Personalities | Radiohead | Twenty-First Century | Rock

The five members of Radiohead are the same today as they were on the day they formed. Thom Yorke (born 7 October 1968, vocals, guitar, piano), Jonny Greenwood (born 5 November 1971, lead guitar, effects), Ed O’Brien (born 15 April 1968, guitar, vocals), Phil Selway (born 23 May 1967, drums) and Colin Greenwood (born 26 June 1969, bass) met at school in Oxfordshire and started jamming in around 1985.

Initially called On A Friday, after the day of the week they were permitted to rehearse, the band somehow, inexplicably, managed to stay together while each member went off to study a degree. On returning to Oxford and its environs after places at various other UK universities, the band picked up where they had left off and began to take gigs around their home city more seriously.


At venues like the Jericho Tavern, a small upstairs room at a pub with a PA, On A Friday began to learn their craft. Oxford was by no means a musical backwater, as the band went to great lengths to point out (to this day, whenever possible, the band conduct interviews in hotels there). Bands such as Ride had already made quite a name for the city, spearheading a new ‘shoegazing’ movement in the early 1990s.

Local music papers took more interest as the groups gigging circuit grew and grew – spreading south, occasionally to London, and other venues in the Thames Valley area. EMI, impressed with what they saw, signed the band on a six-album deal, providing they change their name. Radiohead came from a track on the Talking Heads album, True Stories.

Creeping Up

The debut album, Pablo Honey (1993), is most Radiohead fans’ least favourite. But tucked away in the middle was a song called ‘Creep’, a slab of neo-12-bar blues, which was thrillingly ‘messed up’ by Jonny Greenwood with his now trademark double-guitar crunch before each chorus. The song was released to little hoorah, but it was not until a second release, in the US this time, that radio stations started to pick up on the song. Tours followed, and slowly but surely the band made a name in these new territories. But, cruelly, the track seemed to suffocate them, and the band began to resent it – touring a foreign land also lost favour. The Bends (1995) was written very much in this frame of mind (‘My Iron Lung’ even obliquely references ‘Creep’).

Ironically, the album became Radiohead’s most American-sounding, awash with guitars and high-pitched guitar/vocal histrionics. However, lyrically, it was perhaps their meanest, a sarcastic riposte to the lifestyle unfolding before them. One positive thing that stemmed from the recording was initial work with producer Nigel Godrich (then an engineer), who the band described working with as similar to school when the teacher was absent.

The OK Computer Effect

With high worldwide sales figures for The Bends, the band found themselves in a comparatively...

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Source: The Definitive Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock, general editor Michael Heatley


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