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.
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
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. -MÃ¶hammad Choudhery
Thom Yorke and U.N.K.L.E. – 1998
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 BjÃ¶rk – 2000, 2008
Originators each in their own right, Thom Yorke and Icelandic songstress BjÃ¶rk 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 BjÃ¶rk-starring film Dancer in the Dark. Listeners received their first taste of the potential of this dynamic duo, with Yorke’s vocals lent to BjÃ¶rk’s playful ideas as a songwriter. The two would later reunite in 2008, only this time through file-sharing. BjÃ¶rk was responsible for the production on “NáttÃºra”, adding Yorke’s backing vocals to the charity single for Iceland’s NáttÃºra 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