A Collaborative History with Radiohead

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There’s a chance for magic when musicians cross paths. For some it’s groundbreaking (Aerosmith ft. Run DMC – “Walk This Way”), and other times it’s the thought that counts (Nelly ft. Tim McGraw – “Over and Over”). But when there’s that spark that elevates a collaborated piece to a whole new level, well, that’s the stuff that melts the hearts of music fans. No longer are artists forced to snail mail DATs to each other via the Postal Service or find the time to meet in the studio. Online file sharing has facilitated endless possibilities for artists to exchange work around the world with the click of a button touch of a screen.

With several of the most acclaimed albums of Generation Y, Oxfordshire quintet Radiohead have intrigued, inspired, and influenced fans and musicians for over two decades. Everything Radiohead does is viewed under a microscope with the brightest spotlight. With such unprecedented adoration and credentials, the band and its members are at liberty to pick and choose who they collaborate with whether it be scoring a soundtrack for a high profile Hollywood director or dueting with an Icelandic songbird, hoping one doesn’t show up to the studio with the same swan outfit.

Because of this “power”, for lack of a better word, we carved out an easy-to-read collective history of the team-ups between Radiohead alumni and their music peers. Some of them have yielded commercial success while others are more obscure, simmering in our collections for a rainy day. While we patiently wait for a world tour, check out the many collaborations the British aural power has accomplished, and from there, let your imagination run wild with any ideal pairings for the future. But, let us know, of course.

-Daniel Torres
News Writer

Feature artwork by Cap Blackard.

Radiohead and Nigel Godrich – 1994

As Radiohead’s informal sixth member, Nigel Godrich is George Martin with computer access. Having produced every one of the band’s records since The Bends, the dude’s knack for hazy, haunting, impossibly dense atmospherics and his cutthroat recording methods are more or less responsible for extracting the genius out of the Oxford Five. From listening to any non-Radiohead record Godrich has produced, it becomes frighteningly clear just how much he contributes to the band’s sound. Listen to Beck’s Sea Change, for instance, and you realize OK Computer was conceived by Radiohead, but raised and brought up to live in Godrich’s world. Seriously, listen to “Lost Cause” while you read the rest of this list. Or just wipe the tears from your eyes as you witness the perfection of “Let Down”. Either way, you’ll hear Godrich’s perfection first-hand. -Drew Litowitz

Radiohead and Stanley Donwood – 1995

up stanley A Collaborative History with Radiohead

But as much as Godrich nurtures the band’s sonic aesthetic, credit for the group’s visual style mostly goes to one man: Dan Rickwood AKA Stanley Donwood. From the Caspar David Friedrich inspired post-apocalyptic landscapes of Kid A to the band’s unofficial logo, the bear, Donwood has defined much of Radiohead’s unique and specifically peculiar visual brand, lots of times with Thom Yorke putting his hands in, too (billed as Dr. Tchock for his visual contributions). Donwood translates the band’s paranoid, possessed themes so beautifully, it’s as if his artwork spilled out from a sound system and onto a canvas (maybe it has something to do with his studio’s location: in a room parallel to the band’s practice/writing space, with speakers sending all those sounds his way). But moreover, the cryptic writings that fill CD inserts, the removed, minimal, eerie phraseology so closely associated with Thom Yorke and co. are in part Donwood’s, too. Good thing Yorke met Donwood at the University of Exeter, or our King of Limbs newspaper album would probably be lacking in the perforated acid tabs department. -Drew Litowitz

Radiohead and Michael Stipe – 1998

Anyone who has seen the very depressing documentary Meeting People is Easy has a bit of an idea of how dark a time the OK Computer tour was for Radiohead, and its famously offish front man. Michael Stipe, the face of R.E.M., could be credited with helping Thom Yorke through that era, suggesting the mantra “I’m not here, this isn’t happening” to weather the stresses and pressures of the road. The line ended up forming the chorus to Kid A‘s “How to Disappear Completely”, one of the band’s most moving works to date. A big influence on their early guitar-driven sound, Stipe has remained tight with the guys in Radiohead over the years, even joining them on-stage a couple of times over the years. Here, we find him and the band in the midst of the aforementioned OK Computer tour, at 1998’s Tibetan Freedom Concert in D.C., sharing the stage for a spirited take on album highpoint “Lucky”. Dig Thom Yorke’s geeked-out boyish grin as Stipe rocks out on the second verse, further proof that he really is human after all. -Möhammad Choudhery

Thom Yorke and U.N.K.L.E. – 1998


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If you didn’t know any better, you might think that “Rabbit in Your Headlights” was simply a Radiohead song. It opens slowly, somberly, with Yorke’s voice only accompanied by piano. But, as the song rolls on, the samples keep coming, and it becomes more like an excellent U.N.K.L.E. track. “Rabbit in Your Headlights” was a touchstone tune on their 1998 debut, Psyence Fiction. The song itself is a fantastic slow build that is guided by Yorke’s soaring and haunting vocals, and is perhaps U.N.K.L.E.’s greatest song. The track reached legendary status, though, with the John Glazer-directed music video that is widely regarded as one of the greatest of all time. This might be the most effective use of a Thom Yorke guest spot out there. The song just wouldn’t be the same without him. -Carson O’Shoney

Venus in Furs – 1998

For Todd Haynes’ David Bowie-inspired glam rock movie, 1998’s Velvet Goldmine, Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood teamed up with Suede’s Bernard Butler, Paul Kimble of Grant Lee Buffalo, and Andy Mackay of Roxy Music to form Venus in Furs. In total, this Radiohead-infused incarnation of that group recorded three songs for the Velvet Goldmine soundtrack, all of which were Roxy Music covers: “2HB”, “Ladytron”, and “Bitter-Sweet”. A band also appears in the film under the name Venus in Furs performing Brian Eno’s “Baby’s On Fire” and “Tumbling Down” by Cockney Rebel, but the on-screen version doesn’t include Yorke or Greenwood. -Austin Trunick

Thom Yorke and Sparklehorse – 1998

Radiohead has long had a connection to Sparklehorse. Mark Linkous and his band opened for Radiohead in Europe during their OK Computer tour in 1996. Shortly after that string of dates, Linkous recorded a haunting cover of Pink Floyd’s classic “Wish You Were Here”, while Thom Yorke literally phoned in some subdued, but beautiful backing vocals. Obviously more Sparklehorse than Radiohead, the result nonetheless ended up being one of the most gorgeous Pink Floyd covers out there. First appearing on the 1998 EMI compilation album Come Again, the cover gained popularity after being chosen to play over the closing credits of the 2005 Heath Ledger skating flick, Lords of Dogtown. Today, the cover is even more poignant than ever, after Linkous’s tragic suicide in 2010. -Carson O’Shoney

Jonny Greenwood/Nigel Godrich and Pavement – 1999

Pavement’s final album, 1999’s Terror Twilight, was riddled with cliché tales of a band falling apart, and diverting from their normal recording path wasn’t exactly helping the situation. For the first time in their career, Pavement brought in an outside hire to produce the album, long-time Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich. While the end result was somewhat of a mixed bag, it undeniably had that Radiohead feel to it (just compare the opening lines of “Spit on a Stranger” with “My Iron Lung” or “No Suprises”). And if that’s not enough of a Radiohead connection for you, Jonny Greenwood, a long-time Pavement fan, added harmonica to “Platform Blues”. With OK Computer and Beck’s Mutations under Godrich’s belt, Terror Twilight would prove to to be a lovely mess, and probably wouldn’t exist in its current state without the seven degrees of Radiohead. –Jeremy D. Larson

Thom Yorke and PJ Harvey – 2000

In 2000, two particular artists had watershed years in which they released critically-acclaimed albums that were drastically different from their previous sound. Radiohead dropped the alternative rock vibe that was spread throughout the ’90s, opting for the electronic and eccentric stylings of Kid A. Less than a month later, PJ Harvey released Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea. Rather than the unsettling, dark sounds that surrounded 1995’s To Bring You Me Love and 1998’s Is This Desire?, this album was full of beautiful melodies and lush layers.

Right in the middle of the record is Thom Yorke’s appearance on “This Mess We’re In”. Unlike the distorted, masked vocals he favored on Kid A, his voice is crystal clear here as it alternates between emotional pleas and passionate falsettos. It counters Harvey’s soft-sung lines in the chorus and doesn’t feel like an intrusion, which famous guest spots can occasionally become. Instead, the song and appearance slid right into the flow of the tracklisting. With chemistry like this, we’d love to see another collaboration, even if it’s just the length of a song. -Joe Marvilli

Thom Yorke and Bj̦rk Р2000, 2008

Originators each in their own right, Thom Yorke and Icelandic songstress Björk have collaborated on more than one occasion. The pair first worked together in 2000, on an album version of the song “I’ve Seen it All”, for the soundtrack to the Björk-starring film Dancer in the Dark. Listeners received their first taste of the potential of this dynamic duo, with Yorke’s vocals lent to Björk’s playful ideas as a songwriter. The two would later reunite in 2008, only this time through file-sharing. Björk was responsible for the production on “Náttúra”, adding Yorke’s backing vocals to the charity single for Iceland’s Náttúra Foundation. -Lauren Rearick

Radiohead and Humphrey Littleton – 2001

The only song on Amnesiac to not come from the Kid A recording sessions, “Life in a Glass House” is arguably Radiohead’s most shocking track. Radiohead doing a New Orleans style funereal tune?  Shit, that’d be like Radiohead doing a New Orleans style funereal tune! But it happened, and it remains one of the band’s strongest and most affecting songs to date. And the idea came from the guy whose band literally jazzes the eerie song up, Humphrey Lyttleton. Radiohead enlisted the former radio personality and British New Orleans Jazz revivalist to help flesh the song out in studio, with little idea of what they were looking for. Lyttleton described arriving at the idea in an interview (via Ateaseweb): “We had a meeting up at the BBC and I said, sort of half jokingly, ‘Sounds to me as though the sort of thing that might go would be New Orleans funeral music’ because as you know, it’s not ‘Happy Days Are Here Again’ when they perform. And [Jonny Greenwood] said ‘Yeah, great idea’.” In Lyttelton’s own words, spoken after the band had spent over seven hours recording those additional parts, “That’s it, it’s not going to get any better than that.” -Drew Litowitz

Thom Yorke and Space Ghost – 2001

Thom Yorke’s frustration with the shallowness of late ’90s music journalism is famously chronicled in the film Meeting People Is Easy. It’s that frustration that makes Yorke’s appearance on Space Ghost Coast to Coast in September of 2001 a special treat. Faced with caricatures of the self involved, preening, MTV style talking heads that haunted him, Yorke finally got to show fans what he saw. Met with increasing indignities, from the host blatantly burning 100 copies of Amnesiac, to being challenged to a knife fight with Moltar, he plays along. The knowing smile that crosses his face as the interview spirals hopelessly out of control seems to be laughing at every “reporter” who wasted his time. Only this time Yorke got to be in on the joke. -John-Michael Bond

Thom Yorke and Beck – 2002

The line-up for 2002’s Concert for Artists Rights at LA’s Wiltern Theatre seemed promising enough. Eddie Vedder, Mike Ness, and Beck were all set to perform for a benefit for the Recording Artists Coalition (RAC), and their interest in protecting the rights of recording artists. While the show was surprisingly intimate considering the multiple big name headliners, the true surprise of the evening came at the end of Beck’s set, when he invited his close friend on stage, who turned out to be none other than Thom Yorke. What followed was a beautiful, acoustic duet on a cover of The Velvet Underground’s “I’m Set Free”, which resounded beautifully with the benefit’s theme, and gave the friends a chance to share their serene musicianship with one lucky audience. -Karina Halle

The Weird Sisters – 2005

“Please welcome the band that needs no introduction!” shouts the diminutive Professor Flitwick, before shooting a beam from his magic wand that brings up the house lights on The Weird Sisters, one of the biggest bands of the wizard world. Booked by Dumbledore to play the Yule Ball at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the band sets the soundtrack for the young Harry Potter and Ron Weasley’s evening of adolescent pining.

In the film version of 2005’s Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood and Phil Selway appear as two members of the fictional band, along with fellow English musicians Jarvis Cocker and Steve Mackey of Pulp, Jacon Buckle of All Seeing I, and Steven Claydon of Add N to (X). A full music video for the band’s performance of “Do the Hippogriff” is included on the DVD releases of the film, while the group recorded a total of three songs for the film’s soundtrack. -Austin Trunick

Thom Yorke and Modeselektor – 2007

When Yorke speaks openly of his favorite bands, it’s likely many will heed his recommendation. Not only did Yorke give Modeselektor his approval, but he added his own vocals to a track from the band’s full length, 2007’s Happy Birthday. For Yorke’s work on “The White Flash”, he seems to have taken inspiration from his solo work on 2006’s The Eraser. His familiar vocals are distorted, echoing amongst the blips and beeps expected of Modeselektor. In interviews and handcrafted playlists, Yorke has spoken candidly of his appreciation for the band. Since then, during his surprise DJ sets, Yorke has even been known to drop Modeselektor’s “Kill Bill 4”. -Lauren Rearick

Jonny Greenwood and Paul Thomas Anderson – 2007

Scathing strings, open spaces, lingering keys, bouncing plucks, the click clacking of drumsticks on wood. Jonny Greenwood’s truly epic soundtrack to Paul Thomas Anderson’s masterful There Will Be Blood isn’t just a soundtrack, it’s just about the only music that could accompany a film of TWBB‘s magnitude. Only Greenwood, with his insane, near-impossible alignment of classical sensibilities with Radiohead’s engrossing, avant-garde leanings, could have created a soundtrack so utterly in tune with its subject and entirely self-sustaining. The music prompts audiences to analyze each hair-raising movement, all without distracting from the action onscreen. With portions from Greenwood’s “Popcorn Superhet Receiver” and his previous soundtrack for Bodysong, in addition to some nods to Arvo Part and Johannes Brahms, the soundtrack may have been disqualified from the Oscar race, but it’s surely one of film’s most memorable accompaniments in a while. -Drew Litowitz

7 Worlds Collide – 2008

Ed O’Brien and Phil Selway have been a part of Neil Finn’s music project, 7 Worlds Collide, going on over a decade. The collaboration, with a host of different musicians, came together most recently in late 2008 to record a new album and prep for a few live shows in the following year. Perhaps the most memorable team-up during these performances came courtesy of the aforementioned O’Brien and Selway, along with most of Wilco, The Smiths’ Johnny Marr, and Finn’s son, Liam. With Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy on vocals, the all-star group braved ahead with a cover of “Fake Plastic Trees”, which sent indie kids and their cool uncles into a frenzy. Members of three of the best bands of the past 30 years together? Check. A big bear hug between O’Brien and Tweedy at the song’s conclusion? Heartwarming check. -Justin Gerber

Atoms for Peace – 2009

When people heard Thom Yorke’s The Eraser, many argued that it was the most logical step for the Radiohead frontman to take. On the other hand, some expressed confusion and were torn on the effort. What most agreed upon is what he ended up doing with the material – live, that is.  Towards the end of 2009, Yorke informed the world that he had formed a band with Flea and Nigel Godrich, saying that they’d been jamming, only they hadn’t thought of a name yet. Only a few months later, Thom Yorke’s name appeared on the Coachella 2010 poster with four question marks next to it. Yorke and company would go on to call this project Atoms for Peace, and they were the kind of live show that people needed in absence of Radiohead. They went on the road to play The Eraser in its entirety, plus a few other gems, but this wasn’t the slow piano album of yesteryear. With Flea involved, they kicked up the funk (quite a bit), and turned the somber tunes into a dance party. In hindsight, Atoms for Peace put on some of the coolest shows in 2010, and showed that Thom Yorke is pretty much capable of anything. -Ted Maider

Thom York and Mark Mulcahy… and Andy Yorke – 2009

This cover track is a double collaboration, in a sense. Not only is the song founded on the friendship/mutual admiration of Thom Yorke and Mark Mulcahy, former lead singer of the now defunct alt-rock band Miracle Legion, but it marks the first time Thom Yorke has ever recorded with his younger brother, Andy Yorke, also a musician. The cover stays dramatically true to the original recording, right down to the vocal inflections and buzzing guitar solos, yet, somehow, Thom Yorke still manages to plant his somber seeds. What was once a fairly upbeat song, musically, is now given the proper textures to match the haunting lyricism that drives the song. The track is part of a very heartfelt tribute album that was an attempt to raise money for Mulcahy, who lost his wife unexpectedly, leaving him to raise his twin daughters on his own. -Winston Robbins

Thom Yorke and Flying Lotus – 2010

As Flying Lotus and Thom Yorke have crossed paths, every interaction has pushed the former’s career to greater levels of exposure and success. First, Mr. Ellison dropped a pretty sweet remix of “Reckoner”, raising Yorke’s voice above crackling drums. Soon after, “…And the World Laughs with You” put an immense amount of warranted focus on the excellent Cosmogramma. Yorke’s otherworldly guest spot puts a spine-tingling spin on the spacey song. The looped and distorted vocals bring to mind his own work on Kid A and The Eraser. But Lotus’ style adds a dance-y touch of warmth that fits right into the musical landscape he’s built throughout the album.

On top of this release came his opening slot with Atoms for Peace. If you were lucky enough to see Yorke’s supergroup play through The Eraser along with a few other numbers, Flying Lotus was a major bonus. The audience was dancing, jumping around, and positively freaked out at the “Reckoner” and “Idioteque” samples. Let’s hope Lotus and Yorke keep close, just for the positive effects it seems to have on his career. One of the most innovative upcoming artists today deserves the attention. -Joe Marvilli

Thom Yorke and Burial and Four Tet – 2011

The most recent of Thom Yorke’s solo collaborations comes in the form of his avid interest in glitch/IDM music. Teaming up with UK producers Burial and Four Tet, Yorke released a 12” comprised of two tracks, “Ego” and “Mirror”. The result? A subtle, wonderfully textured pair of songs that not only showcase the impeccable skill of Four Tet and Burial, but reveal a side of Thom Yorke scarcely seen in so large a dose. It’s not a secret that Yorke has a tendency to lean towards the electronic when on his own, but never has he delved this deep into the genre. Let this not deter you, however; Yorke sounds his finest next to the blips and chirps Four Tet and Burial have so deftly founded a career on. -Winston Robbins

Radiohead and Clive Deamer – 2011

After a new LP and surprise Glastonbury performance left fans and critics polarized, Radiohead needed to hit an RBI, or do something, to quell the internet chatter. Instead of releasing another B-side or remix, they simply went downstairs to jam in the basement. Last week, Radiohead – The King of Limbs: Live From The Basement surfaced on the ‘net after appearing on television in Spain. In just under an hour, Radiohead tore through their new material, revealing how the quintet (and not just Mr. Yorke) really did have quite a role in the latest effort. They weren’t alone, either. Session musician Clive Deamer, who has worked with everyone from Jeff Beck to Portishead, joined in on drums, pummeling alongside the group to produce what everyone ultimately agrees upon was a tight, intimate set. No telling where his future lies with the band, but if this is his only contribution, he certainly proved his worth. After all, they didn’t just hit an RBI here, they stole home – err, the basement. -Michael Roffman

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