The Rock’s Backpages Flashback: Just Don’t Call Radiohead “Britpop”…
Radiohead have just been announced as one of the headliners at this year's Coachella festival in California. Here, in an excerpt from her 1996 interview for pioneering site Addicted to Noise, Clare Kleinedler describes meeting the band when they were on the cusp of OK Computer fame——Barney Hoskyns, Editorial Director, Rock's Backpages
Britpop. It's all over the place, all of a sudden. There's Oasis, the Beatles' rip-offs trying to emulate the Rolling Stones' drug-taking, groupie-filled past. Then there's Blur, the self-described "middle-class" darlings of the UK music scene who just can't seem to make a dent in America. Don't forget Elastica, Pulp, Supergrass and Echobelly. But whatever you do, please, please do not include Radiohead in the list of "Britpop" bands.
The only thing Radiohead have in common with the abovementioned bands is that, yes, they are from England. What makes them different from their fellow UK musician brothers and sisters is that Radiohead do not limit themselves to playing recycled '60s music, and they do not engage in public spats with other bands nor do they spend their free time bragging about how "fookin' great" they are. They don't have to talk the talk. Radiohead's songs and live performances speak loud enough for themselves.
Radiohead's current album, The Bends, alone made 1995 a year of great music. Every single song on the record is amazing; from the breathtakingly beautiful melody 'Street Spirit' to the ear-piercing, guitar-wailing Just. And after over 50 weeks on the charts, people are finally beginning to take notice. The album is currently bobbing in and out of the top ten in Britain, and is enjoying its first break into the top 100 here in the states. MTV can't get enough of the band's video for the single 'High and Dry', and virtually every other music critic in the U.S. and the UK voted the album as one of their top ten for last year.
Not too shabby for a band that used to play to a crowd of about, um, two people at parties 10 years ago when they first started out. Having met at an all-boys private school in Abington, England, singer/guitarist Thom Yorke, guitarists Jonny Greenwood and Ed O'Brien, bassist Colin Greenwood and drummer Phil Selway formed the band out of sheer boredom. The group put the band on hold to attend college (except for youngest-member Jonny, who stayed behind at school) but rehearsed during breaks and holidays. By the summer of 1991, the lads re-grouped and decided to take this whole music thing seriously.
They called themselves On A Friday and started gigging around their home town of Oxford. Though in retrospect, Yorke says "We were pretty crap," their appearance at Oxford's Jericho Tavern in October of 1991 attracted about 25-30 A&R guys and inspired a journalist from a local 'zine to write: "And successful On A Friday will be. No ifs and buts with this lot. This time next year they will have outgrown all the venues they talk about and for once I think I may just have got it right."
The journalist was right. The band changed their name from On A Friday, a name that proved confusing on fliers if they played a gig, for example, on a Thursday, to Radiohead and scored themselves a record deal with Parlophone. The band recorded their debut album Pablo Honey in three weeks, and released it to minimum hype and enthusiasm. In 1993, the band's single 'Creep' was re-released, and the rest is history.