Every Radiohead fan knows that beyond their nine officially released studio albums there’s an almost unending treasure trove of goodies out there, from incredible b-sides to brilliant old studio films. If you really wanted to, you could spend your entire life buried in Radiohead rarities.
Whether it’s the band occasionally throwing their fiercely dedicated fanbase a bone by uploading an old live set onto YouTube, or – in a significantly more sinister occurrence, as happened last year – one of these fans threatening to leak an entire hard-drive of ‘OK Computer’-era rarities online and effectively holding the band to ransom, it seems the appetite for the more discarded bits and bobs from the band’s 25-year career will never die.
But if the band had just been feeding us scraps until now, today they laid out a whole fucking chicken dinner. Behold the Radiohead Public Library.
https://t.co/Gk4BUXwjsg has always been infuriatingly uninformative and unpredictable. We have now, predictably, made it incredibly informative.
We present: the RADIOHEAD PUBLIC LIBRARY. pic.twitter.com/H7Ft6lNuuN
— Radiohead (@radiohead) January 20, 2020
The new service is a treasure chest from across the band’s career, divided up into eras based on each studio album. There are new runs of legendary sold-out merch from every era, the originals of which now fetch hundreds on Depop, shiny new footage from some of the band’s most iconic live shows, and their debut EP ‘Drill’ on streaming services for the first time and plenty, plenty more.
Sure, much of this stuff has been available in dusty, lo-res forms in deep, dark corners of the internet for a while, but there’s never quite been the opportunity to dive into the inner workings of the defining band of a generation in such an easy way.
Got your library card ready? Here are the 10 best finds from the most exciting new corner of the internet.
1. Make your own ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’ artwork in just 66 steps
The physical release of Radiohead’s most recent LP, 2016’s ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’, featured this handy guide by the band’s frequent collaborator Stanley Donwood. Thanks to the new library, the whole thing is now online too. “You’ve really fucked up this time,” Donwood tells you halfway through, but constructive criticism is good, right?
2. Stream their long-running office charts playlists
Wanna know what your favourite band are listening to? Across the recording processes of ‘In Rainbows’, ‘The King of Limbs’ and ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’, Radiohead kept fans up to date with the influences that were being poured into the records via a series of Office Charts playlists.
Courtesy of the new library, a whole number of these playlists are now available on Spotify, including a big ol’ compilation of Thom Yorke’s selections, which range from Caribou and Floating Points to Roots Manuva, Nils Frahm, The Knife and more, coming in at nearly six hours.
3. Cop new runs of legendary sold-out merch from every era
Battered, beer-stained old Radiohead t-shirts go for an eye-watering amount of money on eBay, so it’s a pocket-pinching blessing that, in line with the launch of the library, new runs of iconic merch are now up for pre-order. And yes, included in the list are the ‘In Rainbows’-era t-shirts that probably remain the best band merch of all time.
4. See all of Radiohead’s notorious webcasts
Since 1999, the band have occasionally set up a camera in their studio and let fans have a window into what they get up to in a day’s work. From playing their current musicial obsessions to the occasional live set and other general tomfoolery, it’s the fly-on-the-wall stuff of dreams. The Radiohead Public Library now brings a previously unavailable full version of the ‘Kid A’-era webcast, ‘Amateur Night II’, which sees Radiohead spinning everything from PJ Harvey to The Specials, before ending with a snippet of the astoundingly weird ‘Ed’s Scary Song’. Verging on being a silent mockumentary, ‘Amateur Night II’ proves that Radiohead are, in fact, actually very funny.
Also available, among others and in significantly higher quality than before, is the ‘In Rainbows’ webcast, ‘Entanglement’, which flits in the blink of an eye from a glitchy DJ set from Thom with Apex Twin-esque visuals to a live performance of a sombre, piano-led cover of Björk’s ‘Unravel’. Because of course it does.
5. Stream the cryptic ‘OKNOTOK’ cassette tape in full
Among the wealth of material shared for ‘OK Computer’’s 20th anniversary in 2017 was a 90-minute long cassette tape that served as a scratchy but compelling skeleton of what the album would become. It’s previously been available as a bootleg, but is now available to stream fully for the first time. It’s also said to have a cryptic code embedded at the end, if you fancy yourself as a detective. Listen to it here.
6. Witness some of their most iconic live performances in full
Bootlegs of hundreds of Radiohead gigs are all over the internet, but, as bootlegs are wont to do, often miss out vital sections or are pixelated to hell. The new library, though, hosts never-seen-before parts of some of their most iconic live sets of all time. First up is Glastonbury 1997, the headline performance that made the band world-beaters. For years now, a number of songs including ‘Airbag’ and ‘Planet Telex’ have been missing from the full YouTube stream of the set. In a move that’s clearly speaking to the die-hard fans that would realise – and lose sleep over – these things, the 14-minute version of the Glastonbury set features all of the songs that have been missing until now. Keep the stans happy and you’re golden. See it here.
Another highlight is the band’s staggeringly good headline set from Reading Festival 2009. As an introduction to the band, it’s pretty much perfect, with unparalleled electricity in the performance and a peerless Greatest Hits setlist. It’s streaming in full here.
7. Watch every Radiohead music video, in one place, in the highest quality
From the iconic video to ‘Just’ (we hoped the Public Library might’ve – finally – told us why he’s just lying there, but no dice) to the animated odysseys of ‘Paranoid Android’ and ‘Burn The Witch’, Radiohead’s music videos are never anything less than compelling. In a less surprising but equally pleasing dispatch from the library, they’re now all streaming in one place and in super high quality.
8. Stream their debut EP ‘Drill’ and more rarities for first time
Radiohead’s music has slowly come to streaming services across the last five years, and today marks the immensely satisfying final pieces of the puzzle, with the band’s 1992 debut EP ‘Drill’, streaming for the first time. Three of the four songs on here made it to debut album ‘Pablo Honey’, but we reckon closing track ‘Thinking About You’ should’ve stayed in the scratchy, reckless form that you find it in on ‘Drill’ forever.
The band have also put 2005 track ‘I Want None Of This’ and the 2011 ‘The King Of Limbs’ remix EP ‘TKOL RMX 8’ (including another Jamie xx rework of ‘Bloom’) on streaming services.
9. Read old newsletters the band used to send their fans
The internet is great for many things – this very library that we’re discussing, for instance – but living in a time when bands posted you a newsletter about their goings on sounds quite nice, doesn’t it? Good, because old versions of exactly this from Radiohead have been uploaded to the library. The best comes from Colin Greenwood in early 1995, who gives fans an exceedingly wholesome update of how many copies of the ‘My Iron Lung’ single they’d sold thus far, and an anecdote of Yorke being hit with a boot from the crowd at a Seattle show. The newsletter ends with the option to get yourself a Radiohead pen pal. Bring it back, we say!
10. Play around on their returning Polyfauna app
Radiohead released a new app called Polyfauna in 2014, which Thom Yorke said “comes from an interest in early computer-life experiments and the imagined creatures of our subconscious”. Though pretty minimal, it allowed you to make glitchy shapes and explore unidentifiable landscapes, and today marks its return to the app store.