Radiohead: “We were spitting and fighting and crying…”

Thom Yorke and co on Amnesiac, OK Computer and "two-month" meltdowns

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With a huge hit on their hands, groupies swarmed to these new British invaders. But some perverse sense of decency, or perhaps a deeply English embarrassment about sex, prevented the band from taking advantage. In Dallas, O’Brien politely declined the offer of a cocaine-fuelled sex session. At the infamous Hyatt in LA, Jonny had a naked girl call at his hotel room. “Luckily, I was out,” Greenwood Jr said later. “I’ve never taken advantage of the opportunity of one-night stands. It’s like treating sex like sneezing. Sex is a fairly disgusting sort of tufted, smelly-area kind of activity which is too intimate to engage in with strangers.”

Pablo Honey sold two million copies worldwide, but the pressure of following up “Creep” weighed heavily on Radiohead. The single became a Top 10 smash on its UK re-release, a global Generation X anthem to rival Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. But neither “Anyone Can Play Guitar” nor “Pop Is Dead” made even a fraction of the impact.

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Meanwhile, Yorke was growing to despise the song which had made him a poster boy for self-loathing, rechristening it “Crap”. Even today, he rarely discusses or performs it.

“It was everything that went along with it rather than just the song,” insists Jonny. “Thom just doesn’t like playing it – it’s his words, he can do what he wants with it. It’s like, he’s not in that emotional space any more so he doesn’t like playing it. And one of the things that’s so good about him is that he’s a performer with emotional convictions.”

Radiohead continued their relentless touring schedule as support act to Belly and PJ Harvey. But band relations became strained and shows were cancelled – including a high-profile Reading festival slot, scuppered by Yorke’s throat problems. A December tour with James culminated in a fraught band summit in Hamburg. Then all five separated and scattered, back to Oxford.

In Yorke’s words, Radiohead had “sucked Satan’s cock” and paid a bitter price. “As soon as you get any success you disappear up your own arse and lose it forever,” the singer admitted later. “When I got back to Oxford I was unbearable. You start to believe you’re this sensitive artist who has to be alone – this melodramatic, tortured person – in order to create music. The absolute opposite is true.”

Radiohead were starting to feel like one-hit wonders, a cash cow to be cynically milked dry by their short-term paymasters. To make matters worse, they were barely communicating. Their house of cards teetered on the verge of collapse.

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