Alarmingly, Yorke once had hair similar to Kaelin's. Around the time of "Creep," Yorke's gaudy blond tresses were a frightening collision of English mod meets L.A. glam. These days, Yorke has settled on a buzzed, spiky look, which today is dyed black.
After the band's performance at L.A.'s Wiltern Theater the following evening, Yorke jumps into a car and crawls into the back, slouching down low. "You're probably going to be followed," he informs the driver. "You know how to lose people, don't you?"
Yorke is on the way to a private after-show party, at a restaurant in West Hollywood, that was organized by R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe. Since Radiohead opened for R.E.M.'s 1995 Monster tour, Stipe and the rest of the band have become big brothers to Yorke and Co., offering advice on how to navigate the potholes on the road to fame. "We were a different band after we toured with R.E.M.," O'Brien says. "They did it their own way, and we spoke about that as the way that we wanted to do it: go out there and gig, and win a few more people over on each album. Then when we met them, they seemed to really enjoy the position they were in, and they were being creative. It was really important for us to see that." Yorke and Stipe have since formed a tight bond. Before this evening's show, they even went shopping together, which nearly caused Yorke to be late for Radiohead's gig. "He's a good friend," says Yorke of Stipe. "He's been very helpful."
Yorke arrives at the open-air restaurant and shuffles in with his hands stuffed into his pockets, a sheepish grin on his face. Seated at the long table is a motley collection of rockers (Stipe, Mike D of the Beastie Boys, Hole's Eric Erlandson) and actors (Liv Tyler joined by three of the Phoenix siblings: Joaquin, Summer and Rain). Yorke settles into a chair, accepts a glass of champagne and orders french fries and a salad.
Yorke receives congratulations with a smile and a nod, and instead of working the room, chitchatting with the celebs, he stays in his chair, quietly eating his midnight meal and politely answering questions. ("I'm running out of people to get star struck over," he will say later.) Only after the plates are cleared does Yorke excuse himself to huddle one-on-one with Stipe. After an hour, the tour bus arrives to pick up Yorke for Radiohead's overnight trip to San Francisco. He says goodbye to Stipe, turns and gives a wave to the rest of the party, and saunters off, half-drunk and smiling.
A month after the tour began in California, the Radiohead juggernaut has made its way to Philadelphia. By all accounts, it has been a success, and, according to O'Brien, last night's Boston show was the best gig they've played yet. ("Aerosmith, eat your heart out," he boasts jokingly.) Joined on their tour bus by openers Teenage Fanclub for the drive to Philly, the bands tie one on until 5 a.m.
Understandably, there's a feeling of lethargy hanging in the Electric Factory, a Blade Runner-like venue just north of Philadelphia's Independence Hall. The band plays an average gig by its standards, but it does nothing to tarnish its reputation as one of the best live rock acts. Yorke's voice is still in unbelievable shape, even after four weeks on the road, and the crowd is spellbound by tense versions of "Exit Music" and "Karma Police," as well as a gripping "Paranoid Android."
It's a little odd, however, when "Creep" is played and Yorke, who has preened and posed his way through the song, lets the crowd sing the second verse. The song isn't a favorite of Jonny's, and when the time comes for his guttural belch of a guitar part, he rips into it with added vengeance. Yorke introduces the number – as he does most of the time – by saying, "We play this because it's still a good song," an unnecessary apology for their biggest hit.
"Sometimes I do have to justify it," he says. "Sometimes it's karaoke, and I enjoy hamming it up, but some days it really means something to me." It is the crowd's response to the new songs that means the most to Yorke. "I've been amazed that people know the new material so well," he says. "Sometimes we play 'Creep,' and halfway through we stop and say, 'Sorry, that's boring.' If people don't want to hear it, you can tell."
After the show, the band piles onto the bus, eager to get to New York for the tour's finale, two days later. The bus is held up momentarily while Yorke signs autographs. "Whew, I almost didn't get out of there," he says as he sinks into the couch at the front of the bus. It's been a recurring event throughout the tour and has given Yorke a whiff of the idolatry that is simmering in America. But instead of running to the solitude of the tour bus as he might have four years ago, Yorke has mellowed and accepted, albeit reluctantly, his public stature. "When we first came here, it was baptism by fire, and it was really freaking me out," he says. "I'm used to it now, and I have developed a leave-me-alone face."
Despite punishing fatigue, the guys are in good spirits. O'Brien and Colin attempt to roll a couple of spliffs. "Five weeks in America, and I still can't roll one," Colin says, displaying something that looks more like a soggy noodle. After the joints are passed around, the band pops in a video of Kiss' infamous 1976 interview with Tom Snyder. The segment is sidesplittingly funny, with Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley playing it straight while Peter Criss and Ace Frehley are bombed out of their minds.
"What a wanker," says Yorke as Simmons talks like a cocky businessman. "I'm sure there's a lesson for us somewhere in this interview."
When the tape ends, Jonny moves to the front of the bus to watch the looming New York skyline. "Oh, my God, look at that," says the driver. He's not referring to the World Trade Center; he's pointing to a tollbooth collector who is holding cassettes of OK Computer and Pablo Honey, shaking them vigorously. "He wants autographs!" the driver says. Jonny sits frozen in amazement, staring at the zealous fan. But the bus accelerates, leaving the fan empty-handed. Jonny turns around, looks at Yorke and deadpans: "Apparently we've made it."
"Yes," Yorke agrees. "We've made it."
This story is from the October 16th, 1997 issue of Rolling Stone.
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