TURN IT UP TUESDAY: Radiohead’s The Bends


Meeting at Abington public school in Oxford. Jonny and Colin Greenwood, Ed O’Brien, Thom Yorke and Philip Selway, started a band, who’s Original name was On A Friday. After signing with Parlophone, they were urged to change their name. So they did, taking the name from a 1986 talking head song, Radio Head.


After the success of Pablo Honey, or more accurately, the single “Creep”. Which took off. The band was ready to put that behind them, and start again. The success of “Creep” may have allowed them the opportunity to make another album, but it, according to Jonny Greenwood, “Frightened us into getting much better.”

The name even references their rapid rise to fame. York stating, “We just come up too fast.”

Recording and Release

So in February of 1994, Radiohead entered the studio to make their sophomore offering. They started a RAK studios, but also made stops at The Manor, and Abbey Road, before they were done, in November ’94. With the whole process taking four months total. Touring having lengthened the recording time. 

The recording process wasn’t without controversy. EMI hired Sean Slide and Paul Q Koldrie (who did Pablo Honey) to remix the album behind current producer, John Leckie’s back. Speaking of Leckie, the band really enjoyed working with him, they felt he make the whole process less intimidating, with Jonny Greenwood stating, “He didn’t treat us like he had some kind of witchcraft that only he understands. There’s no mystery to it, which is so refreshing.” —— By the time the album came out, only three of the songs were Leckie’s mixes. “”

The bends also features Caroline Lavelle on the cello, and John Matthias on the Viola and Violin.

On March 13, 1995, the album was released in the UK. Going wider from there. Dropping on April 4th, in the States. While a hit in their home country. The album didn’t catch on in America. Though it did start to find an audience after one of the songs, “High and Dry” showed up in Clueless. It’s Radioheads lowest charted album in the US. Though the band did have a friend in MTV. With Matt Pinfield retorting “because it’s great.” Whenever he was asked why the channel kept promoting the album over others that were selling better.

Capitol Records, who were releasing the album in the US, almost refused to do so as they thought there wasn’t any singles they could release.

The albums cover was done by Stanley Donwood, who did the My Iron Lung EP that then led into The Bends album. Donwood only did the albums at first because he knew Yorke from University. He actually wasn’t a fan of the music at all.


Before the album was released three singles were. “My Iron Lung” was released in the UK, on September 26, 1994. The version that made the album, wasn’t the one recorded in the studio, but a version the band played live at the Astoria, earlier in the year. 

Next up was a worldwide double release. “High and Dry” and “Planet Telex” that happened on February 27, of 1995.

“High and Dry” was unearthed from a previous recording York had done years earlier, before Radiohead. Despite thinking it was a horrible song, the label pressured him and the band to re-record the song. For the release,Two music videos were shot, one for the UK market, the other for the American. 

“Planet Telex” didn’t get the music video treatment. The name of the song was originally Planet Xerox, but due to the fact Xerox is a copyrighted word, the band had to change it, thus becoming “Planet Telex”. The song uses a recycled drum loop they had from a previous recording, “Killer Cars”. The band put it together one evening while drunk. O’Brien saying “A drunken evening that probably spawned my favourite track. Thom’s one-take vocal crouching in the corner was particularity memorable. He may have been unable to stand.”

The third wide release was “Fake Plastic Trees” on May 15th. Selway, O’Brien, and Jonny, have said that the lyrics are some of  their favourite if not their absolute, on the album. Selway stating “Some of my favourite lyrics on the album. ‘Gravity always wins’ what a line.” The song was the most difficult for the band to get right. Taking them months to do so. It started with just Yorke singing and playing an acoustic guitar. They slowly built everything else on top of it. But in that process, Yorke felt like that’s where they found out what Radiohead was.

“Just” was released in the UK. It was a song that Yorke and Jonny used as a challenge to see how many chords they could get into one song.

The singles stretched into 1996, with “Street Spirit (Fade Out)” dropping January 22nd. Seemingly saving the best for last, the song became the bands favourite. It peaked at number five on the UK’s singles chart, their highest up until that point. 

And finally “The Bends” dropped in Ireland as a single on July 26th.

The band released three singles in ’92. The first of the year and second single overall was “Even Flow”. The band unanimously believes it’s the worst recorded song on the album. Believing they were never really able to nail it the way the song deserved. 
Ament stating: “It was the best song we got the worst take of on the album.”
The music video for the song is not the original one shot. Gossard had invited friend Jeff Taft out to a show and take video. Luckily so, because the band hated the original one that the studio wanted to put out. But instead they put together footage shot by Taft.
According to Nielsen Music. The song was the 5th most played from 2010-2019.
It wasn’t until 2018 that Vedder talked about the meaning of the song. It was written about a homeless vet he’d become friends with, named Eddie. The man dying while the band was touring Europe. He never heard or knew he was a part of the song. 

Next up was Jeremy. The song was written about a boy Vedder read about in the Dallas Morning News, named Jeremy Wade Delle, who shot himself in the middle of class. 
MTV told the band they had to take the ending out where the Jeremy from the video put the gun in his mouth and pulls the trigger. Because of this the song took on a new meaning with the audience. Leading many to believe it was about a school shooter. So much so that in 1996 there was a school shooting at Frontier Middle School, and the shooters lawyers argued that the shooter was inspired by the video. Stating, “This boy is Jeremy”. 

The final single to come from the album was Oceans. On MTV’s Unplugged Vedder said, “This song is a love song I wrote about my surfboard, no, actually about a person I’ll hopefully see tomorrow, named Beth.” The two were eventually married from ’96-2000.
Vedder wrote the song while locked out of the studio when the band was recording. Two unusual instruments were used on the song. A pepper shaker and a fire extinguisher. Both were played by mixer, Tim Palmer. Who stated. “The reason I used those items was purely because we were so far from a music rental shot and necessity became the mother of invention.”

While  the album was a grunge and alternative rock anthem to many. The band was criticized as sellouts. Kurt Cobain himself calling them such. Even so, ten has become one of the most inflential albums of it’s time, and making many appeances on best ever lists. Topping Rolling Stones 2013 Readers Poll of best debut album of all time. So put on you flannel, grab it off your shelf or open your favourite music app, and turn up this weeks album. TEN.

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                                                      — Jade Dempsey  

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