radiohead is tuning in on success with an old-fashioned program. tour till you drop is its name and singer/guitarist thom yorke is relieved all the mileage is beginning to pay off.
part of that is the headline status that brings the band to rpm monday.
``mileage, that's the word. i think so far we've played 350 dates in support of this album in europe and north america. that's a hell of a lot of miles.
``that's been our strength from day 1. we had a solid following in our hometown of oxford, way before we'd ever recorded a thing. it was the live show that brought the record companies 'round in the first place.
``there's no question we got lucky in the beginning, and that was the primary reason why the london music press didn't like us. it was ridiculous; the record companies were making outrageous offers and we had only maybe five songs and this show that was exciting but sometimes haphazard as well.''
parlophone won the battle and radiohead debuted with the drill ep, which was promptly slagged large by the brit music press.
``they didn't even want to know. the criticisms never got down to specifics; it was about us being these jumped-up snots who had this deal handed to them. in all fairness, we'd only been together 2 1/2 years and we hadn't paid any dues outside of oxford.
``we became somewhat defensive and i got a reputation for being mouthy. we didn't set out to be difficult because, i swear, our major feeling at this time was bewilderment,'' says the 25-year-old.
"radiohead had to do its growing up in public. we made our share of green touring mistakes. our first national tour at home didn't go too well and when we played toronto the first time, we went unnoticed.''
radiohead's return to toronto this summer as one of the few foreign bands invited to play the edgefest, it was a whole different story. by all accounts,the oxonian quintet tore up the ontario place forum and thrilled the thousands in attendance. yorke remembers it as the gig that tore up his head.
``i remember that gig well. they told us we'd be playing on this stage that went around. for some silly reason, the fact that people would be able to see our bums puts us into fits of laughter. it was okay once we were on, but then i had to go and cut my head open with my guitar. oh, it wasn't any intense guitar solo or anything. i was just trying to take the bloody thing off and succeeded in whacking my head open.''
true to radiohead form, it was the gig that put them on the local map. word of mouth translated rapidly into sales for the then- moribund pablo honey album, eventually parlaying into the current tour of north america.
``that has been our history, yes. but i do think there's also the fact these are better songs, so we can do a better show with them. also, we've had a year of playing experience, we're more focused, we've come through the strains put on the band and we're much more comfortable with what we're doing and how this band is.
``after the ep came out and the slagging started. it made me so paranoid i wasn't able to write. everything i did seemed contrived because, true or not, i was anxious to avoid the criticisms. i froze, couldn't write a thing, so when we were offered a north american tour, we jumped on it because it was a great relief to get out of the u.k.
``that first trip over here gave us a chance to start over, to develop confidence in our music without being subjected to the intense scrutiny we had at home.
``so you ask me what my big career thrill to date has been i'd have to say finally getting on the cover of melody maker. we got a lot of satisfaction from that as they were previously the leaders in flogging us.''
``it's a sign they're coming round at home and it's kind of impressive that we went to america and got recognition. we'll be returning home to a more supportive situation.''