A Case-by-Case Legal History of Radiohead
Oh, so you’re such a big fan now? Name three of their lawsuits.
Notorious money-grubbers Radiohead are back at it again this week, with Lana Del Rey announcing via Twitter that they’re suing for 100 percent of the royalties of her Lust for Life closer “Get Free,” due to its similarity to “Creep.” Nevermind that apparently a lawsuit doesn’t currently exist—it’s time to grab your 9.3/10 Pitchforks and burn your copies of Kid A.
While you breathe in those fumes, though, it seems like a swell opportunity to take a look back at the band’s long and painful legacy of litigation that most have forgotten about.
Chris Isaak v. Radiohead (1994)
Many have noted the plagiarism saga that led The Hollies to be credited as songwriters on “Creep,” but few remember the bizarre claim that was made by visibly distraught Chris Isaak, during a performance at Lollapalooza 1994, that he had, in fact, been the writer behind the Pablo Honey track “Anyone Can Play Guitar.” It was assumed to be a joke, but before Radiohead’s legal team could provide a statement, Thom Yorke verified Isaak’s involvement during Radiohead’s set later that day, adding, “Fuck me, totally forgot about that one.”
Radiohead v. Microsoft (1997)
Following the surprise worldwide success of OK Computer, and in the shadow of Ed O’Brien’s continued difficulty mastering Excel, the band looked to dismantle the ill-fated tech industry themselves. The human rights case went to trial, but Yorke had a sudden change of heart when he remembered, on the stand, that Brian Eno had been the one behind the Windows 95 startup chime, at which point he began to cry.
Radiohead v. the British Army (2000)
Later admitted to simply be a publicity stunt tied in with the promotion of the Amnesiac single “You and Whose Army?,” the band’s council entered into brief litigation against the Queen’s Guard, assuring their clients that symbolic charges get filed, like, all the time. The charge was in turn received as an act of war, and Yorke, Jonny Greenwood, Colin Greenwood, and Ed O’Brien each did eight months in a minimum security prison. Philip Selway did ten.
Greenwood v. Greenwood (2007)
Confusing the film with There Will Be Blood, Colin Greenwood sat down to watch No Country for Old Men, and was aghast to find that his brother’s critically acclaimed soundtrack was a non-existent charade—a pattering of wind sounds and Josh Brolin grunts accompanied by no music whatsoever. Insisting that Jonny “always received all the credit for doing nothing,” and repeatedly calling him a “potato,” he sued for 50 percent of the soundtrack’s royalties, and the case was immediately dismissed.
Radiohead v. Lana Del Rey (2018)
Eager to find a way to have “Creep” placed in the behind-the-scenes DVD extra of It, Radiohead were frustrated to learn that Stephen King himself had vetoed the song’s inclusion, citing its similarity to the Lana Del Rey song “Get Free.” As a surprise Christmas gift to Colin, who hadn’t spoken to his brother in over a decade, Jonny personally served Del Rey, later recounting the scene, saying, “We’re gonna get ’em, Col. We’re gonna get ’em.” FL