When you consider that Thom Yorke is about as far removed from the archetypal image of lead singer in a rock band, it’s impressive to see his incredible longevity. The reason he has maintained not only a serious career but seen it continually evolve and excel is that he is very selective. Considering that Yorke has been the frontman for Radiohead since the early nineties, it’s impressive that this list of songs to chronicle his life is comparatively short.
Yorke has never been an artist who wants to give it all away for free — except, of course, for that time Radiohead gave their album away for free — and, instead, prefers to ensure his audience is an active one by drip-feeding songs and sounds, each one seemingly more complex and textured than the last. Few artists have managed to grow a career like Thom Yorke, but few artists are as talented as Yorke.
Starting out in Oxfordshire, Radiohead quickly gained a reputation as the alternative to Britpop. While Oasis and Blur duked it out on the front page, Radiohead quickly turned their angsty rock-pop into something more intricate, more obscure and far more intellectualised. Soon enough, they became the toast of the town as the thinking man’s rock band, a title they’ve never really ditched.
Though the band have been on the alternative music scene since the early 1990s, they have only released nine albums across their near 30-year spell. While most artists would be happy to have one or two records become noted as influential or culturally important, there’s certainly a suggestion that the Oxfordshire band, led by Thom Yorke and complete by Jonny Greenwood, Colin Greenwood, Ed O’Brien and Philip Selway, have delivered nine records capable of that moniker. Aside from their reem of studio records, from Pablo Honey all the way to A Moon Shaped Pool, there have also been some notable remixes which feature on our list.
Taking the songs of classic albums like OK Computer and In Rainbows and producing a record of abstract remixes wouldn’t work for most bands but they fit in superbly with the group’s repertoire. To compound their searing differences with the rock elite, Radiohead have also rarely released a live album, with 2001 effort I Might Be Wrong as the solo entry. Though Radiohead has always offered Yorke an opportunity for creative control and development, Yorke took himself on a new path.
A solo career is never an easy feat to pull off, but Yorke has seemingly given himself a solo career without ever seeming to cut ties with his Radiohead family. Following 2008’s The Eraser, Yorke released Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes in 2014 with his latest record ANIMA proving to be one of his best.
Another facet of creation that Yorke is exploring sees the singer create the score for a few feature films, including Suspiria as well as Ed Norton’s masterpiece Motherless Brooklyn. It’s another string to an already well-appointed bow.
It’s hard to quantify the career of Thom Yorke, few artists have evolved as effortlessly as him, but if we were going to try, then below would be the best place to start. A 219-track playlist chronicling the career of Radiohead singer Thom Yorke.