Thom Yorke, the lead singer/ song lyricist of both Radiohead and his new spin-off band Atoms for Peace, likes to cite references in his music. The name of Radiohead's fan club and merchandise store, W.A.S.T.E. contains hidden references to a book by American author Thomas Pynchon, but the hidden meanings don't stop there. As it turns out, even Thom Yorke's bands' names contain references. What is the meaning of "Radiohead" and Thom Yorke's new band's name, "Atoms for Peace?"
What is the meaning of "Radiohead?" In a 2012 Rolling Stone interview, Thom Yorke openly admitted that his music has a lot of different influences. In the interview, Thom Yorke cites everyone from Fleetwood Mac to the Pixies as major influences on his music, but for some reason leaves Talking Heads off the list. The name of Thom Yorke's most famous band, Radiohead, is actually a reference to Talking Head's True Stories song "Radio Head." "Radio head... it's the sound of a brand new world!" David Byrne sings in "Radio Head."
What is the meaning and story behind the "Atoms for Peace" band name? "Atoms for Peace" was actually the title of a song from Thom Yorke's first solo album, The Eraser (2006), but there is actually more behind this name than just that. "Atoms for Peace" was originally the title of a Nobel Prize nominated speech given by U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower to the UN General Assembly in 1953 about the dangers and threats of atomic warfare. In this Cold War era speech, President Eisenhower strongly advocates for the peaceable use of atomic bombs, eight years after the World War II atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Like President Eisenhower in his "Atoms for Peace" address, Thom Yorke has also openly advocated for the peaceful political use of both atomic and nuclear energy and weapons. In 2012, Thom Yorke placed a "Nuclear Power, No Thanks" badge in front of the video camera before Radiohead's live performance of "The Daily Mail" on The Colbert Report. Thom Yorke has also been spotted wearing a "No Star Wars" T-shirt in support of nuclear disarmament.
Beyond just Thom Yorke's political clothing, Radiohead's music has also become more politically themed over time. While Radiohead's first album Pablo Honey wasn't really a political record, 2003's Hail to the Thief is widely believed to be in reference to another U.S. President, George W. Bush. Thom Yorke's growing interest in international politics and nuclear disarmament probably led him to make a political statement through his newest band's name, Atoms for Peace, while the meaning of "Radiohead" is about his interest in music, not politics.