The band play a headline show in Manchester and TRNMT Festival next month.
Friday 23 June 2017 is a big day for Radiohead. Twenty years since first releasing the seminal OK Computer, they have not just reissued the album, but will also headline Glastonbury Festival for the third time. It’s been two decades since they first topped the bill at the world-renowned music and arts spectacular, one which vocalist Thom Yorke has recently admitted he almost didn’t complete.
Speaking to BBC 6 Music, Yorke said it was guitarist Ed O’Brien who persuaded him to continue the set, despite some major technical issues. Twenty years later, having also headlined the festival in 2002, it’s highly unlikely the now seasoned stadium performers will be facing any similar decisions.
The release of OKNOTOK, the subtitle added to their OK Computer reissue, features three previously unreleased tracks. It follows a precedent set on last year’s haunting Moon Shaped Pool, which saw the band finally give an official airing to longtime live favourite, True Love Waits. The latest record welcomes recorded versions of I Promise and Lift, both of which have existed in various states throughout Radiohead’s lengthy career. Man Of War, the third previously unreleased track to emerge, has a similar historic association.
Their substantial career, kickstarting properly in 1993 with the release of debut album Pablo Honey, is filled with many musical highlights. The group’s sound has evolved from an already distinctive rock to one with more electronic tinges, and various styles in-between. Throughout, it has been underpinned by Thom Yorke’s defining vocals and some often heavy-hitting lyrics.
With the band’s Glastonbury headline set destined to dominate the festival’s history books, and major appearances at TRNSMT Festival and their own Manchester headline show scheduled for early July, join our trip through their illustrious career as we pick one of the many highlights from each of the band’s nine studio albums.
Pablo Honey (1993): Creep
Until 2016, Radiohead hasn’t played Creep live for seven years. The band had removed the track, taken from their Pablo Honey debut, from their regular setlist to avoid becoming a showy band. Fortunately, the classic has made its way back into the occasional live show. According to a Rolling Stone interview, it’s inclusion in a live set depends almost entirely on whether it feels right in the moment.
The Bends (1995): Fake Plastic Trees
1995’s The Bends built on the breakthrough success of Pablo Honey, delivering a wealth of unconventional hits. Alongside the heartbreaking Street Spirit (Fade Out), the record also played home to the likes of High and Dry, and the gritty Just. The beautifully eerie Fake Plastic Trees helped to cement their overt melancholic edge, a step away from the grunge-infused sound of earlier material.
OK Computer (1997): No Surprises
Notable not only for its instantly recognisable tune, No Surprises from album-of-the-moment OK Computer was accompanied by an iconic video which saw vocalist Thom Yorke increasingly submerged in water, with the lyrics reflected on the glass jar. The history of lyric videos can be traced back much further than 1997, but perhaps this was one of the most creative early incarnations of the everyday format it has since become.
Kid A (2000): Everything In Its Right Place
After years of touring and promoting OK Computer, Radiohead returned with Kid A. As evident on album opener Everything In Its Right Place, it took the band in a new direction. Released in 2000, it introduced electronic and synth sounds into the fold. The album launched straight to the top of the UK charts with minimal promotion. Radiohead in fact didn’t release any singles or videos from the record.
Amnesiac (2001): Knives Out
According to fan-generated Setlist.fm, Knives Out has only been performed around sixty times by Radiohead since its release in 2001. The majority of those plays were in support of Amnesiac, the band’s follow-up to Kid A. There has however been a recent increase in live appearances of the track, which upon release received more airtime than any other Radiohead song of that period.
Hail To The Thief (2003): There There
A more consistent mainstay in their live performances, There There is taken from 2003’s Hail To The Thief. Recorded with a live feel in mind, the record saw the band take a slight turn back towards their rockier roots. It further demonstrated their ability to mix and blend styles. Hail To The Thief debuted in the United Kingdom album charts at No.1, and became the fifth consecutive Radiohead album to be nominated for a Grammy Award.
In Rainbows (2007): Nude
Four years after Hail To The Thief, Radiohead returned with the experimental In Rainbows. Continuing the band’s revolutionary trend, it was the first major record to be released as a pay-what-you-want download ahead of the record’s physical release some months later. It remains vital in the history of online releases, and instrumental in changing the way the industry look at album releases in an online age.
The King Of Limbs (2011): Lotus Flower
Perhaps a logical step from In Rainbows, 2011’s The King Of Limbs saw Radiohead embrace their electronic sounds more fully than ever before. It heavily adopted sampling and looping, heralded as a bridge between the various Radiohead sounds on display throughout their history. At just over 37 minutes long, it was also their shortest album to date.
A Moon Shaped Pool (2016): Burn The Witch
23 years since releasing their debut album, the excitement surrounding new Radiohead material hadn’t diminished. Burn The Witch was the first track to emerge from their A Moon Shaped Pool release, and promised more epically orchestral sounds. The record’s strings and vocal choruses were arranged by guitarist Jonny Greenwood and performed by the London Contemporary Orchestra. Together, A Moon Shaped Pool offered a seriously dramatic listen, complete with the official recorded outing of True Love Waits.
Bonus: Man Of War
One of three previously unreleased tracks to find a home on the reissue of OK Computer, Man Of War had originally been intended to be released much earlier. Thom Yorke told MTV they had in fact attempted to lay the track down several times before, hindered by his mindset when recording the original album.
Following their headline set at Glastonbury, Radiohead will be playing Manchester’s Emirates Old Trafford on Tuesday 4 July, and TRNSMT Festival in Glasgow on Friday 7 July. Tickets for both are available now through Ticketmaster.co.uk.