Pablo Honey

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Pablo Honey
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 studio album by English rock band Radiohead. It was released on 22 February 1993 in the United Kingdom by Parlophone and in the United States by Capitol Records. It was primarily produced by Sean Slade and Paul Q. Kolderie and 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 reception from critics, but some criticized 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 subsequent studio albums, 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.

Background and recording[edit]

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. Producer Paul Kolderie stated that "Jonny played the piano at the end of the song and it was gorgeous". "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 BBC Radio 1 for being too depressing.[1] The chord progression and melody in "Creep" is similar to that of the 1972 song "The Air That I Breathe".[2][3] Songwriters Albert Hammond and Mike Hazlewood received cowriting credits and a percentage of the royalties.[4]

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. However, "Prove Yourself", which had led off Drill, reappears in a different recording, as do "You" and "Thinking About You" in reworked versions.

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." Radiohead sampled the sketch during the guitar solo on “How Do You”.[5]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Contemporary reviews
Review scores
Entertainment WeeklyB[6]
Los Angeles Times2.5/4 stars[7]
Q3/5 stars[9]

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."[8] 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."[9] 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."[8] The magazine 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."[11]

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".[12] 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."[13] 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."[6] 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."[7] Robert Christgau of The Village Voice did not recommend the album, but named "Creep" as a "choice cut".[14] 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."[15]


Professional ratings
Retrospective reviews
Review scores
AllMusic3/5 stars[16]
The A.V. ClubB−[17]
Blender2/5 stars[18]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music3/5 stars[19]
The Irish Times3/5 stars[20]
Q3/5 stars[22]
Rolling Stone3/5 stars[23]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide2.5/5 stars[24]
Uncut3/5 stars[25]

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,[26] while Q magazine readers voted it the 61st greatest album of all time.[27] 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.[28] 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.[29] 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."[30] In 2009, Amazon editors ranked Pablo Honey 26th in their "The 100 Greatest Debut Albums of All Time" list.[31]

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."[16] 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."[32] 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."[33]

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."[34] However, the following year, guitarist Ed O'Brian said: "Heaven forbid anyone should judge us on Pablo Honey. We were in hock to Dinosaur Jr. and the Pixies up to our eyeballs."[35] In 2009, PopMatters' Mehan Jahasuriya criticised the album as "a hodgepodge of half-baked grunge, jangle-pop and stadium-ready alternative rock" and "nearly indistinguishable from other early ‘90s college rock throwaways, save for a few hints of greatness".[36]


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.[37] In February 2013, Parlophone was bought by Warner Music Group (WMG).[38] 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.[39] In May 2016, XL reissued Radiohead's back catalogue on vinyl, including Pablo Honey.[40]

Track listing[edit]

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

2."Creep" (music composed by Radiohead, Mike Hazlewood and Albert Hammond[41])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
9."Prove Yourself"2:25
10."I Can't"4:13
12."Blow Out"4:40




  • Sean Slade – production, engineering (tracks 1–9, 12), mixing
  • Paul Q. Kolderie – production, engineering (tracks 1–9, 12), mixing
  • Chris Hufford – production, engineering (tracks 10, 11)
  • Chris Blair – mastering


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


Region Certification Certified units/sales
Argentina (CAPIF)[42] Gold 30,000^
Australia (ARIA)[43] Gold 35,000^
Belgium (BEA)[44] Platinum 50,000*
Canada (Music Canada)[45] 2× Platinum 200,000^
Netherlands (NVPI)[46] Gold 50,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[47] 2× Platinum 600,000^
United States (RIAA)[49] Platinum 1,520,000[48]

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone


  1. ^ a b Except "I Can't" and "Lurgee" produced by Chris Hufford at Courtyard, Oxon


  1. ^ Melody Maker (September 1993)
  2. ^ English, Tim (2007). Sounds Like Teen Spirit: Stolen Melodies, Ripped-Off Riffs, and the Secret History of Rock and Roll, p.149. ISBN 9781583480236.
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