Some bands are known as chart successes, and some are known as landscape changers. Radiohead is definitely one of the latter. How ironic that a band with the word “radio” in it can hardly get any airplay—and yet there is scarcely a modern rock band large or small who does not cite them as a major influence. If you don’t believe me, try getting tickets to a Radiohead concert—and if you do, talk to audience members and see how many musicians you find in the crowd.
That being said, I didn’t choose this week’s Rock Rewind, “Fake Plastic Trees,” from the band’s highly acclaimed 1995 album The Bends, because of its massive chart success (it climbed to a whopping No. 65 on the Billboard Hot 100). Nor did I choose it because it is incredibly innovative (there’s a lot of other tunes I could have picked on those grounds). You don’t gravitate to Radiohead songs by chart momentum; you gravitate to them because they speak to you. I chose “Fake Plastic Trees” because it is freaking beautiful, and because the emotion in Thom Yorke’s voice on it is simply matchless.
By the way, Radiohead has made up for their apparent deficit in radio-friendliness with numbers that really count. Every studio album they’ve ever made has gone Gold or Platinum somewhere in the world, usually in multiple countries.