More early guitar recollections: Radiohead

There’s a lovely interview with Ed O’Brian, one of the members of Radiohead, on a recent That Pedal Show. Interviews on TPS are normally very gear focussed, but here Mr O’Brian talks much more about the musical journey he and Radiohead took, with a nod to how the gear influenced that, but overall it’s a wonderful insight into the world of Radiohead if you’ve ever been into their music.

I wrote recently about how R.E.M.’s Monster was an important album to me in terms of being a guitar player, but if it was Monster that made me pick up a guitar and try make some noise, it was Radiohead’s The Bends, and its successor OK Computer, that motivated me to buy a Telecaster as my first guitar. I didn’t understand enough about guitars at the time to know that Johnny Greenwood was playing a Telecaster Plus that had very different pickups or that it had been modified to have a momentary kill switch, I just saw it was a sunburst tele and so when the next summer I earned enough to buy myself my first guitar, that’s what I got.

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I bought (and still have) the tab books for their first three albums. I remember getting the book for The Bends and reading the tab on the bus on the way home with the music clear in my mind as I read along. I can still muscle memory my way through some guitar parts from those early albums, but they’re not really what I play these days: their sound comes from having three guitarists in the band, so anything you play on your own is nothing like it, and these days I’m happier to play guitar as me than trying to be someone else. But occasionally I still try, though more from their later albums.

My favourite Radiohead album these days is probably In Rainbows, which is just beautiful, and seems to fit perfectly the ambiance of walking around a city like London, but in general has some wonderful guitar textures. If you want to see how Radiohead make their sounds then I can highly recommend the Live From The Basement video of In Rainbows. It seems quite hard to find now, though you can buy the tracks individually as music videos on iTunes. Excellent music, but also just nice to see the band at work up close.