Radiohead pushed the boundaries of rock and roll.
Never settling for genre archetypes, they incorporated a wide variety of musical influences - from Pink Floyd to R.E.M. - that challenge even the most dedicated fan. They flipped the music industry on its head and are pioneers of the digital revolution.
Founded in the mid-Eighties by schoolboys from a suburb of Oxford, England, Radiohead – who took the name from a Talking Heads song – are the most compelling paradox in modern rock: a worldwide commercial sensation with a restless, experimental vision and underground-pioneer spirit.
They were nearly a one-hit wonder. Radiohead’s blistering 1992 single “Creep” was a belated smash, taking a year to get into Britain’s Top Ten and the American Top 40. Singer-lyricist Thom Yorke, bassist Colin Greenwood, drummer Philip Selway and guitarists Ed O’Brien and Jonny Greenwood (Colin’s younger brother) – reacted to that breakthrough with a dramatic turn away from the mainstream: the jarring guitar dynamics and harrowing balladry of 1995’s The Bends, itself a gripping prelude to the majestic art-rock futurism and dystopian warning of the 1997 masterpiece and multi-platinum best-seller, OK Computer.
Heralded as their era’s answer to Pink Floyd and the Beatles, Radiohead again turned their backs on success and expectation, entering the next century with two albums, 2000’s Kid A and 2001’s Amnesiac, that set Yorke’s seething introspection and heated, social argument in unpredictable whirls of electronic minimalism, slashing-guitar turbulence and radical textural invention.
Kid A, ironically, was Radiohead’s first Number One album in America, affirming the band’s drive to repeatedly challenge itself and its audience over the next two decades on critical and commercial triumphs such as 2007’s In Rainbows and 2016’s A Moon Shaped Pool. Radiohead have also been instrumental in the digital transformation of the record industry, setting precedents with the pay-what-you-want release of In Rainbows and the sudden, digital drop of 2011’s The King Of Limbs.
But, as O’Brien once said, the secret to Radiohead’s innovation and independence is simple: “We start with what we don’t want to do next.”
“Creep” (1992) • “My Iron Lung,” “Street Spirit (Fade Out),” The Bends (1995) • “Paranoid Android,” “Karma Police,” OK Computer (1997) • “Everything In Its Right Place,” “The National Anthem,” Kid A (2000) • “Knives Out,” Amnesiac (2001) • “There, There,” Hail To The Thief (2003) • “Nude,” In Rainbows (2007) • The King Of Limbs (2011) • “Burn The Witch,” “Daydreaming,” A Moon Shaped Pool (2016)