Pablo Honey

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Pablo Honey
A baby's face inside a flower
Studio album by
Released22 February 1993
RecordedSeptember–November 1992
Radiohead chronology
Pablo Honey
Radiohead studio album chronology
Pablo Honey
The Bends
Singles from Pablo Honey
  1. "Creep"
    Released: 21 September 1992
  2. "Anyone Can Play Guitar"
    Released: 1 February 1993
  3. "Stop Whispering"
    Released: 5 October 1993

Pablo Honey is the debut album by English rock band Radiohead. It was released on 22 February 1993 in the United Kingdom by Parlophone and on 20 April in the United States by Capitol Records. It was produced by Sean Slade, Paul Q. Kolderie and Chris Hufford.

The members of Radiohead met while attending Abingdon School, an independent school for boys in Abingdon, England. They signed a six-album recording contract with EMI in late 1991 and released their debut release, the Drill EP. Pablo Honey was recorded at Chipping Norton Recording Studios in Oxfordshire from September to November 1992.

Pablo Honey peaked at number 22 on the UK Albums Chart, and received generally favourable reviews, but some criticised its grunge sound as derivative and found certain songs underdeveloped. The album is often held in a negative light in comparison to the band's later work, although some retrospective reviews have been positive. Pablo Honey produced three charting singles – "Anyone Can Play Guitar", "Stop Whispering", and "Creep" – and was certified platinum in the United Kingdom and other countries. Though they achieved commercial and critical success with later albums, "Creep" remains Radiohead's most successful single.


The members of Radiohead met while attending Abingdon School, an independent school for boys in Abingdon, England.[1] In 1985, they formed On a Friday, the name referring to their usual rehearsal day in the school's music room.[2] They signed a six-album recording contract with EMI in late 1991,[3] and changed their name at EMI's request; "Radiohead" was taken from the song "Radio Head" on the Talking Heads album True Stories (1986).[3] Radiohead recorded their debut release, the Drill EP, with their managers Chris Hufford and Bryce Edge at Courtyard Studios. Released in May 1992, its chart performance was poor.[2]


Radiohead enlisted Paul Kolderie and Sean Slade, who had worked with US indie bands Pixies and Dinosaur Jr., to produce their debut album.[2] The bulk was recorded in late 1992.[citation needed] Recording sessions were completed very quickly, as the band had been playing many of these songs for years.[citation needed] The album was later described by guitarist Ed O'Brien as "a collection of our greatest hits as an unsigned band",[4] with smooth sonic textures, anthemic vocals, and walls of guitar noise.[citation needed] However, "Prove Yourself", which had led off Drill, reappears in a different recording, as do "You" and "Thinking About You" in reworked versions.[citation needed]

During rehearsals for the album recording, Yorke jokingly described "Creep" as the band's "Scott Walker song", which Slade and Kolderie mistook to mean the song was a cover.[5] After some failed attempts to record other songs, Slade and Kolderie suggested Radiohead play "Creep" again. They recorded it in a single take; after the performance everyone in the room burst into applause. After Radiohead assured Kolderie that "Creep" was an original song, he called EMI to tell them to consider it as the band's first single.[6] The middle eight is based on the 1972 song "The Air That I Breathe";[7] songwriters Albert Hammond and Mike Hazlewood received cowriting credits.[8]

The album title comes from a prank call skit by the Jerky Boys, in which the caller poses as the victim's mother and says: "Pablo, honey? Please come to Florida." Yorke said: "'Pablo Honey' was appropriate for us, being all mothers' boys."[9] A sample of the sketch appears during the guitar solo on "How Do You".[9]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Contemporary reviews
Review scores
Entertainment WeeklyB[10]
Los Angeles Times2.5/4 stars[11]
Q3/5 stars[13]

In the heavy alternative musical climate of 1993, Pablo Honey did not receive particular attention. However, several publications were enthusiastic about the band's forthcoming debut release, with NME referring to Radiohead as "one of rock's brightest hopes."[12] Pablo Honey would not garner the widespread acclaim of Radiohead's subsequent releases, but received a generally favourable critical reaction. Remarking that "British teenagerhood has never been grumpier," Q felt that it was a "good" album whose "best bits rival Nirvana, Dinosaur Jr. and even the mighty Sugar."[13] NME's John Harris criticised the presence of certain tracks he deemed "forgettable", noting that "How Do You?" "breaks the momentum... horribly", but nonetheless called Pablo Honey "one of those flawed but satisfying debuts that suggests Radiohead's talents will really blossom later on."[12] NME placed the album at number 35 in its year-end list for 1993, describing it as "a throwback to a homegrown tradition of great guitar-band albums."[15]

In the United States, the band's debut single, "Creep", prompted industry observers and fans to draw parallels between Radiohead and Nirvana, with some even touting Radiohead as the "British Nirvana".[16] Several music publications gave Pablo Honey positive reviews. Billboard said of the album: "Certain tracks here may remind listeners of U2 (thanks largely to Thom E. Yorke's vocal mannerisms and overall guitar texturing), but lyrics have enough bite to make it on their own."[17] Marisa Fox of Entertainment Weekly opined that the album "mates Smiths-type self-consciousness with dramatic U2-like vocals and guitar, with Cure-style heavy but crunchy pop."[10] In a mixed review, Mario Mundoz of the Los Angeles Times wrote that the album "doesn't really deliver anything you haven't heard before, steering too close to Smiths-like melodies and trying ever so hard to be depressed in the way the Cure popularized. Occasionally, though, it does offer clever lyrics and good hooks."[11] Robert Christgau of The Village Voice did not recommend the album, but named "Creep" as a "choice cut".[18] Rolling Stone wrote in its year-end review that "what elevates them to fab charm is not only the feedback and strumming fury of their guitarwork and the dynamism of their whisper-to-a-scream song structures, which recall the Who by way of the early Jam, but the way their solid melodies and sing-along choruses resonate pop appeal."[19]


Professional ratings
Retrospective reviews
Review scores
AllMusic3/5 stars[20]
The A.V. ClubB−[21]
Blender2/5 stars[22]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music3/5 stars[23]
The Irish Times3/5 stars[24]
Q3/5 stars[26]
Rolling Stone3/5 stars[27]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide2.5/5 stars[28]
Uncut3/5 stars[29]

Although Pablo Honey was not met with the critical fervour that Radiohead's later albums were, it has received praise in retrospective coverage. In 1998, a Virgin poll saw Pablo Honey voted 100th in the all-time top 1000 albums,[30] while Q readers voted it the 61st greatest album of all time.[31] In 2004, Q included "Lurgee" and "Blow Out" in a list of twenty essential lesser-known Radiohead songs as part of their "1010 Songs You Must Own" feature.[32] In 2006, Classic Rock and its sister publication Metal Hammer included Pablo Honey in their "200 Greatest Albums of the 90's" list as one of the 20 greatest albums of 1993.[33] In 2008, Blender placed the album 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."[34] In 2009, Amazon editors ranked Pablo Honey 26th in their "The 100 Greatest Debut Albums of All Time" list.[35] It was voted number 301 in the third edition of Colin Larkin's All Time Top 1000 Albums (2000).[36]

Retrospectively, Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic called Pablo Honey "a promising collection that blends U2's anthemic rock with long, atmospheric instrumental passages and an enthralling triple-guitar attack that is alternately gentle and bracingly noisy. The group has difficulty writing a set of songs that are as compelling as their sound, but when they do hit the mark... the band achieves a rare power that is both visceral and intelligent."[20] Kenny EG Perry of NME described the album as "the sound of one of the best bands of this or any other generation playing the music that taught them all their good early lessons".[37] Clash Magazine argued that it "points towards everything that [Radiohead] would go on to be"."[38] In a 2008 review, Al Spicer of BBC Music described the album as Radiohead's "exploration of suburban, adolescent self-awareness", concluding: "It all resulted in a stunning blend that combined the best aspects of prog rock... with the plaintiveness of bedsit singer song-writing and the sound of expensive equipment thrashed at by experts. Though later albums were better received, this remains one of rock's most impressive debuts."[39] In a review for, critic Louis Pattison said of the album: "Pablo Honey... is much more than filler. 'Anyone Can Play Guitar' is certainly as good as 'Creep'; swathed in walls of feedback, it races blindly into an apocalyptic chorus ... indie-rock seldom got better than this."[40] In 2009, PopMatters' Mehan Jahasuriya criticised the album as "a hodgepodge of half-baked grunge, jangle-pop and stadium-ready alternative rock ... nearly indistinguishable from other early '90s college rock throwaways, save for a few hints of greatness".[41]

In 1996, Colin Greenwood said: "I'd give it a seven out of 10 – not bad for an album recorded in just two and a half weeks."[42] The following year, O'Brien said: "Heaven forbid anyone should judge us on Pablo Honey. We were in hock to Dinosaur Jr. and the Pixies up to our eyeballs."[43] In 2007, Pitchfork wrote that, with Pablo Honey, "Radiohead didn't so much ride the coattails of grunge to mass success as stumble over them, and they've been apologising for it ever since. In fact, they seem to have something of a complex about it, some deep-seated concern that they first became famous for all the wrong reasons, even if their subsequent output has more than made up for early missteps and misplaced earnestness."[44] Though Radiohead achieved greater commercial and critical success with later albums, "Creep" remains their most successful single.[45]


On 31 August 2009, EMI reissued Pablo Honey in a "Collector's Edition" with additional B-sides and live performances. Radiohead had no input into the reissue and the music was not remastered.[46] In February 2013, Parlophone was bought by Warner Music Group (WMG).[47] In April 2016, as a result of an agreement with the trade group Impala, WMG transferred Radiohead's back catalogue to XL Recordings. The "Collector's Editions" of Radiohead albums, issued without Radiohead's approval, were removed from streaming services.[48] In May 2016, XL reissued Radiohead's back catalogue on vinyl, including Pablo Honey.[49]

Track listing[edit]

All lyrics are written by Thom Yorke; all music is composed by Radiohead (Yorke, Jonny Greenwood, Philip Selway, Ed O'Brien and Colin Greenwood); except where noted.

1."You" 3:29
2."Creep"Radiohead, Mike Hazlewood and Albert Hammond[50]3:56
3."How Do You?" 2:12
4."Stop Whispering" 5:26
5."Thinking About You" 2:41
6."Anyone Can Play Guitar" 3:38
7."Ripcord" 3:10
8."Vegetable" 3:13
9."Prove Yourself" 2:25
10."I Can't" 4:13
11."Lurgee" 3:08
12."Blow Out" 4:40
Total length:42:11





  • Icon – design
  • Lisa Bunny Jones – paintings
  • Tom Sheehan – photography



Sales certifications for Pablo Honey
Region Certification Certified units/sales
Argentina (CAPIF)[63] Gold 30,000^
Australia (ARIA)[64] Gold 35,000^
Belgium (BEA)[65] Platinum 50,000*
Canada (Music Canada)[66] 2× Platinum 200,000^
Netherlands (NVPI)[67] Gold 50,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[68] 2× Platinum 600,000^
United States (RIAA)[70] Platinum 1,520,000[69]

* Sales figures based on certification alone.
^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.



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External links[edit]