Radiohead has always had an originality to their music that can arguably never be reproduced. Their name though, was not an original idea. As many Radiohead fans know, Thom Yorke and company named their band after David Byrne’s song "Radio Head" which first appeared in the movie True Stories. But, as it turns out, the song was actually based on a certain actor who plays a wildly annoying insurance salesman in Groundhog Day. None other than Stephen Tobolowsky and his signature character Ned Ryerson.
This little tidbit of information, that ended up influencing the name of one of the ‘90s most influential rock bands was revealed when Tobolowsky appeared on Chris Hardwick’s Nerdist podcast. Tobolowsky is a character actor best known for his portrayal of Ned Ryerson in Groundhog Day but he also co-wrote the film True Stories with David Byrne and Beth Hanley. And though he claims that most of his contributions as a writer for the film were thrown out, there’s one aspect about him that stuck, specifically his tendency to psychically "hear" or "read" people’s "tones":
So anyway — sure enough, a year later, David has written into True Stories a character that hears tones, and he wrote the song. That day he came over and played "Wild Wild Life." He says, ‘Here is a song that I wrote for you, Stephen.’ And we put it in the thing, and it was "Radio Head."
Tobolowsky explained to Hardwick that he always had this psychic ability to perceive information about a person just by being in the same room. At one point, Tobolowsky and his girlfriend rounded up a bunch of people which Tobolowsky "read" and they all would get up and leave the room, crying of creepy feelings. His girlfriend pushed him to tell Byrne about it and the rest was history. Tobolowsky concludes:
So Radiohead got their name from the song David Byrne wrote based on my psychic experiences when I was in college!
For those who aren’t familiar with the Talking Heads song, there’s a lot of talk of picking up something, transmitters, and sounds of a brave-new world. Here’s the clip from David Byrne's True Stories:
Whether or not Radiohead themselves knew the entire story behind their name, is unknown. But hopefully, they will give Tobolowsky some credit and thank him for the influence his psychic abilities had in their naming.