Radiohead’s 20 Best Songs – As Voted By You

We asked NME users to vote for the best Radiohead tracks – and the results are in…


17. ‘Airbag’ (1997). The opening track of ‘OK Computer’ references the car accident Thom Yorke suffered in 1987. It was also inspired by DJ Shadow and The Tibetan Book Of The Dead.


16. ‘2 + 2 = 5’ (2003). The third single from ‘Hail To The Thief’ refers to George Orwell’s novel 1984. Its other title – ‘The Lukewarm’ – is a reference to Dante. The most erudite song in the Radiohead canon perhaps?


15. ‘Let Down’ (1997). ‘Let Down’, another gem from ‘OK Computer’, was recorded in a ballroom at 3am in Jane Seymour’s Bath mansion. Jonny Greenwood plays guitar in a different time signature to the other instruments.



14. ‘Lucky’ (1997). Fans have long tried to work out who the ‘Sarah’ is from this ‘OK Computer’ track (or is it ‘Sirrah?’). The meaning of the haunting song isn’t clear – although it does mention an aircrash and Thom Yorke was involved in a car accident ten years previous with his girlfriend.


13. ‘Reckoner’ (2008). ‘Reckoner’ was the final single released on Radiohead’s 2007 album ‘In Rainbows’, the one you could pay what you wanted for. Yorke stated that the song was inspired by a “very trippy dream, one of those ones you wake up from and go, ‘aww man, I don’t want to wake up from that, ever”.


12. ‘Weird Fishes/Arpeggi’ (2007). This track has evolved through different structures and moods. It was first performed as an orchestral piece called ‘Arpeggi’ before a rhythm was layered on top and the bridge was moved. The first track in the Top 20 from ‘In Rainbows’.


11. ‘There There’ (2003). The first song from album ‘Hail To The Thief’ in the NME Top 20 reached number four in the UK singles chart. Its second title is the ‘Boney King Of Nowhere’.



8. ‘Everything In Its Right Place’ (2000). The ‘Kid A’ opener is one of the most dearly-loved of all Radiohead tracks and has been covered by various artists. The “two colours in my head” lyrics refers to the painter Mark Rothko, one of Thom Yorke’s influences.


7. ‘How To Disappear Completely’ (2000). Fans of this track from ‘Kid A’ will be pleased to hear Radiohead have been playing it on their 2012 world tour. Listen out for Jonny on the ondes martenot.


6. ‘No Surprises’ (1998). No surprises the third single from ‘OK Computer’ rides high in the NME readers Radiohead Top 20. It charted at number four in the UK and featured in an episode of The Royle Family.


5. ‘Exit Music (For A Film)’ (1996). Although it appeared on ‘OK Computer’ instead of the soundtrack, ‘Exit Music’ was originally written for the ending credits of Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet. Its atmospheric build is unavoidably filmic, but also works perfectly on the album. The song is directly inspired by the moment Claire Danes playing Juliet holds a gun to her head.



4. ‘Karma Police’ (1997). The “Phew, for a minute there, I lost myself” second section refrain in this single from ‘OK Computer’ is a highlight of any Radiohead gig. It’s a song to lose yourself in despite the stark, anti-Capitalist message. In Thom’s words: “this is a song against bosses – fuck the middle management”.


3. ‘Idioteque’ (2000). Idiots who insist on trumpeting the line ‘you can’t dance to Radiohead, it’s for slitting wrists’, should be forced to listen to this beat-laden track from ‘Kid A’. It’s a banger to go absolutely potty to. Cool fact: some of the lyrics were written using William Burrough’s ‘cut-up’ technique, picking words out of a hat at random.


2. ‘Street Spirit’ (1996). Thom Yorke wasn’t wrong when he said this single from ‘The Bends’ was one of the band’s saddest songs. Still, it reached number five in the singles chart and went on to be one of the greatest giver-of-goosebumps crowd anthems ever written.