Capitol is not letting Radiohead’s record label revolt, the apex of which occurred when the band released their 2007 album In Rainbows digitally as a name-your-own-price download, stop them from capitalizing on the U.K. band’s sound. The label will repackage Radiohead’s back catalog with expanded CD/DVD versions of the band’s first three albums: Pablo Honey (1993), The Bends(1995) and OK Computer (1997).
Due March 24, the expanded editions will be available as two-CD sets or two-CD/one-DVD versions. After 15 years with Capitol Records’ parent EMI, Radiohead left in 2007 and historically released their seventh studio album with zero record label support. Among the rarities that will appear on the new edition of Pablo Honey are four songs from a June 1992 BBC session, an expanded rendition of the band’s first single “Creep,” and the 1992 Drill EP.
The new version of The Bends will feature a 1994 BBC session and additional songs from Radiohead’s May 1994 performance at London’s Astoria while OK Computer will be augmented by a four song BBC session from 1997 and singles “No Surprises,” “Karma Police” and “Paranoid Android.”
Radiohead’s elusive frontman Thom Yorke spent his childhood divided between Scotland and Oxford, England, undergoing five corrective surgeries before age six (he was born with his left eye closed and paralyzed.) Yorke learned to play guitar as a means to cope with unhappiness while away at boarding school, where he met future Radiohead bassist Colin Greenwood. The pair formed a punk band called TNT before joining On a Friday with Ed O’Brien (guitar) and Phil Selway (drums). Colin’s younger brother Jonny soon filled in on guitars but when the guys scattered to attend different universities the band was no more. In 1991 the quintet reunited as Radiohead, drawing their name from a Talking Heads song.
After building in audience in the Oxford club scene, the budding Radiohead signed with U.K. label Parlophone and toured England while recording their debut album, Pablo Honey, which was released in the U.S. by Capitol in 1993. The album’s lead single “Creep” topped the charts in both the U.K. and the U.S. due to the potent combination of Yorke’s haunting vocals and Greenwood’s unrefined guitar, but critics nonetheless pegged Radiohead as a one-hit wonder. Two years later Radiohead released their sophomore set, The Bends, and proved critics wrong by spawning charting singles “High and Dry” and “Fake Plastic Trees” and revealing a broadened musical scope.
Coproduced by the band and Nigel Godrich, 1997’s OK Computer awarded Radiohead their widest acclaim and a Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album. Boasting the band’s most assured songwriting yet, eerie electronics and simultaneously straddling classic rock and futurism, OK Computer placed Radiohead among the top tier of ’90s rock bands.
Incessant touring in support of the album lasted until 1998 and was later documented in Grant Gee’s downtrodden documentary Meeting People Is Easy (1999). The music community waited to see what Radiohead would do next with bated breath, and the band kept them waiting for three years before delivering Kid A in 2000.
A host of U.K. clones like Travis and Coldplay had cropped up in the wake of OK Computer’s success, but Kid A didn’t disappoint (at least true Radiohead fans). Again produced by Godrich, the album won Radiohead their second Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album but the reluctant rock band only played a handful of performances to support the record and didn’t issue any singles.
In June 2001 Amnesiac, an album featuring some tracks from the Kid A sessions, debuted at number two and just five months later I Might Be Wrong: Live Recordings, taken from four European shows, was released. In 2003 the studio effort Hail to the Thief appeared as the band’s answer to George Orwell (and the recent U.S. invasion of Iraq) with pessimistic lyrics delivered in Yorke’s signature falsetto on tracks like “Sit Down, Stand Up.”
Hail to the Thief was Radiohead’s last for EMI and the band made a few history-making decisions while free of the shackles of a major recording contract, such as rejecting Apple Inc.’s iTunes because of the online music store’s policy of selling individual songs separate from albums.
Next, Radiohead released their 2007 album In Rainbows on their Web site only, for whatever fee fans wished to pay (including nothing!) The momentous decision was preceded by Thom Yorke’s solo album, The Eraser, which was released in 2006 as the result of sporadic recording sessions by Radiohead and Yorke solo and was, interestingly enough, available on iTunes.
In Rainbows was Radiohead’s seventh studio album and the physical version arrived in early 2008 by TBD/ATO. Radiohead returns to the road in March for a short stint in South America supported by Kraftwerk. Check online for any soldout Radiohead tickets.