T in the Park
From college circuit favourites to stadium ﬁllers, Radiohead have grown hugely. Pierre Perrone and Damien Love discover how they got so big so quietly.
hom Yorke sighs. ‘Frankly. I’ve had four years of talking about “Creep”. and I’m thoroughly fed up with it. The
other day some idiot even asked me if
I regretted writing the song. Can you imagine?’ '
Radioheadjust haven’t played the game. They were supposed to have had their one post- grunge hit special. tried desperately to cash in on it with diminishing success. and then quietly wandered off onto ‘the circuit’. only to turn up ﬁve years later playing the Flakey Skin in Pollokshields in support to Stiltskin. But oh no. Four years on from the initial release of that single. Radiohead, without a please or a thank you. have became The Stadium Band It‘s Okay To Likem. garnered critical plaudits like they were going out of fashion and. more to the point. are poised to headline the first day of this year’s T in the Park. As 22 Top would doubtlessly have it. ‘What‘s up with that?’
It doesn’t hurt that Yorke has had a haircut. When the group ﬁrst scuffed the edges of our consciousness. he looked unfortunately like the Dulux dog. if. that is. it’s owners happened to be a right bunch of underfeeding bastards. Of late. though. he’s increasingly resembled Johnny Rotten’s equally malnourished kid brother. And then there’s that eye. It’s taken Lou Reed 30 years’ hard work to get an eye that looks as mad as that. Yorke was born with his left eye completely paralysed. and spent the first six years of his life periodically undergoing the surgery which ultimately failed to completely rectify the situation. leaving him partially sighted. the self-conscious butt of playground teasing — and a fascinating front man for a band.
All this, of course, is great stuff for the music critic as armchair Freud when positing an Outsider theory. However, Radiohead’s success has transcended the cultish ranks of simply the ‘l’m weird and misunderstood, and, well, I’m basically not a very nice person either’ brigade, and has had very little to do with either how they look, or how they have ﬁtted in with the meticulously constructed scenes that are the music hack’s stock in trade. ‘The British
music scene is far too narrow-minded, and journalists don’t help by hyping the slightest bit of talent onto their front pages.’ complains Yorke. with absolutely no reference to Menswear or the Bluetones. Bassist Collin Greenwood chips in: ‘Thank God we’ve never been part of any scene.’
The Oxford band’s route to acclaim has been that unfashionable one of hard work, with a side-order of MTV patronage. ‘Creep’ aside. their debut album Pablo Honey was a middling affair. and largely responsible for the feeling that we were dealing with a one-hit wonder. Word of the increasingly incendiary quality of their live performances began to spread, however, and Radiohead shows on both sides of the Atlantic began to sell out. ‘Creep’ did big business
Stateside and, upon its re-release over here late in I993, peaked at number seven in the charts, surpassing its initial showing the previous year by 7l places.
Such things don’t add up to a Flock of Seagulls. though, without new music to back it up. and for Radiohead. their second album would prove to be the watershed. Prior to its release, the news filtering out of the studio was of confusion and work being a year behind schedule. ‘The band had lost its way.’ reckons Greenwood now. ‘We’d toured so much we’d forgotten how to work in the studio. We knew the second album was an important step, and were trying to avoid just copying what we’d done before. We put ourselves under so much pressure . . . it nearly broke us up as a band.’ They needn’t have worried.
Or maybe it was the worry that helped — whatever, they pulled it off. Having taken time off from recording to paradoxically play yet more live dates, the band returned afresh to the studio. ‘We decided to ditch most of the sessions, start again,’ Yorke recalls, ‘and realised that we didn’t have to linger over stuff, that first takes were often the best.’
Beyond the initial pleasure of going into a record shop, walking up to the counter and demanding of the retailer ‘Have you got the Bends?’, Radiohead’s second album, everyone agreed, was quite brilliant. Considered yet spontaneous playing of a massive sound, surrounding claustrophobic emotions, poetically detailed. ‘We have a pretty big sound,’ says Yorke, ‘which is not exactly a British characteristic at the moment. Blur, Oasis, Cast - their roots seem to be the Beatles and the Stones. They seem to limit their horizons. Our frame of reference is more universal. We’re more into the sonics of Portishead, Massive Attack, the songs of Elvis Costello.’ He pauses, before confessing: ‘In fact, -; none of us seems to like guitar bands.’
J Radiohead play the Main
Badlolou: "on Yetta (right) ties the out m. w Stage on Sat 13.
The List 28 Jun-ll Jul 1996 O