Thom Yorke

From Academic Kids

Early 1990s. Punk roots. Featuring his famous t-shirt "Presse : Ne Pas Avaler" ("The Press: Do Not Swallow" in French)
Early 1990s. Punk roots. Featuring his famous t-shirt "Presse : Ne Pas Avaler" ("The Press: Do Not Swallow" in French)

Thomas "Thom" Edward Yorke (born October 7, 1968 in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, England) is the lead singer and songwriter of the UK band Radiohead. He also plays guitar, piano and keyboard and can likely play bass guitar and drums as well. He currently lives in Oxford with his long-time partner, Rachel, and their son, Noah. Some people compare him with U2's Bono in vocal and songwriting abilities, as well as his enigmatic public persona.



Born with a paralyzed left eye, Yorke spent most of his first five years undergoing operations leaving him with impaired vision and his trademark lazy eye. Classmates often taunted him with the nickname "Salamander." After seeing Queen guitarist Brian May perform on television, Yorke was inspired to become a musician. He received his first guitar at the age of 7 and joined his first band by the age of 10 while attending a private boys' school in Abingdon (where he would meet his future Radiohead bandmates). Yorke later attended the University of Exeter and worked as an orderly in a mental hospital. In the secondary school in 1987, he met his future bandmates - Ed O'Brien and Colin Greenwood. The line-up was closed when mild-mannered drummer Phil Selway joined them and Colin's younger brother Jonny was allowed to fill the five-member line-up after a couple of refuses from his would-be bandmates. They called themselves On A Friday - the only time when they were able to play. After that the band dissolved for a couple of years and bandmembers devoted on attending college and other jobs. Then in 1990 they regrouped and so Radiohead was born. The rest is history.

Missing image
2000s. Older self

Radiohead work

Radiohead became one of the world's most successful bands, topping charts around the world, and Yorke's songs became synonymous with late 20th century culture. Themes of technology, urban-existentialism, illness, and love dominate his lyrics. Thom uses the pseudonym Tchock (a.k.a. Tchocky, Dr. Tchock, or The White Chocolate Farm) when doing band artwork with Stanley Donwood.

He and R.E.M.'s singer Michael Stipe are close friends. They have frequently attended each other's band's concerts and both are fans of each other's music. Yorke has said that Stipe inspires many of his songs and helped him to get out of a period of depression after touring for OK Computer (1997) and before releasing Kid A (2000). The song "How to Disappear Completely" from the latter album, for instance, was inspired by the words of Stipe, who advised Yorke when depressed to tell to himself, "I'm not here and this isn't happening!" (this mantra becoming the song's chorus). Stipe has in turn noted that many Radiohead songs, such like "A Wolf at the Door" and "There There", have inspired him and his own songwriting efforts.

Yorke is credited as one of the most unique vocalists and best songwriters in modern rock music. His distinctive vocals, enigmatic persona, and outspoken comments against various political and social topics in modern life has given him a cult status among fans of the band and the respect of many colleagues as well as other artists.

Other work

Thom has also garnered attention as a political activist campaigning for causes including Fair Trade, Anti-War movements, and Amnesty International. He even played at the Free Tibet concert in 1999. Thom Yorke and other Radiohead members were heavily influenced by Elvis Costello, R.E.M., The Fall, Queen, Tom Jones, Clinic, PJ Harvey, Björk, Nirvana (in their earlier years), Pixies (on whose new DVD Thom did some commentary), the Talking Heads, and Joy Division. Beside his extensive work with the band Thom finds time to collaborate with other musicians as well. He has collaborated with Björk, PJ Harvey, Tom Jones, James Lavelle, Beck, U.N.K.L.E., and DJ Shadow.

Thom worked extensively with his fellow bandmate in 2004 contributing to the Do they know it's Christmas charity single and also some new work by Jonny and him will see the light this spring. At some point there was a rumoured solo effort by him, but considering that the band are back for recording new material, this project of Thom at this point remains unlikely.


"El President": Thom shared vocals with Isabel from the band Drugstore on the band's first single, "El President," off their album White Magic For Lovers.
"Wish You Were Here": Thom collaborated with Sparklehorse on a cover of Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here." Thom sang his part on the telephone from his hotel room where you can hear his TV in the background.
"Rabbit In Your Headlights": Thom and DJ Shadow got together during the OK Computer tour in San Francisco and recorded "Rabbit in Your Headlights" for the James Lavelle project going under the name UNKLE. The album is called Psyence Fiction.
  • Velvet Goldmine: Thom and Jonny got together with Bernard Butler, Andy Mackay, and Paul Kimble to form the band, The Venus in Furs. They recorded five songs for the Michael Stipe produced movie, Velvet Goldmine. The tracks are:
Thom and Björk sang a duet called "I've Seen It All" on Selmasongs, the soundtrack to Dancer in the Dark.
Thom had a strong presence on PJ Harvey's 2000 release, Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea. Thom did a duet with Harvey on the song "This Mess We're In" and sang back-up on two other songs: "One Line" and "Beautiful Feeling".

A note on genre

Genre labels being loaded as well as approximate terms, it should be noted that the idea of Radiohead being in the progressive rock (prog) tradition is solely from the perspective of some listeners. Asked in 2001 by a journalist "[w]hat is it about prog-rock that still appeals, despite it being widely treated as a genre for losers [and] geeks," Thom Yorke essentially concurred with the charge rather than rebutting it:

"prog rock is sad. and krautrock is not prog rock is more punk. queen were not prog rock. they were camp and not serious or shite enough. pink floyd moved to slow to be prog rock. certain areas of electronica smell of prog occasionally, i try not to notice. those who thought prog rock was like jazz are deluded. i dont know what prog rock is. never did. just because you change time signature a couple of times doesnt mean you is singing abou the fairies in the woods does it? were genesis prog rock? when peter gabriel put a flower round his head and kicked a bass drum was that prog? i have no connectivity with anything prog whatsoever except maybethat last bit about the flower and the kick drum and peter gabriel."

External links


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