On A FridayI'm Tired. Sleep Tonight.
On A Friday
The Songs The Name The Demos
This is an in-depth pre-RADIOHEAD biography.
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On A Friday
London School of Economics 1988 photos 1 2 3 4


Reviews: 1 2 3

Cufew: 1 2

The entire band originally went to the same school, Abingdon School in Oxford, England. Around 1982 Thom Yorke met Colin Greenwood because they were in the same year at school & because they  always ended up at the same parties. At the parties they found that they have similar taste in music because they frequently took over the stereo system & played bands such as Joy Division & Magazine. Thom discovered that Colin can play bass & Thom joined a punk band which Colin was in called TNT. Thom sang in that band because no one else in the band would. TNT had a lack of decent equipment, probably due to the young age of the band members, which on one occasion (at least) Thom was left to singing into a microphone attached to a stolen broom handle. Thom: “I started singing into this stereo mike tied to the end of the broomstick handle. Everyone just started falling about laughing, and that was that. That was my introduction to singing.”

Thom quit TNT due to their large egos and attitudes, he wanted to form his own group, with people his own age & that shared the same passion for music he did. Thom got involved in the drama department. He and a friend were to play background music for “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Ed O'Brien was an actor in the play. Thom was playing guitar. Thom & his friend were jamming "muzak" but the director was displeased with the jamming. Thom told the director that they were just going to do their own thing. Thom was drawn to Ed due to his resemblance to Morrissey, the Smith’s lead singer & Thom asked Ed to start a band with him.

Soon after Thom asked Colin to play bass in the band he was forming with Ed (Ed never tires of reminding Colin that he was in the band first). The first performance of the lineup was after Colin had joined & it was a birthday party with a drum machine that broke down after the first song. It was decided that night that they needed a drummer. Phil Selway was a drummer in a band called Jungle Telegraph & was year above them in school. Ed saw Phil in a pub the next night (I'm guessing playing in Jungle Telegraph) & asked him to join the band. Phil agreed to a full-time membership. Colin once said of Phil "We were all scared of Phil. He was in the class ahead of us, and he was in this band called jungle telegraph, so we knew him as 'the graf.' we weren't old enough and not in with his crowd." At the band's first practice with Phil, Thom asked him "Can't you drum any faster?"

Jonny Greenwood was a member of the Thames Vale Youth Orchestra & played violin & viola. Jonny was there at all the practices & within a couple of weeks was playing with them. Jonny joined the band, who had a previous keyboard player at some point who was "into loud keyboards in a Genesis kind of way", as a keyboard & harmonica player. Jonny thought "Well, the way to stay in this band would be to be very quiet." So Jonny brought a keyboard & played it in the band but always had the volume on zero. No one could hear a note he was playing for the first 2 years or so but everyone kept saying "wow these keyboards really add something." & "Well these keyboards sound like.. you can't hear them but if you took them away then you'd notice they were missing." Jonny at this time was still learning to play the keyboard & also said that they couldn't fit harmonica into any song.

On A Friday rehearsed every Friday & so began to call themselves On A Friday because of this reason. On a Friday regularly rehearsed at Clifton Hampden Village Hall, which was a tiny building close to Abingdon School. Prior to each practice session there, they had to go and get the key from an old lady who lived around the corner. In the first two/three years the band was a four and a half-man line up, where Jonny would hang out with his harmonica just in case (this may be the reason Jonny is not in any of these pictures). The band is said to have made its debut at Club Avocado, Jericho Tavern, Oxford, England on August 4, 1986 they were supported by The Yellow Blue Roof Men. The band also performed at least twice in 1987 first at Jericho Tavern, Oxford, England & then Old Fire Station, Oxford, England & were supported there by The Illiterate Hands.

The Illiterate Hands were a band consisting of Matt Hawkesworth (guitars), Jonny Greenwood (keyboards, harmonica), Andy Yorke (vocals),  Simon Newton (bass), & Mark Schofield (manager). The manager Mark Schofield approached Nigel Powell (later of Unbelievable Truth) to record The Illiterate Hands which ended as 8 songs & 2 of those alternates. Soon after that Nigel joined The Illiterate Hands as the drummer. The Illiterate Hands, like most of Nigel Powell's bands (including Unbelievable Truth) dropped the The & becameIlliterate Hands. Andy Yorke mentioned that his brother (Thom) was jealous of the quality of the Illiterate Hands' demo, and was asking who'd done it. Around June 1987 Nigel Powell spent a few good weeks recording a demo for On A Friday, who by that time had included Jonny as a keyboard player.

After a rehearsal on Friday, there was this argument when Ed said they sound too much like REM and Thom rebut back. “Well, do you ever think that they are going to get really big? Do you think anyone would notice that we sound like REM?”

In August of 1987 the band had gone their separate ways. Colin became entertainments officer at Peterhouse College, Cambridge University, and helped get his friends together for occasional gigs there; Phil (the oldest) had already been studying English and history at Liverpool Polytechnic where he also drummed for various theatrical productions (Blood Brothers, Return To The Forbidden Planet); & Ed studied economics & started a Politics degree at Manchester University. Jonny had two years left at Abington. Thom took a year out & worked at Gent's Outfitting.

Jonny played in various other bands during these times. Piano in a band called Folk In Noise which consisted of Andy Yorke on tenor sax,  Ben Kendrick on alto sax, "Touche" [Toushara Gounatilleke] on drums, & Illiterate Hands manager Mark Schofield on double bass. Jonny also played keyboards for a year in a band called Freak! with Andy Yorke, Nigel Powell, & Adrian Powell. Freak! is said to have also played with On A Friday many times. Jonny also joined the band Nightshade with Nigel Powell, Adrian Powell, & some others. Illiterate Hands recorded at least 2 more times & Nightshade at least once. Nigel Powell also recorded some solo tracks for Thom. At the end of Illiterate Hands a song likely to have been The Chains was rehearsed by the band.

Being the only ones of On A Friday still in town Thom and Jonny wrote songs, taping them on a four-track in Jonny’s bedroom. Thom: “Composing songs with Jonny made me feel more comfortable with writing lyrics--an activity I hadn’t felt like bothering with for a long time.”

Then in October of 1988 Thom went to Exeter University to study English and fine arts. In his first year, he took a job at the Lemon Grove, a campus bar. He was the DJ for the University’s Big Club night, usually held on Fridays. This had made him a cult figure on campus. There at Exeter Thom formed a short lived band with his friend, now know as Shack, called Headless Chickens. In his second year, he was introduced to computers, Exeter’s newly acquired Macs, and he was fascinated with it. While the others were at college Jonny learned to play guitar from Thom's brother Andy Yorke.

The band would still get together to play during the holidays & on weekends once a month (not necessarily on Fridays). It is thought that they canidated & actually performed under the name Shindig (possibly b/c of the song) before or while they were On A Friday though nothing is sure. Ed once said "We were never really happy with the name [On A Friday] & we went through loads of name changes. It didn't make any difference to us, we weren't doing any gigs at the time. So on a whim each vacation holiday we came back & it'd be 'I got a great idea for a name' & all think it was great for about 5-10 minutes & so changed again." This is probably the best explanation for the various names of the band rumored in the past.

At some point in 1988 On A Friday added a three saxophone brass section (1 2) to their line up which included 2 sisters & some guy that everyone seems to ignore (most information sources tell you that it was an all female horn section). On A Friday did a small number of shows in 1988 including: The Exeter Event at Exeter College (supporting the Icicle Works) & London School of Economics in the summer. During this time, with the horn section, the Elvis Costello song Pump it Up was an encore favorite of the band.

Even though Thom moved back to Oxford, he would hang around in Exeter in sHack’s flat and play guitars. This new project, which Thom would be a part of only briefly, was known as Flicker Noise. But Thom only played the one show before deciding to devote himself exclusively for On a Friday. In Colin's final year he's put in charge of booking bands for the Peterhouse Ball so On A Friday play there three times (Colin once booked Humphrey Littleton, who later played on Life in a Glasshouse). Mid 1990 Colin, Ed, & Phil had finished university but Thom was still at Exeter. During this time Colin, Ed, & Phil got various jobs around town.

During the summer of 1990, Phil had gone to Ireland on a romantic quest, so Nigel Powell was asked to fill in for him so On A Friday could keep rehearsing, and On A Friday also recorded a number of songs on Nigel's now aged four track. For a while it seemed that Phil might not return & Nigel was asked if he would be interested in the job, but refused, since he was already about as busy as he could be in the Rhinos and Freak!. Phil returned that September.

Over the summer of 1990 On A Friday recorded 15 tracks (several with Nigel) which they compiled into a demo tape. Some of the tracks were even recorded at Clifton Hampden Village Hall, their regular rehearsal ground for the past few years. One afternoon, likely around October 1990, John Butcher, an old friend of Thom & Colin as well as a close friend of Chris Huffard's assistant, went to Courtyard Studios, which was run by Chris Hufford & Bryce Edge, with a demo tape by On A Friday. "You couldn't hear any one band on it," Hufford says now of his first taste of On A Friday. "There were some good tunes but it was all obviously ripped off mercilessly." Hufford might have ignored the demo if not for the 15th track which he speaks of here, "It was a weird looped-up dance thing which was completely mental but had something about it that was very different (New Generation)."

On A Friday went to Dungeon Studios in April of 1991 & recorded the self titled On A Friday demo. Ed was used as the contact on the back of the cassette. Colin worked in the Our Price in the Wesgate Centre, a covered mall on Queen Street in Oxford. There Colin met Keith Wozencroft, an EMI sales rep. Colin handed him a copy of the band's On A Friday demo tape which is one of the things which led to the band getting signed.

That summer of 1991 Thom finished university & joined the others & shared semi-detached house in Oxford. Colin, Ed, & Phil had been working for a year while Thom was still at Exeter & this left Thom to sleep on the floor. Jonny was just about to start a psychology course at Oxford Poly.
...

After signing to Parlophone Colin and Jonny's mum refuses to tell their grandad on the grounds that the shock would kill him.

Various record labels got interested and finally EMI signed the band. After a show at The Venue they had their first review. Reviewer John Harris: "News of their signing had spread and there was a real sense of expectation." In the set at the time were "Prove Yourself", "Thinking About You" and "I Can't". Though he submitted a positive review, Harris wasn't wholly impressed; "Musically they were all over the place. They started with something Rickenbackery that sounded like All Mod Cons-Period Jam, then tey'd flip it with something that sounded like the Pixies."

The review prompted discussion in the band. On A Friday had been chosen when they were a weekend outfit of jamming schoolboys. Now they had to concede that the critic had a point: their name was at best, mundane. Some of the names they considered were Jude, Gravitate, & Music. Music was rejected because naming your band that is "the most obnoxious thing you can do."

The following was found at an Oxford Guide site which seems to no longer exist (explanations added by myself)
Before signing to a major record label, a producer suggested that they change the name because signs such as "Playing this Thursday, `On A Friday'" would be confusing. After much nagging from the record company, they were eventually given a choice of five names and ordered to pick one by the end of the day.

The choices were:
1) The Muhammed Alis
2) Dearest and Shindig
3) A Horse, a Spoon and a Bucket (originally a possible name for  Monty Python's Flying Circus)
4) RADIOHEAD (after the Talking Heads song about a radio station)
5) The Happy Chappies (after the 40s country duo Fred Howard & Nat Vincent)

It was a difficult choice (???) but they finally plumbed for RADIOHEAD, the name being derived from a Talking Heads track on The True Stories LP.
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Information obtained from The now defunct Unbelieveable Truth website, Q Magazine's 2003 RADIOHEAD special, A Bends Interview, & the following links: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

I'm Tired. Sleep Tonight.
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