The Story of the Year: October
RADIOHEAD RELEASE ‘IN RAINBOWS’. THE MUSIC INDUSTRY SHUDDERS
We’re not sure we believe him, but Thom Yorke insists that Radiohead weren’t actually plotting a revolution with the release of ‘In Rainbows’ – it just happened. Whatever. Come October, there was no bigger story in music.
“You’re in this situation where you’ve done something you really like and someone suggests ‘How about you put it on the web for people to listen to?’,” says Thom “And you go, ‘Yeah, that sounds good’. To say it sets a new template is all froth. It was an experiment – that was the end of the thought.”
But what an experiment it was. They announced on October 10, that their new album would be made available over the internet in a matter of days, with no immediate physical release, Not only that, but you could pay as much or as little as you wanted for it. The music world seemed to judder several rimes off its axis. With a simple web posting, Radiohead had not only brought The Man to his knees, but were whipping him several times over and making him bark like a dog.
In the end though, it was all rather sweet. From their closest friends, to their fans from Preston to Perth, to us at NME, and to the band’s supposed record label, everybody heard the record at the same time as each other. It was the kind of moment of togetherness you don’t get very often, and, as it dawned on everybody all at once, the really exciting thing about ‘In Rainbows’ was that it was their finest record since ‘OK Computer’,
Everyone but the hypnotised, the deaf and NME reviews editor Julian Marshall had given up on Radiohead after the petulant slum that was ‘Hail To The Thief’. And it sounded a lot like they’d given up on themselves. The protracted recording sessions were traumatic, and they’d ditched producer Mark ‘Spike’ Stent to return to old buddy Nigel Godrich.
“Personally, I was in a really bad space,” explains Thom. “Even when things were going well I was tearing it apart and Spike was like, ‘What the fuck is going on here?’ Ultimately, because it was a real struggle we needed to have the support of someone like Nigel so that it wasn’t impossible. Nigel is able to push things along when I don’t want to; when the energy is not there – he’ll have the energy to do it.”
And so ‘In Rainbows’ is gorgeous and optimistic. It’s the first time Radiohead have been gentle, the first time you can dance to them, the first time you could call it soul. To hear Thom, paranoid prince of autogeddon, crooning “You are all I need” is the stuff that jerks tears. “I don’t want to be your friend/I Just want to be your lover”, goes ‘House Of Cards’, before it bends the realms of possibility by singing about er, wife-swapping.
Did ‘In Rainbows’ change the world and bring down the music industry? Probably not. But it lit up the autumn of 2007 like a thousand tiny rainbow pixies.