When Radiohead’s “You” saw its proper release as the lead track on the band’s debut album Pablo Honey (1993), listeners were greeted by a sparse chiming guitar figure that wrapped gently around itself before being pummeled by an onslaught of buzzsaw riffs and bottom-heavy drumming. When Catherine Wheel’s “Texture” saw its proper release as the lead track on the band’s debut album Ferment (1992), listeners were greeted by a sparse chiming guitar figure that wrapped gently around itself before being pummeled by an onslaught of buzzsaw riffs and bottom-heavy drumming.
There are a few ways to historicize this one. First, we could get all technical and argue about how “You” was released in seriously limited fashion on Radiohead’s Drill EP in 1992, which came out just prior to Ferment. The other is to state the obvious: Radiohead evolved out of the swirly waters of post-Loveless shoegaze, which oozes all over both Pablo Honey and Ferment. The other is to make a slightly bolder claim: Radiohead—The Mightiest Band This Side of the Stone Roses—got its start by ripping off Catherine Wheel. Since I’ve never been prone to impartiality, and since Radiohead left “You” in pretty much the same shape during the year between Ferment and Pablo Honey’s release, I’m going with the third option.
The implications of that thesis are pretty major, as the past twentyish years have seen Radiohead’s stock rise astronomically, while about half of Catherine Wheel’s stellar catalogue has slipped out of print. Thankfully, Cherry Red intervened and reissued Ferment in expanded form earlier this year. It’s a welcome reissue that gets just about everything right, which can often be a rarity with these campaigns.