It goes without saying that Radiohead have a unique sound. The sonic landscape that Thom Yorke, Johnny Greenwood, Colin Greenwood, Ed O’Brien and Philip Selway have carved out of rock is unlike any other. It set them apart in the nineties as the intelligent alternative to the Britpop furore and it continues to attract fans to the members’ individual careers too. It has made them wholly inimitable.
The fact that very few stunning covers of Radiohead exist in the world (excluding Arlo Parks and Phoebe Bridgers touching rendition of the song ‘Fake Plastic Trees’) hasn’t deterred the Oxford band from pulling out a few of their own across their decades on the stage and in the spotlight. From The Smiths to James Bond theme tunes, the group have presided over some serious homages to the past but perhaps there most curious cover can be found below.
Picture the scene; It is a blisteringly hot day, a dry breeze blows remnants of sand and dust across a desolate landscape, a small thunder of hooves can be heard thumping closer and closer, you slowly pan to the left and the silhouette of a horseman gallops into view before stopping, somewhat menacingly, a short distance away.
There’s a pause. A long pause. The sort of pause that has you frozen, waiting for the person stood ahead of you to make the first move… and he does, adjusting his cowboy hat and leaning to one side which allows the bright sunshine to momentarily blind you. Hopping off his beast in one slick swoop, planting both feet on the ground and revealing his all-white boots with silver pointed spur on the heel, the horseman has you quivering.
The figure, spitting out a strain of straw that he has been nibbled down to threads, wipes his razor-sharp stubbled chin, adjusts his belt, straightens out his shirt and pauses once more. After a period of seconds that feel like a lifetime, the moment has arrived. The horseman has decided to reveal his intentions. Walking to the rear end of his horse, disappearing out of view for a moment, the animal follows its instructions and begins to creep slowly towards you with the man still out of view. Then, out of nowhere, he reappears, armed with what you think is a weapon until you realise… It’s Thom Yorke, the infamous Rhinestone Cowboy himself.
While it’s fun to imagine Yorke in a shimmering glow of rhinestones, he does a good job of providing it on this cover through his marvellous vocals. The Glen Campbell classic may well be one of the more curious songs Radiohead have ever covered but it certainly is one of their finest too, if only for the sheer lunacy of it all.
Listen to Radiohead cover ‘Rhinestone Cowboy’ below.