Radiohead had a pretty good 2017 by any standards. They headlined Glastonbury and Coachella as part of a tour of the world (which begins again in South America this year) and they re-released their hugely successful album OK Computer to mark its 20th anniversary. But this song goes back even further, to their very first record, Pablo Honey.
This may not be a protest song as such, but it has the necessary hallmarks - a rousing, anthemic chorus you can sing along to, with a positive, determined, voice-of-the-oppressed message. Apparently Radiohead wrote Stop Whispering as a tribute to the Pixies, although they have unsurprisingly acknowledged that it sounds nothing like them. Indeed, it sounded even less so after engineer Chris Sheldon had finished with it when it. He remixed the track for the American release in the hope of capitalising on the success of the Billboard Top 40 hit single Creep the previous year. If you check out the video you'll hear a much softer version, particularly when you discover that the angry middle eight guitar thrash has been toned-down to a gentle radio edit which fades out just as the original is sinking its teeth into a crescendo of apoplectic noise.
A year after the release of the Itch EP, which featured the notorious Chris Sheldon version of Stop Whispering, frontman Thom Yorke was telling b-side magazine that he wished he'd had the perspicacity to realise "that the mix was shocking and we spent too much money on the video".
"Its the usual follow-up syndrome," he said; but they learned an important lesson from it. "Now Radiohead have this rule: you never ever record a song more than once. Never, unless it's live. One of the vital aspects of Radiohead is spontaneity, and that only happens once."
Almost 25 years after the release of Pablo Honey, that spontaneity, the raw power of that shout, still sends a shiver down the spine and inspires listeners to cry out to be heard by the "wise man" and the "thin man". As long as they're listening to the right version of course.
Before leaving, it would seem negligent not to acknowledge one political bump in the road which Radiohead had to negotiate in 2017 - the controversy over their concert in Tel Aviv in July. Israel's domestic and foreign policies aren't exactly blameless and for more than a decade the country has been the target of an international boycott campaign protesting the illegal occupation of Palestinian land.
Without seeking to defend the band's decision, Thom Yorke pointed out that Radiohead have been performing all around the world - including both Israel and the USA - for two decades. "We don’t endorse [Israeli prime minister Benjamin] Netanyahu any more than Trump," he said. It's worth noting that many well-known figures from arts and entertainment support the boycott, but it is not supported by the EU nor the two main political parties in the USA, or by JK Rowling, who was one of 100 British artists and authors who put their names to an open letter in 2015 calling for "dialogue rather than boycotts".
You can learn more about Radiohead here
About the curator: Jon Ewing
After graduating from the University of Keele in England with a degree in Politics and American Studies, Jon worked as editor of a music and entertainment magazine before spending several years as a freelance writer and, with the advent of the internet, a website designer, developer and consultant. He lives in Reading, home to one of the world's most famous and long-running music festivals, which he has attended every year since 1992.
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