les membres du groupe et leur univers

Les années « Abingdon School » (1985-1986)

Site internet de l’école : http://www.abingdon.org.uk/

C’est dans l’école privée « Abingdon School », près d’Oxford, que les membres de Radiohead se sont rencontrés, puisqu’ils y ont tous été élèves.

Abingdon has a history dating back to the twelfth century, but it is not an élite bastion on the order of Eton or Winchester. Its students tend to come from the Thames Valley region, rather than from all over England, and many rely on scholarships. The members of Radiohead were born into ordinary middle-class families: Yorke’s father was a chemical-equipment supplier; Jonny and Colin’s father served in the Army. They were, basically, townies – the kids on the other side of the ancient walls. Even at Abingdon, they felt out of place. The headmaster of the school, Michael St. John Parker, cultivated a pompous manner that many alumni – not just Radiohead – remember less than fondly. Parker is still in charge, and has described the school spirit in these terms: « Competition is promoted, achievement is applauded, and individual dynamism is encouraged. » In schools of this kind, many students gravitate to the art, music, and drama departments, where the sense of discipline is looser.
— Juice 2001 Yearbook

 

Thom et Colin appartiennent à la même promo ; ils ont le même âge. Ils n’étaient pas vraiment amis avec Phil, deux ans plus âgé, et qui envoie promener « les petits ».

Avant 1986, chacun est impliqué dans des projets personnels, et ils ne se connaissent pas  : Ed et Colin, le club théâtre (cf infra), Thom et Colin jouent dans le groupe TNT. Jonny, 4 ans plus jeune que son frère Colin ne passera pas par l’école au même moment que les autres ! Toutefois, chacun y perfectionnera sa pratique d’un instrument : Colin, Thom et Ed la guitare classique, Phil le tuba et la batterie, Jonny le violon.

 

Thom est un électron libre depuis qu’il est tout petit. Au départ, il fréquentait l’école publique, mais ses parents l’ont inscrit à l’Abingdon School, ce qui va faire qu’il va être rejeté dans son quartier…

Still, when he was young he could see well enough to ride a bike, and he was a good gymnast until his teenage years, when he took up smoking. He went to a public primary school, and then a private high school, Abingdon, along with the rest of Radiohead. His friends at home rejected him because he went there. “They blanked me out. I used to cycle around, and one of them once got his older brother to kick the shit out of me and throw me in the river, just because I’d gone to that school.
— Blender, septembre 2003

 

Il n’a pas beaucoup d’amis et n’aime pas l’école privée  où il se bat régulièrement. Son père lui a donné quelques cours de boxe, mais il perd toujours…

Yorke’s aggression would play out in more constructive ways after his difficult stint at a boarding school in nearby Abingdon, where he was picked on and frequently engaged in fistfights, which he usually lost.

 

En tant qu’original, il se heurte au « headmaster » de l’Abingdon School, Michael St. John Parker, dont le loisir préféré est de se promener en robe d’évêque pour terroriser les enfants. Plus tard, Thom lui dédiera une chanson très à charge, « Bishop’s robes »

THE FIVE MEMBERS OF RADIOHEAD ALL MET AT A PRIVATE  boys’ school in Abingdon on the outskirts of Oxford, run by a man Thom maintains was a “power-crazed lunatic who banned music and walked around in robes impersonating a bishop”.
— Select, avril 1995

 

Un seul professeur trouve grace à ses yeux : Terence Gilmore-James, professeur de musique. Contrairement au directeur, il encourage Thom, et également les autres membres du futur groupe :

« I was a sort of leper at the time, » Yorke recalled, « and he was the only one who was nice to me. » Yorke was born with his left eye paralyzed; in his childhood, he endured a series of not entirely successful operations to correct it, and the oddity of his half-open eye made him a target for bullies. Tougher than he looked, he often fought back, but he preferred to disappear. « School was bearable for me because the music department was separate from the rest of the school, » he said. « It had pianos in tiny booths, and I used to spend a lot of time hanging around there after school, waiting for my dad to come home from work. » Other members of the band also studied with Gilmore-James and were encouraged by him. « When we started, it was very important that we got support from him, » Colin said, « because we weren’t getting any from the headmaster. You know, the man once sent us a bill, charging us for the use of school property, because we practiced in one of the music rooms on a Sunday. »

The yen for freedom in Radiohead’s sound owes a lot to Gilmore-James, who immersed his students in twentieth century classical music, avant-garde music of the postwar era, classic jazz, and film scores. Once, he had the school orchestra perform Richard Rodney Bennett’s score for Murder on the Orient Express while the film was playing. He left Abingdon in 1987 to devote himself to the legacy of his father-in-law, the Welsh composer Mansel Thomas, whose music he is editing for publication. « I watch over Radiohead much as I watch over my children, » he said in a phone call. He spoke with the fastidiousness of a lifelong teacher, and yet his tone was enthusiastic rather than dogmatic. « They were all of them talented boys, in the sense that they had more than average abilities to think for themselves. I was of a different generation, and I did not always grasp what they were after, but I knew that they were serious. And they were delightful to be around, always getting carried away by their latest discoveries. Whenever I see them » – his voice became firm – « I tell them that they must continue to pursue their own original line. »

— Juice Yearbook 2001

 

Solitaire, c’est dans la salle de musique que Thom passe son temps… et va se faire des copains.

Un professeur d’art, Nigel Hunter, témoignera de cette solitude :

Nigel Hunter, Yorke’s art teacher at Abingdon, says the aspiring rocker was strong-willed even then: « He was very independent. He wasn’t someone who was swayed by a crowd. »
— Time, 9 octobre 2002

 

 

 

Colin cultive un look très particulier. Artiste, il s’essaye au théâtre et joue dans diverses pièces, où il fait la connaissance d’un certain Ed O’Brien.

Colin et Ed jouant dans une pièce de l’école, en 1986 :

tumblr_lm9d82X0u91qklx0co1_1280

 

Il participe aussi au groupe TNT, où il rencontre Thom Yorke, le chanteur du groupe, bien que la guitare soit plutôt son instrument de prédilection.

Thom Yorke was, unsurprisingly, something of an odd child. When he was eight he was given a small Spanish guitar by his mother. He immediately had a revelation: Yes! A guitar! It was the future! He would be the next Brian May! Fame, adulation and outlandish curly perms would be his! Sadly, all he could play at the time was ‘Kumbaya’.

At the age of ten he formed his first ‘band’: Thom played his ugly homemade electric guitar, while his friend preferred to concentrate on making weird noises by dismantling old TV sets. Intermittently, the TVs would give his sidekick severe electric shocks. Mates would stand around and watch. Two years later, Thom joined the school punk band, TNT, and stepped in front of the microphone for the first time. No one else wanted to be the singer, so he thought he’d try it.

“I started singing into this little stereo mike tied to the end of a broomstick handle. Everyone just started falling about laughing, and that was that. That was my introduction to singing.”

— Select, avril 1995

 

Ed lui est un étudiant tranquille, à qui il arrive des histoires rigolottes, comme se faire pincer avec un magazine porno…

At Abingdon Boys School, where he was a weekly boarder, he remembers getting into trouble after a short-lived sideline as a 14-year-old porn gopher to sixth formers. « It was just an attempt to become more well-liked. You see, I was the only person in the third year who could reach the porn magazines from the top shelf. So I’d get them and lend them out to the older kids. Then one day, one of them left one on his bed and I got hauled in to explain myself. My parents were divorced so I had to tell them separately. I remember my mum’s disappointment, but the following week, when I told my dad, he was like, ‘That’s my boy!' »
— Mojo, août 2003

 

Vers 1985-86, les futurs membres de Radiohead ne se connaissent pas encore. Thom et Colin se croisent parfois dans des fêtes, où ils tous les deux un look très « étudié »… et font quelques bétises ensemble. Il faut rappeler que l’Abingdon School est une école pour garçons, et que pour rencontrer les filles, les fêtes sont vitales.

As 15-year-olds, Colin Greenwood and Yorke weren’t friends, but they crashed the same parties. Greenwood wore unitards and listened to Alien Sex Fiend; Yorke wore thrift-store suits that his mother altered to fit him. “We’d turn up at parties, and he’d be in a cat suit and I’d be in a sharp suit,” Yorke says. One time, with friends, they left a party drunk and decided to play chicken by lying in the middle of the road to see if cars would stop. The first vehicle that approached was a police car. They didn’t play again.

(…)

Yorke found the parties hard. He had hit puberty young, at 11, but Abingdon School was for boys only. “Going to single-sex schools is damaging, and it takes a long time to sort it out,” he says. “Because you want to get some action, and you can’t get any. And when you do, it’s fucked up. I used to go to these parties because I wanted to get into trouble and meet girls, and that’s where you go, but it’s such a ridiculously pressurized situation. I’d get [drunk] out of my mind and then take charge of the music: ‘Fuck the lot of you; we’re listening to Joy Division.

— Blender, septembre 2003

 

 

Finalement, tous les deux participent au groupe  TNT, Colin y joue de la basse, Thom chante, mais quittera vite la formation, car il a pris conscience que cela ne le mènera à rien. Il crée donc un nouveau groupe, avec Colin, qui reste un peu plus longtemps que lui dans TNT (mais qu’il va donc réussir à débaucher), un ami de Colin : Ed… et Phil, qui possède sa propre batterie.

En savoir plus sur l’aventure TNT : http://www.radiohead.fr/?p=25333

 

Once he realised that the other members of TNT all had bigger mouths and bigger egos than he did, he began stalking the corridors of the school in search of the people to make up his own band.

“I formed it with Ed (O’Brien, guitarist) because I thought he was cool and looked like Morrissey; and with Colin (one half of the Greenwood brothers) because he was in my year and we always ended up at the same parties. He’d be wearing a beret and a catsuit, or something pretty fucking weird, and I’d be in a frilly blouse and crushed-velvet dinner suit, and we’d pass around the Joy Division records. I sympathised with him for being in TNT after I left, so I told him he could join if he played bass like Peter Hook. He never did.”

— Select, avril 1995

 

Colin a fait la connaissance d’Ed en 1986 au club théâtre de l’école, lors d’une représentation de « Trial by Jury », une pièce de Gilbert and Sullivan. Il va le présenter à Thom, qui l’engage parce qu’il aime bien son look « Morissey ».

Their love of Joy Division united Radiohead, along with their worship of the Smiths and R.E.M. O’Brien was recruited because he looked like Morrissey.
— Blender, septembre 2003

 

At Abingdon School, outside of Oxford, Thom and Colin were in the same year. They used to crash the same parties, Thom wearing a dinner suit, Colin a body stocking and a beret. Phil’s buddies — they were two years older — used to beat them up. Colin met Ed on a school production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s *Trial by Jury*. Thom had wanted to be in a band ever since he got tired of Lego blocks, so he got the others together to play everything from ska to country.
— Details, novembre 1993

 

 

La musique les réunit alors tous. Phil, tuteur de Thom et Colin,  a accepté de participer à l’aventure parce qu’il croyait dans le potentiel du groupe :

Way back at Abingdon School he was in Colin’s tutor group. He thought Colin and Yorke stood out for “obvious reasons” and joined their outfit On a Friday, wanting them to be like Orange Juice or U2 or Echo and the Bunnymen.
— Q #204, juillet 2003

 

Dès le départ, Thom prend le rôle de boss : demande à Phil de jouer un peu plus vite, à Colin de jouer à la manière de Peter Hook…

The first thing Thom ever said to Phil the drummer was, “Can’t you play any fucking faster?”(…)“YES. I DO REMEMBER THE FIRST WORDS THOM ever said to me,” laughs Phil Selway (…)“I soon learned to play faster.’

— Select, avril 1995

 

 

Les répétitions ont lieu dans la salle de musique de l’école. Une démo y sera même enregistrée.

Although as yet they didn’t know each other, music was a means of escape from the rest of their regimented schooling. « When you‘re at school you get into a band and you get to be kind of a cool person in your year. » – Phil. Whenever possible, Thom, Jonny, Ed, Colin and Phil used to retreat to the music school where they could experiment and create. They took their first influences from bands around at the time such as Magazine.
— Answerphone début 1995

 

Though the five didn’t know each other that well, they began meeting up in the school’s music department, which Yorke describes as « great-no one came down there, and there were these tiny rooms with soundproofed cubicles. » Colin remembers Abingdon’s music school as a place « where we would all run and hide away from the tedious conformity of timetables and uniforms. »
— Guitar World, avril 1998

 

Et pourtant, le directeur continue à les tracasser…

Is it true that your headmaster at Abingdon once sent you a bill for usin the school’s music rehersal rooms at the weekend?

COLIN: Yes, he did. Sixty quid! We used the upstairs music room on a Sunday for a rehearsal and he sent the bill to Terry. So Terry went to see the headmaster in high dudgeon and tore it up in front of him. What a stupid thing to do! Not ripping it up, but sending it in the first place.
But it’s so ridiculous, isn’t it? What was good for me about our old school was we did all the plays and after-school stuff, and you learnt how to work with other people in an organised way, and make things happen that weren’t on the curriculum, for yourself. I think that was really good for us as a group that we were able to carry on that energy and use it for ourselves.

— Hot Press 2008 Annual

 

Les répétitions ont lieu le vendredi, d’où le nom du groupe : On A Friday.

En savoir plus sur l’aventure On A Friday : http://www.radiohead.fr/?p=25332

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