Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Paranoid Androids...The Radiohead Story & Show # 166

Coming from Oxford in England, Radiohead formed in 1986/87 and were originally known as On A Friday. The band was a band of friends that formed while students in school. Tom Yorke would serve as the vocalist/guitarist, Jonny Greenwood on the guitar (also a multi-talented instrumentalist), Colin Greenwood took on the bass, Ed O'Brien on guitar as well, and finally Phil Selway provides the drums. Various members of the band would attend University and upon completion they would get more involved into their music. In 1992, the band released the Drill EP. The four track EP was their first major release for EMI; Also the band would change their name to Radiohead, which came from the title of a Talking Heads song of the same name. Two of the songs from the Drill EP were re-recorded for the bands first album Pablo Honey.

In late 1992, the group released the single "Creep" which would be found on their first full length album Pablo Honey. Written while at University by Thom Yorke, the song tells the story of a man who follows a woman around and then thinks he is her. The actual song would become a huge hit for the band in America, but was initially not favoured in the UK (it was removed from BBC 1's play list twice; they said it was too depressing). The song would help make the album Pablo Honey a success. Coming out in 1993, the album itself was a heavy rock album with lots of distortion. It came off sounding like a mix of the Pixies, REM, and The Smiths. The success of "Creep" caused some critics to label Radiohead as another one hit wonder. They would also write a reaction to this in song form for their next album, the song would be called "My Iron Lung". For a while, the band would refuse to play the song at their live, shows, they begin to play it again starting in 2001.

In 1995, The Bends was released. This album saw the band reinventing their sound, but still keeping its edge. This time the band would draw in further influences such as Pink Floyd and U2. The band would bring in more acoustic guitar and keyboards. The album at first, did poorly but would pick up after the video for the single "Just" was released. The song was seen as a tribute to the post-punk band Magazine who the band was largely influenced by at the time. The album also showed off the bands experimental side (which would be a taste of the direction the band would lead in the future) with songs such as "Planet Telex"(originally titled "Planet Xerox"), "High and Dry" (originally recorded during the Pablo Honey sessions, but wasn't used), and "Street Spirit (fade out) (inspired by the novel The Famished Road)". The actual album titled The Bends, is reference to a form of depression sickness. It would be a theme prevalent on the album, and pertaining to the bands career at the time. A B-side recorded during the session for the song "Street Spirit (Fade Out)", is regarded as one of the best B-sides ever released by the band. "Talk Show Host" was Radiohead experimenting and being produced by Nigel Godrich, someone who would take on producing duties for the rest of the bands albums. After touring, the band would enter the studio to record OK Computer, which is regarded by many as the best album from the band.

Ok Computer debuted at # 1 in the UK and # 21 in the US in 1997. The album would be produced by Nigel Godrich and was recorded in Oxford away from the city. The album showed yet another direction for the band one they would continue to build on and it would also give them a more unique sound. Musically the band stripped down their rock sound and experimented with weird atonal, and electronic textures, that can be compared to the likes of the strange material found on Beach Boys Pet Sounds and Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon and post-punk music. Songs such as "Paranoid Android" which was influenced by The Beatles "Happiness is a Warm Gun" and DJ Shadow, showed the bands new innovative style. Other great tracks include "Karma Police" which came from a inside joke within the band, "Electioneering" influenced by the writings of Noam Chomsky, and "Airbag". The album was a stand out album in the 90's and still is today.

The band would then take a little break in 1998, and regroup in 1999 to begin work on their next album. During this time Yorke would go through writers block and the band and him would argue over the direction to take the band in next. During the sessions the band came up with 30 songs, which would be spread out over two albums and through B-sides. Musically the band would reinvent themselves jumping in the experimental ambient electronic direction and not sounding rock at all really; The band would cite influences such as Can, Miles Davis, and Remain in Light era Talking Heads. The album Kid A debuted at # 1 in the US and had no singles or videos. Some of the interesting tracks included "How to Completely Disappear" about the struggles of the acclaim that came with OK Computer, "National Anthem" an electronic and jazz influenced track, the ambient and jazz themed "Everything is in the Right Place", and "In Limbo" which makes reference to the writings of Dante, while featuring complex guitar rhythms and textures.

In 2001 Amnesiac was released. Debuting at #1 in Canada/USA and # 2 in the UK, Amnesiac contained tracks that were created at the same time as Kid A. Some initially mistake the album as leftover outtakes or B-sides from Kid A, but as the band stressed, it was a different album. Amnesiac featured the same strange ambient electronic influence of Kid A, but also brought in more guitar on the songs and featured more of a jazz influence. The band released a single this time, "Pyramid Song". The song was a piano ballad seemingly influenced by the Charles Mingus song "Freedom". "I Might Be Wrong" was a more guitar oriented track in drop D tuning, and was released as a radio only single before the album was released (it was also recorded live and released with other songs on the I Might Be Wrong EP in 2001). "Knives Out" was more pop oriented and said to be influenced by The Smiths. Other interesting tracks include "Dollars & Cents" which makes reference to the Seattle protest against the World Trade Organization, and "Life in a Glasshouse".

After embarking on a tour, in 2003 Hail To The Thief was released. This album was a mix of the electronic influences of the band with the more rock influences creating a unique album. Months before its release it leaked onto the Internet, but when it was released in stores people noticed differences in the songs. For example, "I Will" featuring no introduction and "The Gloaming" was shorter than the leaked version. Many confused the title of the album to be a political knock at the George W. Bush campaign, but in fact made reference to John Quincy Adams which was heard in a discussion on BBC Radio 4 by Yorke. "2 + 2 = 5" is obviously a reference to George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, the actual music builds up to an excellent rock fury. The album's first single was the Can influenced "There There" that lyrically was inspired by the kids TV show Bagpuss, as was it's music video. "Go To Sleep" was an acoustic track that was influenced by Talking Heads, while "Myxomatosis" was a heavy distorted track that breaks off and slows down with the drum beats. The lyrical reference of the song is about a disease that was introduced to help control the rabbit population in Britain. Hail To The Thief turned out to be mixing the old with the new, while Yorke sang with the fury and anger of a British punk.

n 2005, the band began work on a new album even playing a large majority of the new songs at live shows in 2006, but they no longer had a record contract with EMI. Initially starting with producer Mark Stent, the band would switch to their usual producer Nigel Godrich in late 2006. The band took their time recording this album, they had no contractual obligations to worry about. On October 10th, 2007 the band released the album digitally via their website and nowhere else. Also fans could pay whatever they wanted for it, even if the price was nothing. In December of 2007 fans can get what is known as a discbox which features a CD and vinyl version of the album as well as a CD and vinyl version of a collection of bonus tracks. Known as In Rainbows, the album is an experimental album that sounds like a mix of Kid A with OK Computer at times.

The album starts off with "15 Step" a song that has a dancy drumbeat, but guitar work that sounds like it is from OK Computer. "Bodysnatchers" is a rock track that sounds like it could be from The Bends era Radiohead. Other cool tracks include the odd "Weird Fishes/Arpeggi" which features backwards harp, "Jigsaw Falling into Place" an acoustic "Paranoid Android" type song, and the piano ballad "Videotape" which ends the album. Radiohead have come a long way from being an alternative British band that sounded grungy, they have become a unique sparse sounding group who have kept all original members since starting out. The bands influences range from Elvis Costello, The Smiths, Joy Division, Magazine, The Pixies, REM, Miles Davis, Public Image Limited, The Beatles, and The Beach Boys to name a few.

Next week CJAM will be doing it's annual Pledge Drive. For more info please visit the CJAM website.

The Play List:

1. Cheap Trick – he’s a whore
2. Diodes – red rubber ball
3. Young Canadians – where were you?
4. Crash 80's - waiting for the heat
5. The Dogs – john rock n’ roll Sinclair
6. Stooges – I’m fried
7. Sex Pistols – did you no wrong
8. Collectors – we can make it
9. Northwest Company – hard to cry
10. Lou Reed – I’m so free
11. Gun Club – she’s like heroin to me
12. Unknowns – teenage terrorist
13. Gentlemen of Horror – overhead projector
14. Skids – the saints are coming
15. The Clash – pressure drop (alternate version)
16. Pointed Sticks – waiting for the real thing
17. Subway Sect – ambition
18. Stranglers – sometimes
19. XTC – science friction
20. Talking Heads – psycho killer (take 1)/can’t you hear my heartbeat )
21. Radiohead – bodysnatchers
22. The Hives - square one here I come
23. The Hives – fall is just something that grownups invented

Radiohead Videos:

High and Dry (2 Meter Session)
Just (Music Video)
Street Spirit (Fade Out)(Music Video)
Airbag (Live Jools Holland 1997)
Paranoid Android (Later with Jools Holland Live 1997)
Paranoid Android (Music Video)
Karma Police (Music Video)
2+2=5 (Live on Letterman)
Go To Sleep (MTV 2 Dollar Bill)
There There (Live Jools Holland)
Bangers n' Mash (Live Amsterdam 2006)
Down is the New Up

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