Life in a Glasshouse
by John Aizlewood
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Pub Date 5 Jul 2022 | Archive Date 24 May 2022
For over three decades they have charted a singular course. As their music has become more beautiful, more strange, and more uncompromising, the band who make it have become more popular, evolving from the indie clubs of Britain to Stadia across the globe, while selling over 30 million albums.
And they have done it their way. Their line-up has remained unchanged since they met at school, but these five very different characters have always remained united in their quest to keep pushing boundaries.
They have changed musical direction almost as many times as they have made albums and the band who seemed destined to be one-hit-wonders when “Creep” was a global hit in the early ‘90s, evolved into trailblazers who have embraced rock, dance, electronica, classical music, and pop without sacrificing what makes them special.
Radiohead are proof that selling records need not mean selling out and this is their story.
A Note From the Publisher
US Publication: July 5 2022
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 17 members
John Aizlewood follows up his sublime book on Joy Division & New Order by turning his considerable talents towards another idiosyncratic British band, the unique and groundbreaking Radiohead.
Written in his usual erudite, irresistibly flowing and ever-so-slightly irreverent style, Aizlewood charts the evolution of Radiohead from their early days as private school boys with potted histories of each band member, through their “a bit pants” gigs as On A Friday, onto Britpop-shunning stardom as Radiohead, and their enduring legacy as one of the most critically-acclaimed bands Britain has ever produced.
Every album is listed and analysed, with the chapters on the era-defining “O. K. Computer” and the game-changing “In Rainbows” being especially good, but the whole book is superb. Radiohead’s rise to the top wasn’t easy and Aizlewood’s sparkling prose brings the story of their eagerness to evolve from their surprise hit “Creep” and the later ups and downs of their career to vivid life.
Radiohead have always done their own thing and John Aizlewood’s book is a celebration of that. No surprises, this book is awesome.
You know that band that just speaks to your soul? For me, that’s Radiohead, so I was very pleased to receive an advance copy of Radiohead: Life in a Glasshouse.
There’s a lot of information about the band in Aizlewood’s excellent book, from their younger days in public school to the early days of the pandemic. The author has written an engaging and informative work with this title.
I’d kind of given up on listening to music during my pandemic anxiety (not intentionally, it just happened) but during my reading of this, I re-listened to my old cd’s, re-watched some of Radiohead’s music videos, and my 45+ year old back hurt in protest after watching Thom Yorke arch his back like that in Fake Plastic Trees. In all seriousness though, reading this was such a gift because it brought back to me the knowledge that Radiohead’s music is still utter genius.
I haven’t read any of Aizlewood’s other works, but after reading this, I’m planning to.
Thanks to Netgalley for this ARC. I have been a fan of Radiohead for the past 20 years, and admittedly didn't know much about the band before reading this book. I loved that the length of the book was on the shorter side, and we got fast facts in a chronological order from the formation of the band until what they are currently doing. I enjoyed the breakdown of each album, including details like where they recorded, reasons for omitting certain tracks, the album's concept, etc. Hearing the details behind the writing of certain tracks was also great. This book wasn't focused on just Thom Yorke, either; instead we heard about each band member's history and projects as well. I have never read anything by this author, but noticed he has written about other musicians, so I will check those out now. I think this memoir is great for casual to die-hard fans of Radiohead, and I have been motivated to rediscover their vast catalog of music after learning about recent reissues of albums through the book. 5 stars!
Radiohead: Life in a Glasshouse is a comprehensive insight into Radiohead, their music, who they are individually and as a group, and their song -writing and -recording process.
You get a good glimpse into how they have evolved over the years, including their independent struggles with fame and how Radiohead has impacted them as individuals. John Aizlewood has some incredible knowledge and insight into each album and each and every track, giving you a great appreciation for Radiohead as artists. Does that mean I have a greater appreciation for some of their more out-there music? Sure. Does that mean I still don’t rate their earlier stuff far more than their later stuff? Nope.
“Radiohead are not like other bands.” is the blurb that accompanies the book, and I don’t think there could be a more fitting blurb. Radiohead are complicated, complex, and unique and have made some incredible music over their life-span. As a band, they have been a part of my life’s story and I will forever hold them up high as a transformative & inspirational band.
My thanks to both NetGalley and the publisher Palazzo Editions for an advanced copy of this biography and musical history book.
Radiohead is a band that reinvented the idea of reinvention. Every album seems different, as if the band had shed members and songwriters, starting anew in a brand new studio, recording as they went, writing on the fly, all while learning what all the levers, switches and dials did. I have enjoyed their music for years while knowing very little about the band outside the name of one or two the members. While working in an independent music shop when their second album The Bends was released, I remember hearing it and going wait this was the same band that did that song Creep, a song that in my head made them a one-hit wonders, and never to be talked of again. John Aizlewood in his study, Radiohead: Life in a Glasshouse gives a ver absorbing and exhausting account of the band, their creativity, travails and rise to superstardom.
The book gives a very full accounting of Radiohead's childhood and lives in the Oxford area of England. Slowly they coalesced in to their first band iteration, One Friday. After signing to a major label, the first change was to their name, becoming Radiohead. This change, except for their sound and style was the only major change, keeping the same band members for the last 30 years. After the success of the single, Creep, the band began to adapt their sonic DNA allowing technology and other creative ideas to help make their music what they want it to be, darn the consequences. This attitude has kept them not only at the top of the charts, but one of the most respected bands out there.
The book is very good, extremely well-written and though a tad snarky at times, with a few asides and snipes that go on a little, are still fun to read. The research is very comprehensive, sometimes overwhelming about the band and its members, but still very interesting and full of fun facts. However it is the recording of the albums where the book shines, capturing the sessions, the songwriting, the many influences, outside forces, and sometimes sheer luck that created albums like O. K. Computer and In Rainbows.
Recommended for fans of the band, music lovers and for people who create art. This book will inspire those who make or want to make things no matter what it is no matter how personal, or weird. Stick to your dreams, your ideals and keep going, You'll find you audience. This is the first book that I have read by Mr. Aizlewood and I look forward to reading more.
In essence, this is Radiohead's story narrated through their albums and concerts. Apart from the extensive and detailed reference to songs, that might be a bit overwhelming at times, you can find some hints on how they developed their music, inspirations, and how they really struggled and dealt with their issues to be a successful band for so long.
For me it has been a slow and engrossing reading accompanied by my old CDs and YouTube playlists of some Radiohead music videos. I must acknowledge that this is my first approach to Radiohead's biography. I have always attached more importance to the music than to the technical points and the context in which it has been created. By reading it, I've added a new dimension to their music so I recognize it has been an enriching experience.
Thanks to Netgally, Palazzo Editions and John Aizlewood for a copy to review in exchange for an honest opinion
This is a brilliant gift for any Gen-X or elder millennial who grew up with Radiohead and their ever-evolving sound. This takes a look at Radiohead's history and evolution, without being gossipy or speculative.
Such a riveting read, For over three decades they have charted a singular course. As their music has become more beautiful, more strange, and more uncompromising, the band who make it have become more popular, evolving from the indie clubs of Britain to Stadia across the globe, while selling over 30 million albums……recommend to all music lovers!
Thomas Edward Yorke, Philip James Selway, Colin Charles Greenwood, Jonathan Richard Guy Greenwood, and Edward John O’Brienwere products of the prestigious Abingdon School, a private educational establishment boasting a rich legacy extending way back into the eleventh century. While these individual names may not immediately ring a bell, collectively they send rock music cognoscenti into sheer raptures. This quintet till date has produced and sold over 30 million copies of their albums. Ladies and gentlemen, please put your hands together for Radiohead
Cerebral, chaotic and cathartic, Radiohead (a name inspired by the song Radio Head on the album "True Stories" by Talking Heads, is emblematic of innovation that is remorseless and ruthless. The band has reinvented itself so many times, and with such vengeance that it is impossible to strait jacket them into any one category of music. Britpop; Progrock; Bossa Nova are all for the less ambitious. Radiohead is destruction. When their first tremor inducing sensation “Creep” rocked the music world like never before, the group did their level best to distance themselves from the song. They strove their best to ensure that their next album ostracized the “Creep” style, let alone remotely resembling it. This extraordinary iteration of conception, adulation, rejection and recreation has been emblematic of the Radiohead way of art for the last four decades. John Aizlewood in a thunderous fashion (reminiscent of Radiohead’s patented eccentricities) brings to his readers the story of one of the most sophisticated and evolved rock bands (sorry for the bracketing of a genre) of our time. Radiohead's innovation transcended mere music. They upended and literally dismantled the music industry when they put out one of their albums "Rainbows" on the internet and allowed their fans to download the record at a price which they wished to pay! And boy, did the fans pay!
The music of Radiohead stands at the intersectionality of the ingenious and the intellectual. While masters of experimentation, the band also leverages on the rich academic influences of its members. Phil Selway, in addition to his versatility with the drums also distinguished himself in English and History at Liverpool Polytechnic, Ed O’Brien not just strummed the strings of his guitar, but also immersed himself into the intricacies of the dismal science. He studied Economics at Manchester. Colin Greenwood (the older of the siblings), did a thesis on Raymond Carver at Cambridge’s oldest college, Peterhouse, in addition to doubling up as a member of the judging panel that judged the prestigious Arts Council-funded Next Generation Poets competition. The heart of the band, and one of rock music’s greatest vocal performers, Thom Yorke finished a course in Literature and Fine Art at the University of Exeter. Jonny Greenwood was the only odd-man out. He dropped out of a course in Music and Psychology from Oxford Brookes, and that too at the goading of his tutor who saw Jonny’s seraphic potential with a guitar.
The eclectic nature of their songs bear ample testimony to Radiohead’s literary influences. “Nice Dream” pays encomium to Kurt Vonnegut’s 1963 masterpiece “Cat’s Cradle”; “The Bends” is a homage to Ben Okri’s haunting novel, “The Famished Road”; and “No Logo” was a direct impact of Naomi Klein’s biting polemical angst against rampant corporate culture and branding that bore the same title as the song.
Even during their punishing road tours, books were never far away from a Radiohead band member. Colin neutralized tour exhaustions by immersing himself into “The Collapse of British Power” by Correlli Barnett, while Jonny combated a vigorous bout of RSI by wearing an arm brace and seeking refuge in “The Sayings of The Vikings”.
Radiohead began life as a nondescript band with an insipid and singularly unimaginative name “On a Friday”. If somebody had ventured to hazard a guess that four decades later (in 2019) this motely crew would be inducted into the Roll Hall Of Fame, both the performers and their modest audience would have done a double take. A chance encounter with an EMI representative hurled the band into the limelight with their first album “Pablo Honey” in 1993. This was the album that contained the ubiquitous strains of “Creep”, strains that continue to reverberate strongly even to this day.
"The Bends” followed in 1995. If “The Bends” eviscerated “Creep”; “Ok Computer” (1997), universally regarded as Radiohead’s greatest ever achievement, just blasted “The Bends” out of the water. “Kid A” and “Amnesiac” in the 2000s became the nemesis of “Ok Computer”. This sustained, conscious and almost celebratory cannibalism was what projected, nay, hurtled Radiohead into the deepest imaginations of their adoring fans. Even the most die-hard Radiohead worshipper could not predict the contours of the succeeding album. This restless, and almost nebulous philosophy of Radiohead was captured succinctly by the Rolling Stones Magazine: “In order to save themselves, Radiohead had to destroy Rock & Roll.” Radiohead did not believe in any zeitgeist. Zeitgeist was them. Each one a Freddy Mercury; everyone a David Bowie.
Aizlewood’ s book is a breezy concoction of Radiohead exploits. They garnered fans by the legion. David Cameron once famously said if he was to be stranded on an island one of the choices of his songs would be “Fake Plastic Trees”. Radiohead also did their bit – and more - for charity. active in promoting political, human rights, and environmental activists for more than two decades, the band has been associated with "Missing People", Albert Kennedy Trust, Fair Trade Resource Network, and Friends of the Earth among others. When a hacker stole some of their music and demanded a huge ransom, Radiohead made an entire cornucopia of musical records public, priced them dirt cheap and made over the proceeds to Extinction Rebellion.
A paradox of absolute misfits yet inseparable brothers of destiny, Radiohead has been regaling millions unfailingly and incomparably for the last forty years. It is the fervent wish of every fan and fanatic that they will continue enthralling them for the next forty as well.
Radioheads – Masters of the mysterious.
Radiohead: Life in a Glasshouse by John Aizlewood is published by Palazzo Editions and will be available for sale beginning 5th May 2022. Thank you Net Galley for the Advance Reviewer Copy.
My thanks to NetGalley and Palazzo Publications for a copy of “ Radiohead” for an honest review .
I’ve loved music by Radiohead for years but knew next to nothing about the people behind the band name.
I found this book really interesting ..There is something about the group that stands out from the crowd , and their music has kept its originality and stays fresh.
What has always fascinated me about Radiohead is tha fact that every album seems different from the other. And this book digs into that, exploring their extremely creative and innovative style, starting from the band members' childhood lives and first musical experiences and going deeply into the recording of the albums, the creative process and their influences.
I found it extremely well written and researched, definitely recommended both for the band's fans and also for people who wants to know more about them.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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