How Ned Ryerson From ‘Groundhog Day’ Gave Radiohead Their Band Name

Senior Pop Culture Editor
05.29.15 8 Comments

It’s hard to remember, but Radiohead used to not take everything so seriously. For instance, their band name comes from a song that appears on the soundtrack to True Stories, David Byrne’s weirdo art-comedy about John Goodman in a cowboy hat (and Jerry Harrison as Prince).

But where does that nonsense word, “radiohead,” originate from? It’s been assumed for years that Bryne coined it because he’s singing the song. But, according to the great Stephen Tobolowsky, who co-wrote True Stories, he’s the one who actually came up with.

Tobolowsky, best known for playing Ned Ryerson in Groundhog Day and appearing in every sitcom ever (including a memorable episode of Community), was recently a guest on the Nerdist podcast, and he shared a story about being able to hear “tones.” Just go along with it.

That 19 furious days that we were working on True Stories, [his girlfriend] Beth says, “Tell David. Because David wants to put all these true stories in his movie, Stephen. Tell him the true story about you hearing tones.” And I said, “No, baby, no, I don’t want—”

“No, tell him the story about you hearing tones.”

So I sat and told David the story of me hearing tones. And he looked and says, “You’re kidding!” And I said, “No, David, that’s really the story but I don’t do it anymore, I don’t like to do it anymore, it was too creepy, and I don’t like to do it anymore.”

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.”

So Radiohead got their name from the song David Byrne wrote based on my psychic experiences when I was in college! (Via)

I like the idea of Tobolowsky giving every band their name. “Oh yeah, Barenaked Ladies? They call themselves that because I ran into their lead singer at a strip club once, and I asked him if he was enjoying the naked ladies. Also, there was a bear standing next to us.” True story.

(Via Dangerous Minds)

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