(Credit: Wikimedia / Elektra Records)

Revisit the "lost" Thom Yorke interview in which he called Jim Morrison a "talentless bastard"

The initial stages of an artist’s career where their wings are still clipped and an affront is offered up in its place can be the most fascinating phase of all. That snatch of time whereby they are slightly uncomfortable in their own skin, or too green to fully embody someone else’s is a window of early insight. That, by no means, indicates that what you learn from the embryonic phase of an artist’s career is somehow more pure or unadorned than what follows — but it is interesting, nonetheless. 

Back in 1992, Radiohead had been signed to EMI, they had released ‘Creep’, had an EP entitled Drill, and Pablo Honey had been recorded and was in the process of being mastered. Despite this, they were still obscure ‘nobodies’ within the music world. 

It was during this phase that The Scene fanzine caught up with Thom Yorke for an intriguing early interview. The first question posed to him by budding music writer Ian Fortnam was a rather abrasive one. He asked, “How horribly gutted were you by the failure of people to pick up on ‘Creep’?”

To which Yorke replied, “Absolutely horribly gutted, pissed off, self-righteous. There are good and bad things to it though. A lot of people are asking ‘why isn’t it a hit?’, that’s a good thing. It stands us in good stead.” 

To which Fortnam almost goadingly asked, “There’s already talk of re-releasing it after your ‘inevitable success’?” And Yorke responded, “There’s no point in re-releasing it until it’s worth it, so yeah… after the inevitable success.”

After delving into what the forthcoming Pablo Honey had to offer, Yorke took a swing at the late Jim Morrison while explaining the ethos behind Radiohead, stating: “It’s a really naff thing to say, but one of the principle reasons for being in this band is because of the songs and that we change very, very fast as a band. We have a sound, but at the same time, we change all the time. Anyone Can Play Guitar is like a chant almost. And another principle thing behind the band is that lyrically it’s an anti rock ego song. The second verse is ‘I wanna be Jim Morrison’ and I’ve got this pathological disrespect for Jim Morrison and the whole myth that surrounds Jim Morrison, simply because it affects and has affected the people in bands and in the rock business, in that they think they have to act like fucking prats in order to live up to the legend.”

This so-called mystique surrounding Jim Morrison seemed to really stick in Yorke’s craw as he further expanded on the importance of quality musicianship, in what is actually a very mean fashion for the now-reticent songsmith. “Yeah, it’s really hard… bullshit!” Yorke said about playing the guitar. 

Later adding: “And the better you are at the guitar the worse songs you write. I hope that maybe one day that song will appear on MTV in between a couple of rock tracks and you’ll get all these guys with stupid wigs on going widdly-widdly and then we come on going ‘Anyone can play the fucking guitar, it doesn’t mean anything!’ 

Yorke’s rant reached a crescendo, as he said: “Jim Morrison’s a fat, talentless bastard and he’s dead. And none of that means anything, It’s more important just to have your own voice within the business than to live up to this thing that you’re supposed to live up to. I’m reading this book by Lester Bangs at the moment and there’s this brilliant thing about how on the one hand rock’n’roll should be taken very seriously, while on the other hand it should be completely taking the piss out of itself. Like The Stooges… on the one hand they’re a real, fucked-up band, but on the other they just take the piss. Iggy Pop is totally taking the piss so badly.”

This misanthropic deluge now seems like a rather juvenile front while the band searched for a fitting identity. The era was dominated by prickly characters and this nose-thumbing at the past is indicative of the zeitgeist at the time. Lord knows what the restrained songwriter would now make of these comments in retrospect, but they certainly offer some fascinating insight into Radiohead before they emerged from doldrums of obscurity and evidently still liked ‘Creep’.