A Radiohead cassette demo from the 80s has sold at auction for £6,000

Radiohead in 1993, five years after releasing their school-days demo Gripe (Image credit: Eric CATARINA/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

A super-rare Radiohead cassette demo from the band's early days at Abingdon School, Oxfordshire, has been sold at auction for £6,000.

With an inlay card written and designed by Thom Yorke, the demo, titled Gripe, was recorded to a classic TDK D 60 cassette tape and credited to On A Friday – the pre-Radiohead name the band used – and sold by Omega Auctions on 26 January.

The inlay card says the Gripe was recorded at Woodworm Studios, Oxfordshire, which was founded by Fairport Convention's Dave Pegg over 30 years ago. Woodworm played an important role in the band's formative years, as On A Friday/Radiohead would track a number of demos before being signed to EMI and urged to change their name.

Initially, they resisted, before taking the name Radiohead from the Talking Heads song. There are a number of Radiohead cassette demos from the On A Friday era. In 2013, Omega Auctions sold a 1986 demo for £2000.

The tracklisting on the lot and the inlay card doesn't seem to match. The cassette itself reads "Gripe + 3 trax at beginning" in Yorke's handwriting, copyright 1987. The inlay card says it is copyright Funtime Records, 1988. From the pictures, it looks the tracklisting reads Happy Song, To Be A Brilliant Light, and Sinking Ship – all written by Yorke.

The credits list Thom Yorke on vocals/guitar, Ed O'Brien on vocals/guitar, Phil Selway on drums, Jon Greenwood on keys, viola and harmonica, with Colin Greenwood on bass. Also credited are Raz Petersen on lead alto sax, with Liz and Charlotte cotton on alto sax. The recording was engineered by Tim.

Six-thousand bucks is a lot of money even for the most ardent Radiohead fans. But luckily YouTube hosts a wealth of On A Friday-era demos. Stylistically, they are all over the place, and that's part of the charm. Check out the aforementioned 1986 demo below, which predates Jonny Greenwood's time in the band.

Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars and guitar culture since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.