Everything In Its Right Place: A Conversation with Brad Osborn

Published by Sean Perrin on

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Most fans would agree that OK Computer and beyond represents the band’s best work, but have you ever stopped to consider why this is from a musical perspective? Today on the podcast I’m joined by Brad Osborn, who is the author of a book called “Everything In Its Right Place: Analyzing Radiohead.” We discuss the band’s creative use of song forms, musical timbres, and, most interestingly how they choose to combine elements in ways that push the boundaries, but never quite break them. We also reach an amazing realization about why “Lift” may never have made it onto OK Computer.


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Glossary and Mentions

Presented in chronological order.

Discussion Topics

[1:50] – Brad’s Musical Past

  • His mother made him take piano and band
  • Started drumming at a young age
  • Got into Radiohead around Kid A
  • The ease of falling in love with music when young

[4:27] – Everything In Its Right Place: Analyzing Radiohead

  • Story time from Sean
  • Does Radiohead’s music have value compared to the historical greats such as Bach?
  • Review of songwriting sections and forms: verse, chorus, bridge, intro, outro

[9:01] – Radiohead’s Unique use of Musical Form

  • Karma Police and the Terminally Climactic Form
  • As Radiohead makes song form more complex, other elements become less complex (or vice versa)
  • Perceptual energy and “The Goldilocks Zone”
  • Is this the true genius of Radiohead?

[14:33] – The True Brilliance of Radiohead

  • Lift would have been Radiohead’s last attempt at a “normal” song form
  • Nigel Godrich’s role in the band, especially influence on song form
  • The “gestation” period for Radiohead songs
  • Does Godrich “focus” the band’s efforts?
  • “Pablo Honey could have been written by Oasis or Blur
  • The risk of exploring song forms
  • The “absent tonic”

[27:20] – Is the band Aware of the Techniques they are using?

  • Thom Yorke is one person, but millions have made their own interpretations, the latter is more important
  • Short answer: no
  • If they don’t then how?
  • The songwriting forms of In Rainbows

[30:20] – Why doesn’t Radiohead write longer songs?

  • It’s just not their thing, it might leave the “Goldilocks Zone”
  • Through-composed form
  • What are some examples of Radiohead songs that use this technique
  • The delayed “catchiness” of Radiohead songs
  • Idioteque is Brad’s all-time favourite song of theirs

[38:30] – Considering past and future

  • Which song from the past most influenced their future?
  • Which song from the present is most reminiscent of their past?
  • Which song from their latest album gives a hint to their future?

[42:06] – Which came first, Clive or the complex drum parts?

  • The poly rhythm on The King of Limbs
  • Clive’s inclusion in the band
  • Other band members performing

[44:30] – Listener Questions

  1. Who do you think influences the band today?
    Thom and Johnny have very different influences
  2. Do you plan on writing more about Radiohead?
    Brad needs a Radiohead break
  3. Have you had access to the band for your research?
    Sadly no, but Johnny has a copy of the book
  4. What was the first album that you purchased?
    Pearl Jam – Versus
  5. What bands do you think are following Radiohead’s footsteps?
    Mue and Bjork, sadly he hasn’t heard any new ones with the same vision

[49:48] – Lighting Round

  1. What are three other bands Radiohead fans should check out?
    Dirty Projectors
  2. What is a passion outside of Radiohead that you have?
    Climbing and being outdoors
  3. What is something you do on a regular basis that you feel leads to your success?
    Read a lot and listen a lot.
  4. What is something that you do that’s unique amongst your friends?
    Not worrying about publishing.



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