Release date: February 1993
Pablo Honey is the debut studio album by English alternative rock band Radiohead, released in February 1993. The album was produced by Sean Slade and Paul Q. Kolderie and was recorded at Chipping Norton Studio and Countryard Studio, Oxfordshire from September to November 1992. It features three charting singles: "Anyone Can Play Guitar", "Stop Whispering" and "Creep", perhaps the band's most well-known hit on mainstream radio. Pablo Honey peaked at #22 in the UK charts and went platinum there and in other countries. The album title comes from a Jerky Boys prank call skit in which the prank caller says, "Pablo, honey? Please come to Florida!" to his victim. This snippet is sampled by the band on the track "How Do You?".
Following the release of Pablo Honey, the band would digress from its introspective, grunge-influenced style and self-deprecating lyrical themes toward more expansive and experimental works. The album would not garner the widespread acclaim of Radiohead's subsequent releases, but received a generally favourable critical reaction, and has retrospectively received greater acclaim.
After a long dormancy while the members attended university, the band On a Friday reconvened in the early 1990s, becoming fixtures on the local Oxford scene with a series of demo recordings and well attended live gigs, finally signing with EMI/Parlophone and changing their name to Radiohead. The band's first official release, the Drill EP, was produced by their managers Chris Hufford and Bryce Edge, and sold poorly. For their debut album the band sought the production skills of Massachusetts-based Paul Kolderie and Sean Slade, responsible for Dinosaur Jr. and Buffalo Tom albums of which they were fans.
Several months in advance of the album, the band came out with their debut single "Creep". According to bassist Colin Greenwood, "Creep" had been written by singer/rhythm guitarist Thom Yorke sometime in the late 1980s, while he was at Exeter University, and was shared with other members of the band, who were mostly very enthusiastic, citing the song as a reason to continue making music together. However, it was not included on any of their early '90s demo tapes and had not been a part of their live set. At the time, "Inside My Head" (which would later be released as a b-side to "Creep") was considered a good candidate for the band's lead single.
Sometime in 1992 the band began an impromptu performance of "Creep" at a recording session, referring to it as their "Scott Walker song" because it reminded them of one of their musical idols. Rumour states that Jonny Greenwood's famous guitar crunches in the chorus were supposedly an attempt to ruin a song he did not like. But "Jonny played the piano at the end of the song and it was gorgeous," stated producer Paul Kolderie (though the piano was mixed in at the wrong time, the band decided to keep the take complete with mistake, not for the last time). "Everyone who heard 'Creep' just started going insane. So that's what got us the job doing the album." As soon as their managers and producers realised the song was an original (not a Walker cover), other plans were put on the back burner, to the band's surprise, and "Creep" was released as a limited single to the public in late 1992. However, the single initially went nowhere. It was even blacklisted from Radio 1 for being too depressing. In the meantime the bulk of the album was recorded, in autumn 1992. Recording sessions were completed very quickly, as the band had been playing many of these songs for years. However, what ended up on Pablo Honey represents only a fraction of their On a Friday-era recorded material, with very little overlap with earlier demos. The album was once described by a Radiohead member as 'Our greatest hits as an unsigned band', with smooth sonic textures, anthemic vocals and walls of guitar noise. "Prove Yourself", which had led off Drill, reappears however in a different recording, as do "You" and "Thinking About You" in reworked versions.
NME placed the record 35th of the 50 albums to appear in the magazine's end-of-year list for 1993, describing it as "a throwback to a homegrown tradition of great guitar-band albums". In 1998, Q magazine readers voted Pablo Honey the 61st greatest album of all time. A Virgin poll saw Pablo Honey voted 100th in the all-time top 1000 albums. In 2004, Q included "Lurgee" and "Blow Out" a list of twenty essential, lesser-known Radiohead songs as part of their "1010 Songs You Must Own". In 2006, Classic Rock recognised the importance of Pablo Honey's contribution to popular music in the 1990s by including the record in their "200 Greatest Albums of the 90's" (also featured in sister publication, Metal Hammer) as one of the 20 greatest albums of 1993. The same year, Blender placed the record 82nd in a feature entitled "100 Albums You Must Own", writing, "Self hate couldn't have found a better British exemplification with this band's debut single, which hit the world as part of an album that constructed walls of crunchy guitar tones amidst the dark lyrical content." In 2009, Amazon editors ranked Pablo Honey 26th in their "The 100 Greatest Debut Albums of All Time". IGN Music, in a 2010 article, ranked the often-maligned Pablo Honey as the 5th best of Radiohead's seven studio albums, writing, "Is it a classic? Yes. But when you consider that Radiohead would become one of the most innovative bands of the decade, Pablo Honey feels somewhat conventional. That doesn't make it any less awesome, however." Over time, the band began to drop many of the songs on the album from live setlists. However, since the turn of the millennium, "You", "Creep", "Lurgee" and "Blow Out" have all received live airings.