Everyone knows that Thom Yorke is passionate about climate change, that he purchased the entire Warp Records catalog after OK Computer, that he was born with his left eye fixed shut. But did you know that he can’t read musical notation? Did you know that he said he’d “start skanking dancehall style” if Radiohead were to split up? Did you know that today marks his 42nd birthday? If not, this list of 42 things you didn’t know about today’s birthday boy might very well shift your paradigm.
Also, because this past weekend marked the 10th anniversary of Kid A’s release date, we have included 10 things you didn’t know about Kid A. Who says important cultural transmissions need to be in paragraph form? Post comments if you have interesting facts to add!
1. Thom was born in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire (not Oxfordshire).
2. Thom’s old pager number was 1426148550. It appeared on Radiohead’s Airbag EP.
3. Thom was in a band called Headless Chickens. His first band with Colin Greenwood was called TNT.
4. Thom’s fear of transportation (cf. “Killer Cars,” “Stupid Car,” “Airbag,” the “Karma Police” video) derives from a car accident in 1987.
5. Thom has expressed regret over including “Electioneering” on OK Computer.
6. Thom’s brother Andy nicknamed him “Dodo.” He was known as “Salamander” in school.
7. Thom drank heavily when Radiohead first started out, to the point where he was occasionally unable to perform live.
8. In liner notes, Thom’s art contributions are credited to Tchock, Tchocky, and Dr. Tchock. During The Bends, his pseudonym was The White Chocolate Farm.
9. Amnesiac was dedicated to Thom’s son Noah, and his solo album The Eraser to his daughter Agnes.
10. Thom said he’d like to end his final concert with Neil Young’s “Fuckin’ Up.”
11. Thom refused to meet with Tony Blair to discuss climate change because he thought Blair had “no environmental credentials.”
12. Thom trashed Phil Selway’s drum kit one night. He later apologized and took Phil’s family out for tea.
13. Thom is a vegetarian, inspired by both The Smiths’ Meat Is Murder and a vegetarian girl he sought to impress.
14. Thom worked as an orderly in a mental hospital.
15. Thom was a DJ and a member of techno group Flickernoise back in his Exeter university days.
16. Thom almost drowned when he jumped into a pool after performing at an MTV beach party event in The Hamptons.
17. Thom received a letter saying it was a pity that Jeff Buckley died instead of him.
18. Thom denies that Radiohead’s music is political.
19. Thom had a nervous breakdown after OK Computer.
20. Thom regrets how quickly Radiohead recorded Hail to The Thief (in two weeks), saying the songs “suffered” because of it.
21. In the first-ever published Radiohead interview (in Curfew magazine), Thom’s name is printed incorrectly as “Tom.”
22. Thom barred NME from interviewing him for years after it wrote a story called “Thommy’s Temper Tantrum,” which described a Radiohead show where Thom threw a “tantrum.” The truth was that he was sick and had tried to cancel the show. In an interview, Thom stated that “what [NME] wrote in that piece hurt me more than anything else anyone has ever written about me.”
23. Growing up, Thom had a poster that demonstrated “the impact crumple zones on a Volvo 244 DL.”
24. Thom’s garden pond froze in 1996, killing his exotic fish.
25. The first song Thom wrote was entitled “Mushroom Cloud.”
26. Thom called The Pixies “the greatest band ever.”
27. Thom was in a one-off project called Venus in Furs with Jonny Greenwood. They covered Roxy Music songs for the Velvet Goldmine soundtrack.
28. Thom sang most of OK Computer‘s tracks in one take.
29. Thom described “High and Dry” as “fucking dreadful.” In another interview, he said “It’s not bad… it’s very bad.”
30. At the 2006 Bonnaroo festival, Thom used guitar picks with his son Noah’s fingerprints on them.
31. If Thom could be any animal, he said he’d choose a komodo dragon. Explained Thom: “If he comes and sits in your living room to watch TV you’d be too scared to shoo him out coz he’d break your arm or your neck. So you sit there and don’t move and leave him to it. He’ll leave when he’s ready.”
32. Thom has cited Thomas Pynchon, Michael Stipe, and Noam Chomsky as heroes.
33. Thom recorded the vocals of “Planet Telex” on the ground, drunk.
34. Thom doesn’t like late John Coltrane albums because they’re too free.
35. Thom smashed the middle finger off a hand-shaped NME award, and it was later sold on eBay for £248 (roughly $393).
36. After seeing a Jeff Buckley performance, Thom went into the studio, performed three acoustic takes of “Fake Plastic Trees,” and broke down crying. (This is the version heard on The Bends.)
37. Thom also broke down crying listening to OK Computer in the back of a car.
38. Thom’s dad was an amateur boxer (and wanted Thom to be one too).
39. Thom disguised himself as a journalist and “crashed” the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Conference.
40. Radiohead’s management initially thought “Creep” was a Scott Walker song after Thom described its mood as similar to Walker’s style. It wasn’t considered as a single until their management later found out it wasn’t actually a cover.
41. Thom wrote “Pop Is Dead” in response to “Creep” making the charts.
42. Thom wore hair extensions after “Creep” became successful.
Next page: 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Kid A
10 Things You Didn’t Know About Kid A:
1. “Pyramid Song” (which showed up on Amnesiac) was the last track to be cut from Kid A.
2. In 2000, Thom said the “best week” of his life was when Radiohead went to New York to perform on Saturday Night Live while Kid A was #1 on the US charts.
3. Thom considered changing Radiohead’s name for Kid A.
4. Thom, not Colin Greenwood, plays fuzz-bass on “The National Anthem.” (The riff was written when he was 16.)
5. Before Kid A was officially released, the album streamed in full on Capitol’s website.
6. It was rumored that Kid A would be titled No Logo, after Naomi Klein’s book of the same name.
7. Thom broke his foot during the recording of “The National Anthem.”
8. Jonny wrote the melody of the song “Kid A,” not Thom.
9. Thom got his ass beat in Oxford during the recording of Kid A and had this to say about it: “I got beaten up in the middle of Oxford last week by someone who recognized me and saw me as an easy target.”
10. After the Kid A recording sessions, Thom smashed a copy of the album to pieces as therapy.