Mar 282019
15. Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox ft. Chloe Feoranzo – No Surprises

Radiohead purists will be horrified from the first clarinet notes, but everyone else will probably be charmed by this beignet of a song, deep fried in jazz and covered in powdered sugar. – Sean Balkwill

14. John Frusciante – Lucky

Thom Yorke seems an unlikely Red Hot Chili Peppers fan. He’s in the coolest band in the world, and they might just be the least-cool. But witness the evidence. For years, one of Yorke’s closest non-Radiohead collaborators has been Flea, in their band Atoms for Peace. And the one Pepper surprisingly inspired Radiohead’s classic “Reckoner.” Per Thom himself: “I went to see the Chili Peppers a few times and I really like the way John Frusciante plays… It was sort of a homage to that, in my sort of clunky ‘can’t–really-pick’ kind of way.” As Frusciante’s solo “Lucky” cover displays, the respect is clearly mutual. [Note: After we finalized this list, a post-Frusciante Chili Peppers covered “Pyramid Song” at some actual pyramids] – Ray Padgett

13. Scott Matthew – No Surprises

Who needs much production when you’ve got a voice like this? – Jane Callaway<

12. The Darkness – Street Spirit (Fade Out)

For the same reason “Street Spirit” would work on Broadway (see #43), the song works wonders translated into about the most un-Radiohead genre there is: hair metal. An absurd and alarming combination on paper, The Darkness covering Radiohead works because they picks the one song that could fit their spandex-and-hairspray style. Justin Hawkins’ ridiculous falsetto gets put to good use here. Just don’t try that with “True Love Waits.” – Ray Padgett

11. Ramin Djawadi – Codex

Radiohead songs features prominently in both seasons of the HBO series Westworld . It’s not a surprising choice given the similarity of the story line to many of Radiohead’s dramatic lyrics, not to mention the level of emotion in the music. “Codex” serves as the finale to the roller coaster of a ride that is season two. Ramin Djawadi is the genius behind the series soundtrack, creating symphonic arrangements of highly popular songs that somehow seem new in the context of the show. With “Codex”, he keeps the simple piano line while adding a melody line in the upper register. The rest of the instrumentation is handled by the strings. The end result is true to the original while at the same time honoring the journey of the main characters as they move on to a new world. – Angela Hughey

10. SONOS – Everything In Its Right Place

A cappella Radiohead cover – four words that could probably send a certain subset of listeners running for cover. But SONOS do something very different here, in part because they totally cheat. Yes, this is all music made without instruments per se, but not without the aid of effects pedals. The echoes, octave pedals, and sweeps here immediately transcend the typical a cappella genre and envelop the listener in a futuristic world of voices. This is not to take away anything from the vocal performances; at the end of the bridge the voices mesh in a more traditional a cappella arrangement that sounds absolutely incredible. – Mike Misch

9. Prince – Creep

Back in the day when Coors beer was unavailable east of the Mississippi, Billy Carter was quoted as saying, “Marijuana is like Coors beer. If you could buy the damn stuff at a Georgia filling station, you’d decide you wouldn’t want it.”

In a related story, Prince performed a set at Coachella 2008, a mix of hits and covers, with the agreed-upon standout being his version of Radiohead’s “Creep.” The day after the show, his lawyers got busy sending out takedown notices to those who attempted to post Prince’s set on YouTube. Wouldn’t want to dilute the Prince mystique by making it available to just anyone, y’see.

Well, a lot can change in ten years, let alone 40. Now Coors Light is the second-best-selling beer in America, marijuana can be purchased at certain shops on the corner, and, with Radiohead themselves clamoring to see a video of the performance, Prince finally relented, even tweeting out links to the resulting YouTube vid, which has since passed ten million views.

Has this exposure lessened the impact of that night’s performance? Not a jot. Prince makes “Creep” his and his alone for eight glorious minutes. His scatting, his screaming, his soloing – his song. For tens of thousands of Coachella attendees who were born after Purple Rain came out, Prince was a discovery. For the rest of us, and for the rest of his life, Prince was a revelation. – Patrick Robbins

8. Mark Ronson ft. Phantom Planet – Just

Mark Ronson has a lot of fun throwing horns into the mix and inviting a couple of guys from Phantom Planet along for the ride. If you’re looking for the opposite of Radiohead, this is it. If you are not, you are in the wrong place. – Sean Balkwill

7. Amanda Palmer – Idioteque

Back in 2010, this track made it into our Top 20 covers of the year, and for good reason. The piano and ukulele combine to provide a wonderfully layered accompaniment that is still far simpler than the original. Palmer’s voice sounds great here solo, but even better once she brings in multiple harmonies. The song is the appropriate mix of unsettling and beautiful. – Mike Misch

6. Portland Cello Project – Climbing Up the Walls

Orchestral covers of pop music are a dime a dozen, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. But an authentic take on a deeper cut always wins the day. Pulling up “Climbing Up the Walls” by its rock and roll roots, PCP blends an orchestral sound with the rhythm section of the small stage rock show, and Patti King’s strong, clear vocals soar right over a killer ending. Just one of the best. – Sean Balkwill

5. Camille O’Sullivan – True Love Waits

Given the original song starts with Thom Yorke expressing willingness to have babies and dress like a nurse, the song somehow sits more safely with a female voice. Camille, who started out as an acid jazz belter before there was even acid jazz, has mellowed into a haunting interpreter of, often, torchy songs like this, maintaining an audience mainly in France, where, interestingly, she has done a lot of Piaf covers. Somehow thence discovering a tangible substantial link between the tortured vocals of Yorke and those of the “Little Sparrow.” The song doesn’t go far, melodically, but gets everywhere it needs to, this arrangement giving an icy weight absent in the original. – Seuras Og

4. David Bazan’s Black Cloud – Let Down

For almost a full minute, David Bazan’s Black Cloud repeat a warbly guitar accompanied only by ethereal background sounds. Eventually the bass guitar and Bazan’s singing enter the picture, but the stage has been set. Bazan’s voice is warm, even when he’s singing about terrible things, so surrounding him with the cold and repetitive noises here allows the dystopian feeling to stick around throughout. It’s never off-putting, just the right amount of melancholy and isolation. – Mike Misch

3. The Sour Notes – Cuttooth

The Sour Notes dug deep for their fantastic 2018 covers album This Is Not Our Music, tackling what covers database SecondHandSongs says is the least-covered song on this entire list: “Cuttooth,” from Radiohead’s 2001 Knives Out EP. This Austin psych-rock band makes it sound like a standard, though, bringing some heavy fuzz to the unexpectedly earwormy melody. Frontman Jared Boulanger says the arrangement stems from the fact Radiohead has never played it live: “When I found that out, I wondered if it was because they wrote and recorded “Cuttooth” in the studio more or less and never really fleshed it out as a band. This gave me the idea to create a version of the song that could be played easily with a 5-piece band like Radiohead. I’m really happy of the way it turned out and hope that when Radiohead decides to play it live, it sounds like our version.” – Ray Padgett

2. Gillian Welch – Black Star

Nestled amongst the rest of The Bends, “Black Star” is one of many of Radiohead songs that exist in a liminal space defined by the band’s interest in the private narratives of people trying to live and love and the band’s unrest concerning the dehumanization of late-stage capitalism and technology. In Radiohead’s hands, we are to take seriously Thom’s paranoia and evasiveness concerning who or what is to blame for the obvious trouble facing a romantic couple. Even if The Bends’s attempts at sonic alienation and opacity seem quaint in comparison to the blips and bleeps that would come to define Radiohead’s more obvious explorations of the dehumanizing forces of modernity, the static and interference are very much a part of the original; the song fades in like a satellite burst accidentally overheard and, is often the case with early Radiohead, pits Jonny’s guitar work against Thom’s narrative vocals, even when they are seemingly headed in the same direction. Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings remove all opposition to the narrative; as brilliant as the acoustic guitar work is, it’s clearly in support of Welch’s plaintive delivery. As such, the chorus – “Blame it on the black star / blame it on the falling sky / blame it on the satellite that beams me home” – reads as an excuse. Whatever failings have led to distance between the “I” and the “you” become human failings; given the delivery and production, those feelings feel far more traditional – jealousy, booze, distance – than we typically attribute to a Radiohead song, and yet they are things that appear throughout the Radiohead canon. Welch and Rawlings do the song a great service, not by remaking it but by revealing that a great strength of Radiohead as a band is a willingness to subject torch songs of the rawest and potentially cringe-worthy emotion to the kiln of noise and interference responsible for what we typically think of as a Radiohead song. – Matt Vadnais

1. Bent Knee – Creep

It’s not an original song choice – for a band that already gets covered more than most, “Creep” is clearly one of the go-to cover song choices from the catalog. Even in our list here of the best of the best, “Creep” gets the most slots (four). Bent Knee has done something truly noteworthy with their version. Without making it quirky or gimmicky, or completely changing the style or genre, their “Creep” stands out from the crowd. After the quiet guitar opening, the band kicks it to 11 behind Courtney Swain’s blistering vocals – on the verses, though, not the chorus. The song chugs along until hitting the brakes on the chorus, the inverse of the “quiet-loud-quiet” original. The isolation described in the chorus can be felt thanks to this new volume dynamic, with Swain quietly echoing in space singing “I don’t belong here.” Bent Knee are playing in the same space as the original, while creating a fresh new take which is exactly what you want from a great cover. – Mike Misch

Check out many more entries in our Best Covers Ever series!

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  15 Responses to “The Best Radiohead Covers Ever”

Comments (14) Pingbacks (1)
  1. OK Im Upset. Seriously, how did you not Include Lianne La Havas – Weird Fishes?!?

  2. Pretty surprised to not see
    My Brightest Diamond – Lucky

    and Kate Rogers – Climbing Up The Walls has always been a favourite too

  3. No Easy All-Stars? Their “Radiodread” album was pretty good. This is the standout track from it (IMHO):

  4. I’m not a fan of imitation covers, LOVE when people take a song and make it their own.

  5. I’ve done a solo, acoustic harp cover of Creep that I hope you’ll enjoy.

  6. You forgot this (the best Bloom’s cover) ;)

  7. This one caught me off guard. I know everyone says this but it’s one of the better Radiohead covers you will ever hear: “I Will” by a Georgian men’s church choir from Tbilisi.

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