Radiohead Knowledge Base

Colin Charles Greenwood (born on 26 June, 1969, in Oxford, England) is a member of Radiohead. He usually plays the bass guitar, but in more recent albums he has taken to keyboards, samplers, and synthesizers. He is the older brother of fellow band member Jonny Greenwood. Colin, whose father served in the Army, lived in Germany as a child for enough time to become fluent in the language. The family historically had ties to both the British Communist Party and the Fabian Society. He has credited his older sister, Susan, with greatly influencing his taste in music as an adolescent. According to Colin:

"She’s responsible for our precocious love of miserable music. The Fall, Magazine, Joy Division. We were ostracized at school because everyone else was into Iron Maiden.”

Early Life

When Greenwood was 12 years old, he met future band mate Thom Yorke at Abingdon School, an independent school for boys. Future band mates Ed O'Brien, who Greenwood met during a production of Gilbert and Sullivan's "Trial by Jury", and Phil Selway also attended the school. When Greenwood was 15 years old he bought his first guitar, studying classical guitar with influential teacher Terence Gilmore-James. It was Gilmore-James who introduced him and the other future members of Radiohead to jazz, film scores, post World War II era avant-garde music, and twentieth century classical music. Said Greenwood:

"When we started, it was very important that we got support from him, because we weren't getting any from the headmaster. You know, the man once sent us a bill, charging us for the use of school property, because we practiced in one of the music rooms on a Sunday".

According to Greenwood, it was out of necessity that he first picked up a bass, teaching himself by playing along to New Order, Joy Division and Otis Redding.

“We were people who picked up their respective instruments because we wanted to play music together, rather than just because we wanted to play that particular instrument. So it was more of a collective angle, and if you could contribute by having someone else play your instrument, then that was really cool. I don’t think of myself as a bass player anyway. I’m just in a band with other people".

Among his greatest musical influences are Booker T and the MGs. "I’m really more of a soulboy. Bill Withers and Curtis Mayfield, those are the people who informed me in playing the bass. That combination of rhythm and melody".

As an undergraduate studying English at Peterhouse at Cambridge University between 1987 and 1990, Greenwood read modern American literature, including Raymond Carver, John Cheever and other writers “dealing with the tensions of post-war American society." At Peterhouse, Greenwood served as the college's entertainment officer, and helped arrange several gigs on Fridays, when the Oxford and Cambridge colleges have their themed parties, usually in the college bars. 


Greenwood first teamed up with classmate Thom Yorke in 1986 to start a band, then known as On a Friday; Ed O'Brien was then recruited, and finally, older student Phil Selway was approached to join the band. Later, Greenwood's younger brother Jonny, then 14 years old, also joined the band. Of being in a band with his brother, Colin has said, "...beyond the normal brotherly thing, I respect him as a person and a musician," and has quipped, “It’s wonderful, it’s good, it makes my promise to keep an eye on him for my mother a lot easier, having him right next to me all the time. But he’s very easy to look after anyway, 'cause he’s very well behaved".

Later, whilst working at the music chain store, Our Price, he had a hand in helping the band get off the ground. When Keith Wozencroft, as a sales rep for EMI, entered the store one day, Greenwood said, "You should sign my band" and handed him their demo tape. That got it all started for the band, with EMI. At this time the band renamed themselves Radiohead.

Greenwood plays a number of instruments for Radiohead including electric – and acoustic bass, double bass, keyboards, samplers, and synthesizers, and a variety of percussive instruments. He favours Fender basses. Said Greenwood, "My involvement is to play bass guitar, but our ideas and suggestions in certain areas, as to where the music should go or develop, are listened to. We are very much a band".