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The History of Radiohead

VO: David Strauss
Made up of Thom Yorke on vocals and guitar, Ed O'Brien on guitar, Jonny Greenwood on guitar, Colin Greenwood on bass and Phil Selway on drums, Radiohead formed in 1985. The band from Abingdon, Oxfordshire, England had their first hit single with "Creep". Throughout the years, Radiohead has continually reinvented themselves by experimenting with genres and styles, gaining much critical and commercial success along the way. In this video, takes a look at the history of Radiohead.

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On a Friday

Alternative rock band Radiohead formed in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, England in 1985. Vocalist and guitarist Thom Yorke, guitarist Ed O'Brien, guitarist Jonny Greenwood, bassist Colin Greenwood and drummer Phil Selway originally met at school. After recording demos and performing local gigs under the name On a Friday, the band was signed by EMI in 1991.


Changing their name at their label’s request, Radiohead released an EP called Drill in 1992. It was followed by their debut single, “Creep,” which appeared on their full-length debut, Pablo Honey. Though they initially attracted little critical or commercial attention in the UK, Radiohead soon began to get airplay in the States.

The Success of "Creep"

1993 saw the band embark on its first tour in North America, where “Creep” was number two on the modern rock chart. EMI thus re-released the track in Britain, where it peaked in the seventh position.

"My Iron Lung"

Radiohead reacted to the success of Pablo Honey’s grunge-pop with the EP, My Iron Lung. Its more layered and hard-edged sound served as a link to the deeper and more abstract material that was to come.

"High and Dry"

They developed this musical trend with their 1995 sophomore effort, The Bends. The album reached number four in the UK, and spawned singles such as “Fake Plastic Trees,” “Just,” and “Street Spirit (Fade Out).” However, it was the song, “High and Dry,” that became one of Radiohead’s most popular radio hits, even though it only hit the top twenty on the charts.

"Ok Computer"

In 1996, Radiohead contributed two songs to the film, “William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet.” The next year, they released their third album, Ok Computer. The melodic rock record experimented with ambient music and was their first album to premiere at the top of the UK chart. Overseas, the album won them their first Grammy Award.

Critical Acclaim

With its avant-garde sound, and social and political themes, Ok Computer has often been hailed one of the best albums ever made. Its most successful singles were “Paranoid Android” and “Karma Police.”

Incorporating Electronic Influences with "Kid A"

The following years were fraught with tensions between band members, as Radiohead attempted to find a new direction for their music. They came out with album number four, Kid A, in 2000. The electronic and minimalist disc hit number one in both the U.S. and the UK. Kid A achieved global success and saw the band abandon their reliance on guitar in favor of other instruments.


2001’s Amnesiac was an electronic and ambient effort that debuted at number one in the UK. Experimenting once more with different musical influences, the critically acclaimed effort included singles such as, “Knives Out” and “Pyramid Song.”

"Hail to the Thief"

Following the 2001 live album, I Might Be Wrong: Live Recordings, Radiohead released Hail to the Thief in 2003. The positively reviewed opus was reminiscent of the group’s alternative rock roots, and once again reached number one in the UK. The disc generated singles such as “Go to Sleep” and “There There.”

Self-Released "In Rainbows"

After a brief hiatus, Radiohead self-released their seventh record, In Rainbows, in 2007. In a move unprecedented in the music industry, the band announced the album’s release date only ten days beforehand. The album was offered initially as a digital download, and fans were given the opportunity to choose what price they’d pay for the music. A standard CD release followed some time later.


The Grammy-winning In Rainbows reached number one in both the UK and the U.S. It yielded such singles as “Bodysnatchers” and “Nude,” which was their most successful song since “Creep.”

Fan Concert Videos

With the band’s support, in 2010 fans edited and distributed two Radiohead concert videos filmed by audience members. These were “Live in Praha,” from a show in the Czech Republic and “Radiohead for Haiti,” from a Los Angeles gig that raised funds to help those affected by the Haitian earthquake.

The King of Limbs

The following year, Radiohead announced the digital release of their next album just five days before it went on sale. The King of Limbs could be purchased at a set price and was followed by a physical release a few weeks later. A special “Newspaper” edition, containing two clear vinyl records, a CD, and artwork, was also available shortly thereafter.

Respected Rockers

With their intense shows, devotion to their art, and willingness to try to new things, Radiohead has become one of the most respected names in rock.

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