radiohead became one of the first bands in the world to have a website, and developed a devoted online following; within a few years, there were dozens of fansites devoted to the band.
OK Computer was followed by the year-long "Against Demons" world tour, including Radiohead's first headline Glastonbury Festival performance in 1997. Despite technical problems that almost caused Yorke to abandon the stage, the performance was acclaimed and cemented Radiohead as a major live act. Grant Gee, the director of the "No Surprises" video, filmed the band on tour for the 1999 documentary Meeting People Is Easy. The film portrays the band's disaffection with the music industry and press, showing their burnout over the course of the tour.
1998–2002: Kid A, Amnesiac and change in sound
Radiohead were largely inactive following their 1997–1998 tour; after its end, their only public performance in 1998 was at an Amnesty International concert in Paris. During the period the band came close to splitting up, and Yorke developed severe depression. In early 1999, Radiohead began work on their next album. Although the success of OK Computer meant there was no longer any pressure or a deadline from their record label, tension was high. Band members had different visions for Radiohead's future, and Yorke experienced writer's block, influencing him toward more abstract, fragmented songwriting. Radiohead secluded themselves with producer Nigel Godrich in studios in Paris, Copenhagen, and Gloucester, and in their newly completed studio in Oxford. Eventually, the members agreed on a new musical direction, redefining their instrumental roles. After nearly 18 months, Radiohead's recording sessions were completed in April 2000.
In October 2000 Radiohead released their fourth album, Kid A, the first of two albums from these recording sessions. A departure from OK Computer, Kid A featured a minimalist and textured style with more diverse instrumentation, including the ondes Martenot, programmed electronic beats, strings, and jazz horns. It debuted at number one in many countries, including the US, where it became the first Radiohead album to debut atop the Billboard chart and the first US number-one album by any UK act since the Spice Girls in 1996. This success was attributed variously to marketing, to the album's leak on the file-sharing network Napster a few months before its release, and to advance anticipation based, in part, on the success of OK Computer. Although Radiohead released no singles from Kid A, promos of "Optimistic" and "Idioteque" received radio play, and a series of "blips", short videos set to portions of tracks, were played on music channels and released free online. Inspired by Naomi Klein's anti-globalisation book No Logo, Radiohead continued a 2000 tour of Europe in a custom-built tent free of advertising; they also promoted Kid A with three sold-out North American theatre concerts.
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Kid A received a Grammy Award for Best Alternative Album and a nomination for Album of the Year in early 2001. It won both praise and criticism in independent music circles for appropriating underground styles of music; some mainstream British critics saw Kid A as a "commercial suicide note", labelling it "intentionally difficult" and longing for a return to the band's earlier style. Radiohead's fans were similarly divided; along with those who were appalled or mystified, many saw it as the band's best work. Yorke denied that Radiohead had set out to eschew commercial expectations, saying: "We're not trying to be difficult ... We're actually trying to communicate but somewhere along the line, we just seemed to piss off a lot of people ... What we're doing isn't that radical." The album has since been ranked one of the best of all time by publications including Time and Rolling Stone; Pitchfork, the Times and Rolling Stone named it the best album of the decade.
Radiohead's fifth album, Amnesiac, was released in June 2001. It comprised additional tracks from the Kid A sessions, plus one track recorded after Kid A's release, "Life in a Glasshouse", featuring the Humphrey Lyttelton Band. Radiohead stressed that they saw Amnesiac not as a collection of B-sides or "leftovers" from Kid A but an album in its own right. It topped the UK Albums Chart and reached number two in the US, and was nominated for a Grammy Award and the Mercury Music Prize. Radiohead embarked on a world tour, visiting North America, Europe and Japan. "Pyramid Song" and "Knives Out", Radiohead's first singles since 1998, were modestly successful. I Might Be Wrong: Live Recordings, released in November 2001, features performances of seven songs from Kid A and Amnesiac, and the previously unreleased acoustic track "True Love Waits".
2002–2004: Hail to the Thief and departure from EMI
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In July and August 2002, Radiohead toured Portugal and Spain, playing a number of new songs. For their next album, the band sought to explore the tension between human and machine-generated music and capture a more immediate, live sound. They and Godrich recorded most of the material in two weeks at Ocean Way Recording in Los Angeles, with the rest of the album recorded in Oxford into the next year. The band described the recording process as relaxed, in contrast to the tense sessions for Kid A and Amnesiac.
Radiohead's sixth album, Hail to the Thief, was released in June 2003. Its lyrics were influenced by what Yorke called "the general sense of ignorance and intolerance and panic and stupidity" following the 2000 election of US President George W. Bush. The album was promoted with a website, radiohead.tv, where short films, music videos and live webcasts from the studio were streamed at scheduled times. Hail to the Thief debuted at number one in the UK and number three on the Billboard chart, and was eventually certified platinum in the UK and gold in the US. The singles "There There", "Go to Sleep" and "2 + 2 = 5" achieved heavy circulation on modern rock radio. At the 2003 Grammy Awards, Radiohead were again nominated for Best Alternative Album, and producer Godrich and engineer Darrell Thorp received the Grammy Award for Best Engineered Album. In May 2003, Radiohead embarked on a world tour and headlined Glastonbury Festival for the second time. The tour finished in May 2004 with a performance at the Coachella Festival in California. A compilation of Hail to the Thief B-sides, remixes and live performances, Com Lag (2plus2isfive), was released in April 2004.
Radiohead's six-album record contract with EMI ended with the release of Hail to the Thief. In 2005, Yorke told Time: "I like the people at our record company, but the time is at hand when you have to ask why anyone needs one. And, yes, it probably would give us some perverse pleasure to say 'Fuck you' to this decaying business model." In 2006, the New York Times described Radiohead as "by far the world's most popular unsigned band". In 2007, EMI was acquired by the private equity firm Terra Firma in a US$6.4 billion (£4.7 billion) public-to-private buyout. Radiohead were critical of the new management and no new record deal was agreed. O'Brien said: "It was really sad to leave all the people [we'd worked with] ... But Terra Firma don't understand the music industry." The Independent reported that EMI had offered Radiohead a £3m advance, but had refused to relinquish rights to the band's valuable back catalogue; an EMI spokesman stated that Radiohead had demanded "an extraordinary amount of money". Yorke and Radiohead's management released statements denying that the band had asked for a large advance, but instead wanted control over their back catalogue.
2004–2009: Solo work, In Rainbows and "pay what you want"
Following the Hail to the Thief tour, Radiohead went on hiatus to spend time with their families and work on side projects. Yorke and Jonny Greenwood contributed to the Band Aid 20 single "Do They Know It's Christmas?", produced by Godrich. Greenwood composed soundtracks for the films Bodysong (2004) and There Will Be Blood (2007); the latter was the first of several collaborations between Greenwood and director Paul Thomas Anderson. In July 2006, Yorke released his debut solo album, The Eraser, comprising mainly electronic music. He told Pitchfork: "I've been in the band since we left school and never dared do anything on my own ... It was like, 'Man, I've got to find out what it feels like,' you know?"
Radiohead began work on their seventh album in February 2005 with no record deal. In an effort to "get out of the comfort zone", they decided against involving Godrich and hired producer Spike Stent. The collaboration with Stent was unsuccessful and ended in April 2006. In September 2005, Radiohead contributed "I Want None of This", a piano dirge, for the War Child charity album Help: A Day in the Life. The album was sold online, with "I Want None of This" the most downloaded track, though it was not released as a single. In late 2006, after touring Europe and North America with new material, the band re-enlisted Godrich and resumed work in London, Oxford and rural Somerset, England. Recording ended in June 2007 and the recordings were mastered the following month.
Radiohead's seventh album, In Rainbows, was released through the band's website in October 2007 as a download for any amount users wanted, including £0—a landmark use of the pay-what-you-want model for music sales. The pay-what-you-want release, the first for a major act, made headlines worldwide and sparked debate about the implications for the music industry. According to Mojo, the release was "hailed as a revolution in the way major bands sell their music", and the media's reaction was "almost overwhelmingly positive"; Time called it "easily the most important release in the recent history of the music business". The release drew criticism from musicians including Lily Allen and Kim Gordon, who felt the release undercut less successful acts. 1.2 million downloads were reportedly sold by the day of release, but the band's management did not release official sales figures, claiming that the internet-only distribution was intended to boost later retail sales. Colin Greenwood explained the internet release as a way of avoiding the "regulated playlists" and "straitened formats" of radio and TV, ensuring fans around the world could all experience the music at the same time, and preventing leaks in advance of a physical release. O'Brien said the self-release strategy sold fewer records, but made more money for the band as there was no middleman. A special "discbox" edition of In Rainbows, containing the record on vinyl, a hardcover book of artwork, and a second CD of extra songs, was also sold from Radiohead's website and shipped in late 2007.
In Rainbows was released physically in the UK in late December 2007 on XL Recordings and in North America in January 2008 on TBD Records, charting at number one both in the UK and in the US. The record's retail success in the US – after having been legally available for months as a free download – was Radiohead's highest chart success in that country since Kid A. It became their fifth UK number-one album and sold more than three million copies in one year. The album received critical acclaim for its more accessible sound and personal lyrics. It was nominated for the short list of the Mercury Music Prize and went on to win the 2009 Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album. Their production team won the Grammy for Best Boxed or Special Limited Edition Package, while Radiohead received their third nomination for Album of the Year. Along with three other nominations for the band, Godrich's production and the "House of Cards" music video also received nominations. Yorke and Jonny Greenwood performed "15 Step" with the University of Southern California Marching Band at the televised award show.
Radiohead released a number of singles from In Rainbows: "Jigsaw Falling into Place" in January 2008, followed by "Nude", which debuted at number 37 in the Billboard Hot 100, Radiohead's first song to make that chart since 1995's "High and Dry" and their first top 40 hit in the US since "Creep". In July they released a digitally shot video for "House of Cards". "House of Cards", along with "Bodysnatchers", also received a single release on radio. In September the band announced a fourth single, "Reckoner", and a remix competition similar to one organised for "Nude". In April 2008, Radiohead launched W.A.S.T.E. Central, a social networking service for Radiohead fans. In May, VH1 broadcast In Rainbows – From the Basement, a special episode of the music television show From the Basement in which Radiohead performed songs from In Rainbows. It was released on iTunes in June.
In June 2008, EMI released a greatest hits album, Radiohead: The Best Of. It was made without Radiohead's input and only contains songs released under their recording contract with EMI. Yorke was critical of the release, saying: "There's nothing we can do about it. The work is really public property now anyway, in my head at least. 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." In August 2008, EMI reissued "special editions" of Radiohead's back catalogue as part of its "From the Capitol Vaults" series. From mid-2008 to early 2009, Radiohead toured North America, Europe, Japan and South America to promote In Rainbows, and headlined the Reading and Leeds Festivals in August 2009.
2009–2012: The King of Limbs, two drummers and Toronto stage collapse
As social media began to expand around the turn of the decade, Radiohead gradually withdrew their public presence, with no promotional interviews or tours to promote new releases. Pitchfork wrote that around this time "their popularity became increasingly untethered from the typical formalities of record promotion, placing them on the same level as Beyoncé and Kanye West."
In May 2009, Radiohead began new recording sessions with Godrich. In August, they released "Harry Patch (In Memory Of)", a tribute song to Harry Patch, the last surviving British soldier to have fought in World War I, with proceeds donated to the British Legion. The song has no conventional rock instrumentation, and instead comprises Yorke's vocals and a string arrangement composed by Jonny Greenwood. Later that month, another new song, "These Are My Twisted Words", featuring krautrock-like drumming and guitars, was leaked via torrent, possibly by Radiohead themselves. It was released as a free download on the Radiohead website the following week. Commentators saw the releases as part of Radiohead's new unpredictable release strategy, without the need for traditional marketing campaigns.
That year, Yorke formed a new band to perform The Eraser live, Atoms for Peace, with musicians including Godrich and Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea; the band played eight North American shows in 2010. In January 2010, Radiohead played their only full concert of the year in the Los Angeles Henry Fonda Theater as a benefit for Oxfam. Tickets were auctioned, raising over half a million US dollars for the NGO's 2010 Haiti earthquake relief. In June, Yorke and Jonny Greenwood performed a surprise set at Glastonbury Festival, performing Eraser and Radiohead songs. On 30 August, Selway released his debut solo album, Familial. In September 2010, Radiohead released the soundboard recording of their 2009 Prague performance for use in a fan-made concert video, Live in Praha. In December, a fan-made video of Radiohead's Oxfam benefit performance, Radiohead for Haiti, was released via YouTube and torrent with Radiohead's support and a "pay-what-you-want" link to donate to Oxfam. The videos were described as examples of the band's openness to fans and positivity toward non-commercial internet distribution.
Radiohead finished recording their eighth album, The King of Limbs, in January 2011. Following the protracted recording and more conventional rock instrumentation of In Rainbows (2007), Radiohead developed The King of Limbs by sampling and looping their recordings with turntables. According to O'Brien: "Rhythm is the king of limbs! The rhythm dictates the record. It's very important." Radiohead announced the album on Valentine's Day and released it as a download on 18 February 2011 through their website. It was followed by a retail release on CD and vinyl formats in March on XL, and a special "newspaper album" edition in May.
The King of Limbs sold an estimated 300,000 to 400,000 copies through Radiohead's website; the retail edition debuted at number six on the United States Billboard 200 and number seven on the UK Albums Chart. It was nominated for five categories in the 54th Grammy Awards: Best Alternative Music Album, Best Boxed or Special Limited Edition Package, Best Short Form Music Video (for "Lotus Flower"), Best Rock Performance ("Lotus Flower") and Best Rock Song ("Lotus Flower"). Two tracks not included on The King of Limbs, "Supercollider" and "The Butcher", were released as a double A-side single for Record Store Day on 16 April 2011. A series of King of Limbs remixes by various artists were compiled on TKOL RMX 1234567, released in September 2011.
To perform the rhythmically complex King of Limbs material live, Radiohead enlisted a second drummer, Clive Deamer, who had worked with Portishead and Get the Blessing; Selway said of the collaboration: "One played in the traditional way, the other almost mimicked a drum machine. It was push-and-pull, like kids at play, really interesting." With Deamer, Radiohead recorded a second From the Basement session, released online as The King of Limbs: Live from the Basement in August 2011. It was also broadcast by international BBC channels and released on DVD and Blu-ray in January 2012. The performance included two new songs, "The Daily Mail" and "Staircase", released as a double A-side download single on 19 December 2011. Deamer has joined Radiohead on subsequent tours.
On 24 June, Radiohead played a surprise performance on the Park stage at the 2011 Glastonbury Festival, performing songs from The King of Limbs for the first time. In September, they played two dates at New York City's Roseland Ballroom and made American TV appearances including a one-hour special episode of The Colbert Report and the season première of Saturday Night Live. In February 2012, they began their first extended North American tour in four years, including dates in the United States, Canada and Mexico. While on tour, Radiohead spent a day working on new material at Jack White's Third Man Records studio, but discarded the recordings.
On 16 June 2012, an hour before gates were due to open at Toronto's Downsview Park for the final concert of Radiohead's North American tour, the roof of the venue's temporary stage collapsed, killing drum technician Scott Johnson and injuring three other members of Radiohead's road crew. The concert was cancelled and Radiohead's tour dates in Europe were postponed. After rescheduling the tour, Radiohead paid tribute to Johnson at their next concert, in Nîmes, France, in July. In June 2013, Live Nation Canada Inc, two other organisations and an engineer were charged with 13 charges under Ontario health and safety laws. In September 2017, after several delays, the case was dropped under the Jordan ruling, which sets strict timelines on trials. Radiohead released a statement condemning the decision. The chief coroner of Ontario will hold an inquest into Johnson's death.
2012–2014: Hiatus, further solo work, and move to XL
In September 2012, EMI, Radiohead's record label until 2003, was bought by Universal Music. The European Commission approved the deal on the condition that Universal Music divest EMI's Parlophone label, which controlled the Radiohead albums recorded under their contract with EMI. In February 2013, Parlophone, along with Radiohead's back catalogue, was bought by Warner Music Group (WMG). As a condition of the purchase, WMG made an agreement with the Merlin Network and trade group Impala to divest 30% of the Parlophone catalogues to independent labels, with artist approval. In October 2015, Radiohead sued Parlophone for deductions made from downloads of their back catalogue. In April 2016, as a result of the Impala agreement, WMG transferred Radiohead's back catalogue to XL Recordings, who had released the physical editions of In Rainbows and The King of Limbs and most of Yorke's solo work. Radiohead: The Best Of and the "special editions" of Radiohead albums, issued by EMI in 2008 without Radiohead's approval, were removed from streaming services. In May 2016, XL reissued Radiohead's back catalogue on vinyl.
After the King of Limbs tour, during which Radiohead performed several new songs, the band entered hiatus again and the members worked on side projects. In February 2013, Yorke and Godrich's band Atoms for Peace released a studio album, Amok. The pair made headlines that year for their criticism of the free music streaming service Spotify; Yorke accused Spotify of only benefiting major labels with large back catalogues, and encouraged artists to build their own "direct connections" with audiences instead. On 11 February 2014, Radiohead released the Polyfauna app for Android and iOS phones, an "experimental collaboration" with the British digital arts studio Universal Everything, using musical elements and imagery from The King of Limbs.
Yorke and Selway released their respective second solo albums, Tomorrow's Modern Boxes and Weatherhouse, on 26 September and 7 October 2014. Jonny Greenwood scored his third film for Paul Thomas Anderson, Inherent Vice, released in October 2014; it features a new version of an unreleased Radiohead song, "Spooks", performed by Greenwood and two members of Supergrass. In May 2015, Yorke contributed a soundtrack, Subterranea, to The Panic Office, an installation of Radiohead artwork in Sydney, Australia. In November 2015, Junun, a collaboration between Greenwood, Israeli composer Shye Ben Tzur and Indian musicians, engineered and mixed by Godrich, was released. It was accompanied by a documentary of the same name directed by Anderson.
2014–present: A Moon Shaped Pool and OKNOTOK 1997 2017
Radiohead began work on their ninth studio album in September 2014, joined again by Godrich. In 2015 they resumed work in the La Fabrique studio near Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, France. The sessions were marred by the death of Godrich's father, and Yorke's separation from his wife, Rachel Owen, who died of cancer several months after the album's completion. Recording was interrupted when Radiohead were commissioned to write the theme for the 2015 James Bond film Spectre. Their first submission, "Man of War", written before OK Computer, was rejected as it had not been written for the film; among other reasons, it would have been ineligible for the Academy Award for Best Original Song. Their second submission, "Spectre", a "brooding" orchestral song, was rejected as "too dark". Radiohead released "Spectre" on Christmas Day 2015 on the audio streaming site SoundCloud.
On 1 May 2016, Radiohead deleted all content from their website and social media profiles and replaced them with blank images, a move Pitchfork interpreted as symbolic of the band's re-emergence. Radiohead released "Burn the Witch", the lead single from their forthcoming album, as a download on 3 May, accompanied by a stop-motion animated music video. Three days later, Radiohead released another single, "Daydreaming", accompanied by a music video directed by Paul Thomas Anderson; the video was screened in 35 mm film in select cinemas.
Radiohead's ninth studio album, A Moon Shaped Pool, was released on 8 May 2016 on Radiohead's website and online music stores, followed by physical versions on 17 June via XL Recordings. It includes several songs written some years earlier, including "True Love Waits" (which dates to at least 1995), along with strings and choral vocals performed by the London Contemporary Orchestra and additional percussion from Deamer. The album was simultaneously released on paid streaming services including Tidal and Apple Music, but was not released on Spotify, a free service, until 17 June, six weeks later. Spotify had been in "advanced discussions" with Radiohead's management and label to make A Moon Shaped Pool the first album available exclusively to Spotify's paying subscribers, but the deal fell through, according to Spotify, due to technical hurdles. In Rainbows, the only other Radiohead album not previously available on Spotify, was added on 10 June.
A Moon Shaped Pool was Radiohead's sixth UK number-one album. It was certified gold in the UK on 24 June 2016, and became a bestseller on vinyl. It was the fifth Radiohead album to be nominated for the Mercury Prize, making Radiohead the most shortlisted act in the award's history, and was nominated for Best Alternative Music Album and Best Rock Song (for "Burn the Witch") at the 59th Annual Grammy Awards. It appeared on several publications' lists of the best albums of the year.
A Moon Shaped Pool was promoted with events held in participating record shops around the world, featuring a "day-long" audio stream, including playlists curated by Radiohead and a recording of their recent performance at the London Roundhouse, along with competitions, artwork, and other activities. A participating shop in Istanbul closed after an attack by a gang angered by customers drinking beer and playing music during Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fast; Radiohead released a statement condemning the attacks and offering "love and support" to Istanbul fans. From May to October 2016, Radiohead toured Europe, North America, and Japan in support of A Moon Shaped Pool, joined again by Deamer. They began a second US tour in March 2017, culminating in a headline slot at the April 2017 Coachella festival in California. A European tour followed in June and July with several festival shows, including Radiohead's third headline performance at the Glastonbury Festival. In July, Radiohead relaunched radiohead.tv with recordings of recent live performances.
The Moon Shaped Pool tour drew criticism for its inclusion of a date in Tel Aviv on 19 July, disregarding the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign for an international cultural boycott of Israel. Radiohead were subject to protests at some concerts, where sections of the audience unfurled Palestinian flags. On 23 April, more than 50 prominent figures, including musician Roger Waters, whose 2017 album Is This the Life We Really Want? was produced by Godrich, signed a petition urging Radiohead to cancel the show. Yorke told Rolling Stone he found the criticism "extremely upsetting ... [the critics] choose to, rather than engage with us personally, throw shit at us in public. It's deeply disrespectful to assume that we're either being misinformed or that we're so retarded we can't make these decisions ourselves. I thought it was patronising in the extreme." He felt the criticisms created "divisive energy" rather than "bring people together". Godrich added that he did not "believe in cultural boycotts ... I don't think they're positive, ever ... The people you'd be denying [the music] are the people who would agree with you and don't necessarily agree with their government." Waters responded in a public statement saying he had written to Yorke months earlier, but that Yorke had replied angrily and not replied to further correspondence. On 11 July, filmmaker Ken Loach wrote in the Independent that "[Radiohead's] stubborn refusal to engage with the many critics of their ill-advised concert in Tel Aviv suggests to me that they only want to hear one side – the one that supports apartheid... Radiohead need to decide if they stand with the oppressed or with the oppressor." Yorke responded in a statement: "Playing in a country isn't the same as endorsing the government. Music, art and academia is about crossing borders not building them, about open minds not closed ones, about shared humanity, dialogue and freedom of expression." The show went ahead as planned, with Yorke telling the audience: "A lot was said about this, but in the end we played some music."
On 2 May 2017, Radiohead announced a 20th-anniversary OK Computer reissue, OK Computer OKNOTOK 1997 2017, comprising a remastered version of the album, B-sides, and three previously unreleased tracks: "I Promise", "Man of War" and "Lift". The boxed edition contains additional artwork and notes, and an audio cassette of demos and session recordings. The digital version was released on 23 June 2017, with physical editions shipping in July. Radiohead promoted the reissue with posters around the world featuring cryptic messages, a teaser video with "glitchy" computer graphics and lyrics from "Climbing Up the Walls", and music videos for the three new tracks. OKNOTOK topped the UK charts in the week of its release, boosted by Radiohead's televised Glastonbury performance that week.
On 20 August 2017, Yorke and Jonny Greenwood performed a benefit concert in Le Marche, Italy, following the August 2016 Central Italy earthquake. Radiohead collaborated with the film composer Hans Zimmer to record a new version of the King of Limbs track "Bloom" for the nature documentary series Blue Planet II. The new track, "(ocean) Bloom", features new vocals by Yorke recorded alongside the BBC Concert Orchestra. In October, Radiohead were nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the first time they had been eligible since their debut release 25 years prior. In the same month, Selway released his third solo work, the soundtrack to the film Let Me Go. In 2018, Jonny Greenwood scored his second film by Lynne Ramsay, You Were Never Really Here, and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Score for his fifth colloboration with Anderson, Phantom Thread. Radiohead began a tour of North and South America in 2018.
Style and songwriting
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Among Radiohead's earliest influences were Queen, Pink Floyd and Elvis Costello, post-punk acts such as Joy Division, Siouxsie and the Banshees and Magazine, and significantly 1980s alternative rock bands such as U2, R.E.M., the Pixies, the Smiths and Sonic Youth.
By the mid-1990s, Radiohead began to adopt recording methods from hip hop, inspired by the sampling work of DJ Shadow, and became interested in using computers to generate sounds. Other influences include the jazz of Miles Davis, Charles Mingus and Alice Coltrane, the soundtracks of Ennio Morricone, 1960s rock groups such as the Beatles and the Beach Boys, and Phil Spector's "wall of sound" production technique.
The electronic music of Kid A and Amnesiac was inspired by Yorke's admiration for electronic music exemplified by Warp Records artists such as Aphex Twin; in 2013, Yorke named Aphex Twin as his biggest influence. The album also samples early computer music. The jazz of Charles Mingus, Alice Coltrane and Miles Davis, and 1970s krautrock bands such as Can and Neu!, were other major influences during this period. Jonny Greenwood's interest in 20th century classical music also had a role, as the influence of composers Krzysztof Penderecki and Olivier Messiaen was apparent; since the recording of Kid A, Greenwood has played the ondes Martenot, an early electronic instrument popularised by Messiaen.
Recording In Rainbows, Radiohead mentioned rock, electronic, hip-hop and experimental musicians as influences, including Björk, M.I.A, Liars, Modeselektor and Spank Rock. In 2011, Yorke denied that Radiohead had set out deliberately to change musical styles or to make "experimental music", saying the band was "constantly absorbing music" and that a variety of musicians are always influencing their work. Drummer Clive Deamer, who has recorded and performed with Radiohead since 2011, said that Radiohead did not see themselves as a rock band and felt their methodology had closer parallels with jazz: “They deliberately try to avoid cliché and standard forms for the sake of the song ... Rock bands don't do that. It's far more like a jazz mentality."
Yorke is Radiohead's principal songwriter and lyricist; songs usually begin with a sketch by Yorke, which is harmonically developed by Jonny Greenwood before the others develop their parts. Arrangement is a collaborative effort, with all the band members having roles in the process; all songs are credited to "Radiohead". The band often try several approaches to songs; for example, "Nude" was first performed in the 1990s, but was not released until 2007 in a radically different arrangement. Similarly, the band took over two decades to settle on the arrangement for "True Love Waits", released in 2016. In 2017, Jonny Greenwood said he saw Radiohead as "just a kind of an arrangement to form songs using whatever technology suits the song. And that technology can be a cello or it can be a laptop. It's all sort of machinery when looked at in the right way."
The Kid A and Amnesiac sessions brought a change in Radiohead's music and working methods. Since their shift from conventional rock music instrumentation toward an emphasis on electronic sound, the members have gained flexibility and now regularly switch instruments depending on the particular song requirements. On Kid A and Amnesiac, Yorke played keyboard and bass, while Jonny Greenwood often played ondes Martenot, bassist Colin Greenwood worked on sampling, and O'Brien and Selway branched out to drum machines and digital manipulation, also finding ways to incorporate their primary instruments – guitar and percussion, respectively – into the new sound. The relaxed 2003 sessions for Hail to the Thief led to a different dynamic, with Yorke admitting that his power in the band had been "absolutely unbalanced" and that he would "subvert everybody else's power at all costs. But ... it's actually a lot more healthy now, democracy-wise."
Radiohead have maintained close relationships with a number of frequent collaborators. Producer Nigel Godrich made his name with Radiohead, working as an audio engineer on The Bends and as their producer on every studio album since. He has been dubbed the "sixth member" of the band, in an allusion to George Martin being called the "Fifth Beatle". In 2016, Godrich said of the collaboration: "I can only ever have one band like Radiohead who I've worked with for this many years. That's a very deep and profound relationship. The Beatles could only have ever had one George Martin; they couldn't have switched producers halfway through their career. All that work, trust, and knowledge of each other would have been thrown out of the window and they'd have to start again."
Graphic artist Stanley Donwood met Yorke when both were art students, and with Yorke has produced all of Radiohead's album covers and visual artwork since 1994. Donwood works in the studio with the band as they record, allowing the music to influence the artwork. He and Yorke won a Grammy in 2002 for the special edition of Amnesiac packaged as a library book.
Dilly Gent has been responsible for commissioning all Radiohead music videos since OK Computer, working with the band to find a director for each project. Since Radiohead's formation, Andi Watson has been their lighting and stage director, designing the visuals of live concerts, such as the carbon-neutral "LED forest" of the In Rainbows tour. Technician Peter "Plank" Clements has worked with Radiohead since before The Bends, overseeing the setup of their instruments for studio recordings and live performances. Drummer Clive Deamer has performed and recorded with Radiohead since 2011.
- Thom Yorke – lead vocals, guitar, piano, keyboards
- Jonny Greenwood – guitar, keyboards, programming, ondes Martenot, analogue synthesisers, orchestral arrangements
- Colin Greenwood – bass guitar
- Ed O'Brien – guitar, effects, backing vocals
- Philip Selway – drums, percussion
Additional live members
- Clive Deamer – drums, percussion (2011–present)
Awards and nominations
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