How Neil Young inspired Thom Yorke to sing

In an excerpt from Jason Thomas Gordon’s upcoming book The Singers Talk, Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke explained some of his initial inspirations that led him to become a singer.

“I was really into Queen, but I never saw myself as Freddie Mercury,” Yorke says. “I was always Brian May in my head, surprisingly. And it sort of changed because I couldn’t really find anyone else to do it.”

Yorke explains in the book that it was a teacher during his primary school years who encouraged him to take vocal lessons and treat his voice with more care. Before that, Yorke was trying to imitate some of his heroes, including Morrissey, R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe, and Japan’s David Sylvian.

“I was really into David Sylvian’s voice, but my register wasn’t there,” Yorke admits. “It was much higher. It was sort of a comedy when I tried to sing like that.”

While Radiohead were gestating as their early incarnation named On a Friday, Yorke attempted to make a name for himself as a singer-songwriter after graduation. In his final teenage years, Yorke made a demo tape that helped guide his direction, specifically exposing him to a future hero, Neil Young.

“When I was 18, I took a year and recorded music for most of it,” Yorke said. “Then I sent the tape off, and it won, like, ‘Demo of the Month’ in this free music magazine, and this review said, ‘Who is this guy? He sounds just like Neil Young!’ I went, ‘Who’s Neil Young?’ [Laughter.]”

“I’d never even heard Neil Young, so I went out and bought After The Gold Rush and was like, ‘Wow! It’s OK to sound like that?’ Because he’s slightly higher than me, but there was a softness and a naiveté in the voice which I was always trying to hide. Then, it was like, ‘Oh, maybe I don’t need to hide it.’”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *