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Readers’ Poll: The 10 Best Radiohead Songs

You chose ‘Fake Plastic Trees,’ ‘Karma Police,’ ‘Reckoner’ and more

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Radiohead released King of Limbs back in February, but for some reason they waited until last month to actually promote the thing. They did a full-on New York media assault, appearing on Saturday Night Live, the Colbert Report and Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, in addition to two shows at Roseland Ballroom. With all the attention surrounding the group, we figured this was a good time to ask our readers to vote for their favorite songs by the band. You guys came out in big numbers, and selected some deep cuts that'll probably surprise some people. Click through to see the results. 

By Andy Greene

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9. ‘Reckoner’

Radiohead spent an unusually long period of time tinkering with "Reckoner." The song was first heard live in 2001, though at the time it was called "Being Pulled Apart By Horses." A stripped down version popped up at later shows, though it wasn't until the release of In Rainbows in 2008 that it was finally recorded. It was worth the wait. It's one of the highlights of the album and even better when they play it live. Also, check out Gnarls Barkley's cover of the song

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8. ‘There There’

The first single from 2003's Hail To The Thief has also become a live favorite over the past decade, though it requires three-fifths of the band to be on drum duty in order to properly pull it off. Radiohead haven't gotten much radio play in recent years, but this one does occasionally pop up. 

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7. ‘Let Down’

OK Computer hit a lot of people by surprise when it hit shelves in the summer of 1997. People paying attention knew the band were more than just the group that did "Creep," but few were prepared for the creative leap they had taken in the short time since The Bends came out just two years earlier. In an album full of classics it's easy to overlook "Let Down," but its haunting beauty certainly earns it a ranking very high on any list of their finest songs. "Andy Warhol once said that he could enjoy his own boredom," multi-instrumentalist Jonny Greenwood said. "'Let Down' is about that. It's the transit-zone feeling. You're in a space, you are collecting all these impressions, but it all seems so vacant. You don't have control over the earth anymore. You feel very distant from all these thousands of people that are also walking there." 

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6. ‘Street Spirit (Fade Out)’

This stand-out track on The Bends was a clear sign that Radiohead were maturing at a very dramatic pace. This is one of the few songs from the old days that they regularly play in concert, and one of the darkest tunes in their catalog. "All of our saddest songs have somewhere in them at least a glimmer of resolve," Thom Yorke has said. "'Street Spirit' has no resolve . . . It is the dark tunnel without the light at the end. It represents all tragic emotion that is so hurtful that the sound of that melody is its only definition." 

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5. ‘Everything In Its Right Place’

The kick-off track to Kid A was a clear sign to fans that this wasn't going to be Ok Computer II. The guitar is no longer the dominant instrument. It's been replaced by Yorke's piano work. In fact, he wrote this song on a baby grand immediately after buying the instrument. The lyrics were inspired by an experience he had after a U.K. show in 1997. "I sat in the dressing room and couldn't speak," Yorke told Rolling Stone.  "I actually couldn't speak. People were saying, 'You all right?' I knew people were speaking to me. But I couldn't hear them. And I couldn't talk. I'd just so had enough. And I was bored with saying I'd had enough. I was beyond that."

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4. ‘Karma Police’

"Karma Police" began as an inside joke with Radiohead around the time that they toured with Alanis Morissette in the summer of 1996. When somebody in the band acted like a dick, someone would warn them that the Karma Police were coming after them. An early version of the song was premiered on that tour, but they finished it in the studio when the tour wrapped up. The track was a single on OK Computer and it got them a fair amount of play on alternative radio at the time. 

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3. ‘Fake Plastic Trees’

They'll never admit it now, but many people first heard "Fake Plastic Trees" in the movie Clueless. It's in the scene where Cher comes home and finds her step-brother (and future boyfriend) Josh in her house. It's playing on the radio. "Yuk! Uh, the maudlin music of the university station," she says. "What is it about college and cry-baby music?" It's definitely a cry-baby song, especially the acoustic version used in the film, but it's also one of Radiohead's most anthemic songs. The first notes of it are guaranteed to send any crowd at a Radiohead show into absolute hysterics. 

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2. ‘Creep’

When "Creep" hit MTV in 1993, Radiohead seemed destined to be another One Hit Wonder alt-rock band. At best, they'd wind up like Better Than Ezra and "Creep" would be their "Good." The band had a dislike for the song from pretty early on (those famous guitar scratches are Jonny Greenwood trying to mess up what he thought was a boring song) and they even wrote "My Iron Lung" about how much they hated playing the song over and over again during their early days. After OK Computer broke big they pretty much stopped playing it, though it started to pop up on setlists a lot over the past five or so years. Yorke says it's been so long that the song almost feels like a cover song at this point. They even started opening with the song on their 2009 tour, guaranteeing that fans wouldn't drive them crazy by yelling for it all night. 

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1. ‘Paranoid Android’

If you had to play somebody one Radiohead song to convince them of the band's brilliance, it should probably be "Paranoid Android." Over the period of six minutes it showcases the beautiful quiet textures, and the arena-rock ready bombast the band is capable of achieving. It also inspired hipsters to work around New York with T-shirts that just say "Gucci Little Piggy." The track began as three separate songs, but drawing inspiration from the Beatles' "Happiness Is A Warm Gun," they just combined them all together. In a bold move, they released it as the first single from OK Computer, and refused to cut it down for radio. It still managed to get some airplay. Yorke has said it's about the fall of the Roman Empire, but good luck finding anything in the lyrics that seem related to that topic in any way. 

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