Radiohead’s ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’ was a melancholic masterpiece of blissful indie soul. Rocketing to the top of the charts it’s yet more proof that Thom Yorke and co. remain the biggest alternative band of this century. Long may that continue to be true. In tribute to the Oxford rockers, here are 30 things you might not know about them.
Thom Yorke’s dad was was an amateur boxer, and encouraged his son to
take up the hobby – without much success. Pic: James Quinton
The average coughed up for Radiohead’s innovative you-decide-what-to-pay, internet-only released seventh album ‘In Rainbows’ was a miserly £2.90, with 60 per cent of fans electing to pay nowt.
Radiohead met in the ’80s as fellow pupils at an all-boys public school, the Abingdon School, in Oxfordshire. Ubiquitous TV comic David Mitchell went to the same school – he was a few years below. Pic: PA Photos
Thom Yorke was inspired to become veggie by The Smiths’ ‘Meat Is Murder’ – as well as more personal reasons: “I started going out with this girl,” he explains, “and I wanted to impress her so I pretended to be a vegetarian.” Sadly Chris Martin trounced Thom Yorke to win the coveted ‘World’s Sexiest Vegetarian’ crown in 2005.
According to Thom Yorke, he and Colin Greenwood only ended up in a band
together because of their terrible dress sense: “We always
ended up at the same parties. He’d be wearing a beret and a catsuit, or
something pretty fucking weird and I’d be in a frilly blouse and
crushed velvet dinner suit and we’d pass round the Joy Division
records.” Pic: Andy Willsher Pic: PA Photos
Smash hit breakthrough tune ‘Creep’ was initially dismissed as a possible single release in 1992 when producers mistakenly thought it was a Scott Walker cover. The confusion occurred after the band demoed the song in the studio and Yorke described it as “our Scott Walker song” (meaning it to be a moody soundalike). Pic: PA Photos
Scott Walker-related fact number two: The eccentric crooner would love to join Radiohead. Walker was quoted in 2006 saying: “Radiohead are fabulous. If I could have it all again and be in a band, that’s the kind of band I’d like to have been in.”
In 1987, a week after Jonny Greenwood’s first rehearsal with On A
Friday, the band played their debut gig at the now defunct Jericho
Tavern in Oxford. Modelling themselves on early heroes Talking Heads,
they added a brass section, including two saxophone-playing sisters to
fill out the line-up. Pic: PA Photos
In 2004, Thom Yorke’s middle finger sold for £248 on ebay. It turned out not to be his actual flesh-and-bone, but rather one he’d deliberately smashed off his recently acquired NME Award, declaring the bird-flicking middle digit to be offensive.
Thom Yorke suffered a traumatic Christmas in 1996. His garden pond froze, killing his collection of exotic fish. Pic: Andy Willsher
A mysterious number, 1426148550, appeared on the cover of the ‘Airbag/How Am I Driving’ EP. Fans quickly discovered it to be a pager number which, if dialled, revealed the voice of Thom saying “Hello”. Fans left messages which the band supposedly kept for possible inclusion in a future recording. Pic: Richard Johnson
Jeff Buckley was a bigger influence on Radiohead than they would perhaps today admit. ‘The Bends’ producer John Leckie, recalling the profound effect seeing Buckley had on Thom Yorke, said: “It made him realise you could sing in a falsetto without sounding drippy.”
Radiohead cite their music teacher, Terence Gilmore-James, as an early mentor. Colin Greenwood explains, “When we started, it was very important that we got support from him, because we weren’t getting any from the headmaster. You know, the man once sent us a bill, charging us for the use of school property.”
Thom Yorke finds his own singing voice irritating: “It annoys me how pretty my voice is… how polite it can sound when perhaps what I’m singing is deeply acidic.” This dissastisfaction led to Yorke semi-speaking, rather than singing, on 2003’s ‘Myxomatosis’ and ‘A Wolf At The Door’.
Phil Selway and Jonny Greenwood joined the band Dive Dive, alongside Jarvis Cocker, to appear in the 2005 film ‘Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire’ as the Weird Sisters, a popular band among young wizards. Pic: Claire Morris
Colin Greenwood and Thom Yorke’s first musical project together was called TNT – they were a bit punky. While Yorke was at Exeter University, he played guitar in Flickernoise, a techno outfit. Pic: PA Photos
In 1987, Thom Yorke and his girlfriend were involved in a car crash. His girlfriend suffered whiplash and although Yorke was unharmed, it brought on his car phobia, which he later wrote about in Radiohead songs such as ‘Airbag’, ‘Killer Cars’, ‘Stupid Car’ and ‘Drunkk Machine’. Pic: PA Photos
Ed O’Brien is the tallest member of Radiohead at 6ft 2in; in fact no other member exceeds six foot.
Thom Yorke recorded the vocals to ‘Fake Plastic Trees’ in late 1994 just after seeing Jeff Buckley play the Garage in London. Apparently, an inspired Yorke rushed back to the studio, did two takes then broke down in tears. Pic: Andy Willsher
Jonny Greenwood is the only band member to be a classically trained
musician, having taken formal viola lessons as a child. In addition to
viola and guitar, the multi-instrumentalist plays organ, piano,
xylophone, glockenspiel, ondes martenot (similar to a theremin), banjo and harmonica. Pic: PA Photos Pic: PA Photos
Thom Yorke’s sulky demeanor and refusal to get matey with fellow celebs has caused a few hissy fits in the past. Kelly Jones harumphed that he was a “miserable twat”. Jack Black, Miley Cyrus and Kanye West have also enjoyed public grumbles about their treatment by the infamously taciturn singer.
Thom Yorke defended his gloomy reputation in 1996 thus: “It’s just that I’m surrounded by a world of grinning idiots and I don’t think I want to be another one.” Pic: Andy Willsher
Back in 1992, one NME live reviewer described Radiohead as “a lily-livered excuse for a rock band”. Oops. We came round though, giving 1997’s ‘OK Computer’ 10 out of 10.
Thom Yorke wrote ‘Creep’ after being rejected by a girl he was infatuated with while studying at Exeter University in the late ’80s. Yorke says it is about being in love with someone, but not feeling good enough, declaring, “There’s the beautiful people and then there’s the rest of us.”
In the mid-’90s Jonny started wearing a wrist brace to support a poorly strumming hand; he then decided it looked rather dapper even after his wrist was better and kept it on as a kind of trademark look.
After the success of Radiohead’s debut album, 1993’s ‘Pablo Honey’, Yorke has confessed his ego got a bit out of control, causing him to drink too much and dick about with his hair (blond extensions, anyone?). “When I got back to Oxford I was unbearable,” he cringed in 2000, “as soon as you get any success you disappear up your own arse.”
Members of Radiohead have played homage to their increasingly expanding
offspring by dedicating various songs/albums to them. ‘Hail To The
Thief’ is dedicated to Jonny’s firstborn son Tamir born in 2002;
‘Amnesiac’ is dedicated to Thom’s son Noah born in 2001; while Thom’s
daughter, Agnes, born in 2004, had Yorke’s solo effort ‘The Eraser’
dedicated to her.
When Radiohead first got together at their Oxford school, they were known as On A Friday because they practised, cryptically enough, on Fridays in the music room. After they were signed in 1991, they changed their name to Radiohead, the title of a Talking Heads song. Pic: PA Photos
The Radiohead lads are a well-educated bunch. Besides their public-school learning, Thom has a degree in English and Fine Art from Exeter; Colin’s got a degree in English from Cambridge; Ed studied Economics at Manchester Uni, and Phil has got an English and History BA from Liverpool. Jonny dropped out of his Oxford Brookes music degree to join the band in 1991.