The alternative music genre was defined when Radiohead came on the scene (unbelievably) formed back in 1985. My first introduction to their music was when I was given a mixtape by the brother of a school friend in 1994. It was full of Nirvana, The Smashing Pumpkins and Pearl Jam, but the song that stuck out most for me was Radiohead’s ‘Creep’ which was the last song on the B-side. It fills you with all sorts of thoughts and feelings as do most of their songs; quite unlike music you’ve ever heard. Fast forward three years later to 1997 and the album that played most in my Sony Discman was Radiohead’s ‘OK Computer’, especially the haunting songs ‘Paranoid Android’ and ‘Karma Police’. All those tracks over that period of time were the perfect soundtrack for a teenage girl.
Through boarding school dramas, first experiences, unrequited love, dealing with a mother having cancer; so much angst, insecurity, elation and despair and Radiohead played in a loop in the background for all of it. And it some ways it still does all these years later. I still adore all those songs and sometimes a Radiohead track pops up when you least expect it in a TV series or movie and it always fits in with the scene perfectly and elevates the drama to another level. Remember ‘My Iron Lung’ played in the 90s film Clueless? ‘Talk Show Host’ featured in Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 adaption of Romeo and Juliet and ‘Everything in its right place’ used in the 2001 film featuring Tom Cruise, Vanilla Sky, ’15 Step’ used in the end credits for Twilight as well as many TV shows such as ‘Lucky’ in Six Feet Under, ‘I Might Be Wrong’ in Person of Interest and recently ‘Exit Music (For a Film)’ in Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror (the episode called Shut Up And Dance.) And much more.
Radiohead are a British group consisting of five members from Oxfordshire: Thom Yorke (lead vocals, guitar, keyboards, piano), Colin Greenwood (bass guitar), Jonny Greenwood (guitar, keyboards, synth), Ed O’Brien (guitar, backing vocals, percussion) and Philip Selway (drums, percussion, backing vocals). They have nine albums under their belt and countless nominations, awards and accolades in all the top Music magazines and websites. They were voted the 73rd Greatest Artists of all time by Rolling Stone and their album ‘In Rainbows’ won the 2008 Ivor Novello Award for album of the year. They have received the Best Alternative Music Album award three times at the Grammy Awards, for ‘OK Computer’ in 1998, ‘Kid A’ in 2001, and ‘In Rainbows’ in 2009. Despite forming in 1985, Radiohead only really became known after they signed to EMI in 1991, released ‘Creep’ a year later and then their debut album, ‘Pablo Honey’ in 1993. They are still making music, there in the background as one of the best Rock/Alternative bands in the world. Lead singer Thom Yorke doesn’t have the perfect voice, but it is raw and when he sings you can tell he is totally lost in a haze of his music, it oozes from the pores of his soul. People often make jokes about Radiohead’s music being suicidal and yes sometimes it can be most appreciated when you’re going through a rough time. It’s not the most cheerful, let’s play this at our wedding kind of music, but doesn’t music really work when it makes you feel something? When it awakens something inside you? And that’s ultimately what theirs does. Most people would also say they have a memory or memories which they connect with a particular Radiohead song or album.
One thing is for sure. There is no one like Radiohead; never has been and I doubt there ever will. A totally unique group with unforgettable music which is weirdly beautiful, which will haunt you and change you in some way when you hear it. It’s the perfect soundtrack to your life. God, I wish I could find that mixtape.
Radiohead will play a number of headline shows and festival dates in UK & Europe in 2017.