Radiohead has blazed its own trail since bursting onto the scene in the early ’90s, giving us award-winning hit machines such as The Bends, OK Computer, and Kid A. Ever since, they’ve pushed the envelope both with their music and social consciousness, and right now, they’re on tour promoting their latest release, A Moon Shaped Pool. You’ve got two chances to see them at the Shrine this week and next (August 4 and 8), but better brush up on your Radiohead trivia ahead of time. Behold, eight fun facts you can use to impress the drunk person next to you as you wait for the seminal British quintet to hit the stage.
They Had a Pretty Bad Name Before They Changed It to Radiohead
Radiohead was originally called On a Friday (smart choice to drop that, if we may be so bold) but took its new name from “Radio Head,” a song on the 1986 Talking Heads album True Stories. (Double fun fact: True Stories is also a film, directed by and starring the Talking Heads’s David Byrne.) Here comes the mind-blowing moment. The song on the album was actually inspired by actor Stephen Tobolowsky (you may know him as Ned from Groundhog Day or “Action” Jack Barker on Silicon Valley), who co-wrote the film with Byrne. Stay with us, now: According to an interview Tobolowsky gave to Nerdist, he had what he calls “psychic experiences” in college, wherein he could read people’s “tones” (i.e. discern information about them simply by being in the same room). He relayed those experiences to Byrne while they wrote the film, and then Byrne wrote the song “Radio Head” for the album.
“Creep” Is Their “Free Bird”
The distorted staccato guitar stab that opens the chorus of “Creep” wasn’t originally supposed to be there. Jonny Greenwood wasn’t down with the song as it was—he thought it was too quiet, among other issues—so he violently hit his strings in protest, a subconscious sabotage attempt turned instantly-recognizable moment. The band has continued to have a love/hate relationship with the song: “My Iron Lung” off The Bends is written about how much they dislike “Creep.” Despite it being their most famous tune, the band has gone years without it in their set list. They recently resurrected it at last week’s Madison Square Garden show—the first time in America since 2004—so there’s hope for their shows at the Shrine.
One of the New Songs on A Moon Shaped Pool Is Actually Super Old
“True Love Waits,” the last track on A Moon Shaped Pool, is a fan-favorite song written more than 20 years ago. Yorke debuted a live acoustic version in 1995 and has played it several times over the years, but the song was never included on a studio record because the band couldn’t settle on an arrangement they liked. On AMSP, “True Love Waits” finally appears as a simple, heart-wrenching piano ballad.
Thom Yorke Was a Dance Meme Way Before Drake
When Radiohead released King of Limbs in 2011, the best thing to come from it was probably the video for “Lotus Flower.” Specifically, the parody videos of Thom Yorke’s dance moves. Our favorite is easily Yorke dancing to “Single Ladies.”
Jonny Greenwood Writes Killer Film Scores
The guitarist is also an accomplished composer whose credits include Inherent Vice, The Master, and There Will Be Blood. Critics widely considered that last one a shoo-in for best original score at the 2008 Oscars, but the Academy disqualified it because it contained samples, a violation of Rule 15 of the Academy’s Special Rules for Music Awards (“scores diluted by the use of tracked themes or other pre-existing music” are excluded from the race).
They Broke the Internet in 2007
To combat the prevalence of illegal file sharing, 2007’s In Rainbows employed a pay-what-you-want model, which was a first for a major act. Time called it “easily the most important release in the recent history of the music business.” NME reported the average fan forked over a stingy £2.90, with 60 percent of fans choosing to pay nothing at all. Classic freeloading millennials.
A Couple of Them Were in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
The Weird Sisters, a band that plays at the Yule Ball in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, came to life in the 2005 film thanks to Radiohead’s Phil Selway and Jonny Greenwood (alongside Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker and Steve Mackey, Jason Buckle of All Seeing I, and Steve Claydon of Add N To (X)). Many thanks for giving us the genre “wizard rock,” J.K. Rowling.
They’ve Been Immortalized in Animation
In 2001, Radiohead were guests on South Park in the devilishly dark episode “Scott Tenorman Must Die.” The episode has become one of the most acclaimed and most notorious, with creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone citing it as one of their top 10 favorite episodes of all time. In it, Cartman recruits Radiohead to mercilessly mock his arch nemesis Scott Tenorman—whose favorite band is Radiohead—in a revenge plot that pays homage to Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus.