Thom Yorke

thom yorke

Thom Yorke (b. 1968) is an English musician who is the lead vocalist and principal songwriter of the alternative rock band Radiohead. He mainly plays guitar and piano, but he has also played drums and bass guitar (notably during the Kid A and Amnesiac sessions). In July 2006, he released his debut solo album, The Eraser.

At birth, his left eye was fixed shut; he underwent five eye operations before he was six years old. He has stated that the last surgery was ‘botched,’ leaving him with a drooping eyelid.

Yorke received his first guitar when he was seven, inspired by guitarist Brian May in a live performance with his band Queen. By age 11, he had joined his first band and written his first song. He attended the all boys public school Abingdon where he met future band members Ed O’Brien, Phil Selway, Colin Greenwood and Colin’s younger brother, Jonny. Yorke and his friends formed a band named On A Friday, as Friday was the only day on which the members were allowed to rehearse.

In 1991, On A Friday relocated to Oxford, signed with Parlophone Records, and changed their name to Radiohead. The band first gained notice with the worldwide hit single ‘Creep,’ which later appeared on their 1993 debut album Pablo Honey.

By the time of their second album, The Bends (1995), the band, through frequent touring and greater attention to detail in the recording studio, had picked up a large cult fan base and had begun to receive wider critical acclaim.  During the production of the band’s third album, OK Computer (1997), all five members had differing opinions and equal production roles.

Yorke and the band adopted a more radical approach on 2000’s Kid A and 2001’s Amnesiac, processing vocals, obscuring lyrics, and departing from rock for a more varied musical landscape including electronic, jazz and avant-garde classical influences. The albums expanded Radiohead’s sales while earning acclaim for experimentation, but also divided fans and critics.

Yorke released his solo album, The Eraser, in 2006. Yorke described the album as ‘more beats and electronics.’

In February of 2010 Yorke revealed the name of his new band—’Atoms for Peace’—and announced a series of U.S. tour dates. The super group includes Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers on bass, R.E.M. all-round session drummer Joey Waronker, percussionist Mauro Refosco of the musical collective Forro in the Dark and Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich on keyboards and treatments.

Yorke, unlike the other members of Radiohead, has never learned how to read music. He said, ‘If someone lays the notes on a page in front of me, it’s meaningless… because to me you can’t express the rhythms properly like that. It’s a very ineffective way of doing it, so I’ve never really bothered picking it up.’

Since Kid A, Radiohead, and in particular Yorke, have incorporated elements of electronic music into their work. As a result, Yorke has taken an increased role in programming beats and samples and has been credited with playing ‘laptop’ on recent albums.

A number of celebrities have been upset by Yorke’s famously cold and aloof public persona including Kelly Jones of  Stereophonics and actor Jack Black. In 2009, Miley Cyrus and Kanye West also complained about Yorke’s alleged rudeness. In a response to these complaints, Yorke wrote on Radiohead’s Dead Air Space website, ‘wish us all a safe journey if you still like us and you’re not one of those people I have managed to offend by doing nothing.’

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