The story behind why Radiohead turned down their first record deal 

Virgin Radio

25 Jan 2022, 10:48

Credit: Getty

Credit: Getty

Radiohead is one of the biggest bands the come out of the UK. 

They’ve won three Grammy awards for Best Alternative Music Album and multiple NME awards, including Best Single, Best Band and Best Album, not to mention their 17 Brit award nominations. 

The band, comprised of Thom Yorke, brothers Jonny Greenwood and Colin Greenwood, Ed O'Brien and Philip Selway, have often been praised as innovators of alternative rock. 

Before they shot to success, however, they were just an aspiring group of school students from Oxfordshire who rehearsed on the weekends and played gigs wherever they could. 

Oh, and they were called ‘On A Friday’ then- the name Radiohead would come much later.

Back then, their gigs were confined to local pubs and parties, but they created a lot of demo tapes as they prepared to attend University. 

However, in 1987, one of these demo tapes made it into the hands of someone at Island Records and Thom and Ed were invited in for a meeting. 

The band then got what most musicians dream of- a record deal. However, Thom revealed on Desert Island Discs radio show, it was not meant to be. 

Listen to the full demo record below:

He explained: “It was cool, but neither of us felt mentally ready for what was going on. 

I felt like I really wanted to go and study art, especially, and I didn’t feel like I was mentally ready to go and spend my life on tour.”

Yorke has previously said this was “the best decision [he] made” and that the three years he studied at art college “creatively prepared” him for what happened after. 

Throughout their time at university, the band still met to rehearse, perform and create more demo records, although they found it more difficult to secure a deal now. 

Luckily, bassist for the band, Colin Greenwood, came into contact with an A&R representative (someone responsible for scouting talent for record labels) from the record shop that he was working at. 

The representative was able to pass on their demo music, and the band got offered a second record deal in 1991.

This time it would be with EMI, and the band was ready to accept. 

The first thing they did, however, was change their name from ‘On A Friday’ to ‘Radiohead’, which they have often credited the tracklist from Talking Heads’ True Stories, for inspiring.

Under that new name, Radiohead then went on to release their debut single ‘Creep’ in 1992, which became one of their most popular songs to date. 

Sometimes, patience really is a virtue. 

Who knows what band they might have been if they accepted that first deal!