Radiohead are an English rock band from Abingdon, Oxfordshire, formed in 1985. The band consists of Thom Yorke (lead vocals, guitar, piano), Jonny Greenwood (lead guitar, keyboards, other instruments), Colin Greenwood (bass), Phil Selway (drums, percussion, backing vocals) and Ed O'Brien
(guitar, backing vocals). Radiohead released their debut single "Creep"
in 1992. It became a worldwide hit after the release of the band's
debut album, Pablo Honey (1993). Their popularity rose in the United
Kingdom with the release of their second album, The Bends (1995).
Radiohead's third album, OK Computer (1997), propelled them to
international fame; featuring an expansive sound and themes of modern
alienation, OK Computer is often acclaimed as one of the landmark
records of the 1990s and one of the best albums of all time.
Kid A (2000) and Amnesiac (2001) marked a dramatic evolution in
Radiohead's musical style, as they incorporated experimental electronic
music, krautrock and jazz influences. Hail to the Thief (2003), a mix of
piano and guitar rock, electronics, and lyrics inspired by war, was the
band's final album for their record label, EMI. Radiohead self-released
their seventh album In Rainbows (2007) as a digital download for which
customers could set their own price, to critical and chart success.
Their eighth album, The King of Limbs (2011), was an exploration of
rhythm and quieter textures, and was also self-released.
Radiohead have sold more than 30 million albums worldwide. Their work
places highly in both listener polls and critics' lists of the best
music of the 1990s and 2000s. In 2011, Radiohead were ranked the third
best British artists of all time by Paste, below only the Beatles and
the Rolling Stones. In 2005, they were ranked 73rd in Rolling Stone's
list of "The Greatest Artists of All Time"; Jonny Greenwood (48th) and
O'Brien were both included in Rolling Stone 's list of greatest
guitarists, and Yorke (66th) in their list of greatest singers. In 2009,
Rolling Stone readers voted the group the second best artist of the
Among Radiohead members' earliest influences were Queen, Pink Floyd and
Elvis Costello; post-punk acts such as Joy Division, Siouxsie and the
Banshees and Magazine; and significantly 1980s alternative rock bands
such as R.E.M., Pixies, the Smiths and Sonic Youth. By the mid-1990s,
Radiohead began to adopt some recording methods from hip hop, inspired
by the sampling work of DJ Shadow. They also became interested in using
computers to generate sounds. Other influences on the group were Miles
Davis and Ennio Morricone, along with 1960s rock groups, such as the
Beatles and the Beach Boys, and Phil Spector's "wall of sound"
productions for girl groups. Jonny Greenwood also cited composer
Krzysztof Penderecki as an inspiration on the sound of OK Computer. The
electronic music of Kid A and Amnesiac was inspired by Thom Yorke's
admiration for glitch, ambient techno and IDM as exemplified by Warp
Records artists such as Autechre and Aphex Twin, and the album also
sampled from early computer music. The jazz of Charles Mingus, Alice
Coltrane, and Miles Davis, and 1970s krautrock bands such as Can and
Neu!, were other major influences during this period. Jonny Greenwood's
interest in 20th century classical music also had a role, as the
influence of both Penderecki and composer Olivier Messiaen was apparent;
for several songs on Kid A and later albums, Greenwood has played the
ondes Martenot, an early electronic instrument popularised by Messiaen.
While working on Hail to the Thief, Radiohead put renewed emphasis on
guitar rock. Since beginning to record In Rainbows, Radiohead members
have mentioned a variety of rock, electronic, hip hop and experimental
musicians as influences, including Björk, M.I.A, Liars, Modeselektor and
Spank Rock. Since leaving their major label, the band members have been
interviewed less frequently, more often posting "office charts" of
their favourite songs of the moment on their blog Dead Air Space. In
2011, Yorke denied Radiohead had ever set out deliberately to change
musical styles or to make "experimental music", saying the band was
"constantly absorbing music" and that a variety of musicians are always
influencing their work.
Since their formation, Radiohead have been lyrically and musically
spearheaded by Yorke. Although Yorke is responsible for writing nearly
all the lyrics, songwriting is a collaborative effort, and it has been
noted in interviews that all the band members have roles in the process.
As a result, all the band's songs are officially credited to
"Radiohead". The Kid A/Amnesiac sessions brought about a change in
Radiohead's musical style, and an even more radical change in the band's
working method. Since their shift from standard rock music
instrumentation toward an emphasis on electronic sound, the members have
gained flexibility and now regularly switch instruments depending on
the particular song requirements. On Kid A and Amnesiac, Yorke played
keyboard and bass, while Jonny Greenwood often played ondes Martenot
rather than guitar, bassist Colin Greenwood worked on sampling, and
O'Brien and Selway branched out to drum machines and digital
manipulations, also finding ways to incorporate their primary
instruments, guitar and percussion, respectively, into the new sound.
The relaxed 2003 recording sessions for Hail to the Thief led to a
different dynamic in Radiohead, with Yorke admitting in interviews that
"[his] power within the band was absolutely unbalanced and [he] would
subvert everybody else's power at all costs. But ... it's actually a lot
more healthy now, democracy wise, than it used to be."
Radiohead have maintained a close relationship with a number of frequent
collaborators since early in their career. Record producer Nigel
Godrich made his name with Radiohead, working with the band as an audio
engineer since The Bends, and as their producer on all six studio albums
since OK Computer. He has been dubbed the "sixth member" of the band in
an allusion to George Martin being called the "Fifth Beatle". Graphic
artist Stanley Donwood met Thom Yorke when both were art students, and
with Yorke has produced all of Radiohead's album covers and visual
artwork since 1994. Donwood and Yorke won a Grammy in 2002 for a special
edition of Amnesiac packaged as a library book. Dilly Gent has been
responsible for commissioning all Radiohead music videos since OK
Computer, working with the band to find a director suitable for each
project. Since the Radiohead's inception, Andi Watson has been their
lighting and stage director, designing the visuals of Radiohead's live
concerts, such as the carbon-neutral "LED forest" of the In Rainbows
tour. The band's chief live technician, Peter Clements, or "Plank", has
worked with the band since before The Bends, overseeing the setup of
their instruments for studio recordings and live performances.