Thom Yorke: A Career in 10 Songs

Thom Yorke: A Career in 10 Songs

Radiohead and Atoms for Peace frontman, solo artist, collaborator with Modeselektor and occasional surprise DJ: Thom Yorke's career has taken him from the Glastonbury Pyramid Stage to small tents in rural Cornwall, UK. The 47th birthday of one of Britain's most influential musicians seems as good a time as any to look back at some of his work's highlights to date.

1 - High and Dry

It didn't appear till Radiohead's second album, The Bends, but High and Dry was written while a 20-year-old Yorke was fronting punk band Headless Chickens. The man himself, incidentally, stopped liking the song a long time ago. He told pitchfork in an interview in 2006: "It's not bad, you know. It's not's very bad."

2 - Creep

Radiohead's first proper hit single, Creep quickly entered that bracket of song that burns its own stamp onto a chord progression: those four intense, languid chords can never be recycled or re-used without everyone saying "hey, that sounds like Creep!" NME later bestowed great honour upon the song that sent Radiohead into the big time, placing it at 26 on its list of the Greatest Indie Anthems Ever.

3 - Just

Supposedly provoked by a competition between Yorke and Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood in 1995 to see who could use the most chords in a single track, Just is pure songwriting class. Mark Ronson reached back for it 12 years later, and the resulting cover is testament to a near-perfectly constructed song.

4 - Paranoid Android

As well as being Radiohead's most enduring popular album, OK Computer sent seismic waves through the alternative music world. Paranoid Android marks in microcosm the bridging of the band's old indie-rock with a progressive, structure-defying and atmosphere-building electro-indie that has directed the rest of Radiohead's (and Yorke's) output.

5 - Everything in Its Right Place

Kid A's opening track signalled the start of the new era. Not a single note from a guitar features behind Yorke's "mechanized and mutilated" vocals (Rolling Stone); but the loudest sound is of a generation of long-fringed musicians embracing electronics, and laptops, like never before.

6 - Pyramid Song

Formed of tracks recorded around the same time as those that appeared on Kid A, the follow-up album Amnesiac has always attracted dismissal as Kid B. Not breaking new ground had apparently become a crime for Radiohead by 2001, but you'd be a fool to overlook the elegance and grace of a track like Pyramid Song.

7 - The White Flash (Modeselektor)

Frequently cited as among Yorke's favourite musicians, Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary of Modeselektor featured their inevitable collaboration on the (aptly named) 2007 album Happy Birthday! The beautiful, gloom-glitch landscape of The White Flash witnesses Yorke's own influence – with a bit of Aphex Twin thrown in for good measure.

8 - Videotape

Radiohead's 6-album deal with EMI expired in 2003 with Hail to the Thief, and their next release brought the shackles right off. In Rainbows delivered a typically forward-thinking revolution in musical economics: downloaders could name their own price, including absolutely zero. The album's haunting finale, Videotape, is Yorke at his powerful best.

9 - Default (Atoms For Peace)

The band that started out as a vehicle for performing Yorke's first solo album The Eraser live, Atoms for Peace featured Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea and Joey Waronker of Beck and R.E.M. among others. Tracks like Default are worth hanging onto, though in truth the band's only album to date, Amok, was mostly a missed opportunity for Yorke's distinctive style to absorb a few other voices.

10 - Villain

New York Fashion Week may seem like an unlikely place for Yorke to pop his head in, but he's started making a regular habit of contributing to the catwalk soundtrack of clothing brand Rag & Bone. Constant exploration of the word "unlikely" has, after all, characterised much of Yorke's career. This year's offering is an 8-minute cut, featuring the Brooklyn Youth Chorus and a signature twitch rhythm track.

Thom Yorke will be performing his latest album, Tomorrow's Modern Boxes, live at Pitchfork Music Festival Paris and Club to Club Torino. Tickets and packages are available for both shows, here and here.


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