Radiohead Knowledge Base

Edward John "Ed" O'Brien (born 15 April 1968) is an English guitarist, singer and songwriter, best known as a member of Radiohead. He also played guitar and provided backing vocals for the 7 Worlds Collide project.


O'Brien uses a large collection of effects pedals. Even on tracks that do not feature any guitar work, his pedals are put to use for other purposes such as altering Thom Yorke's keyboard playing (he and co-guitarist Jonny Greenwood sample Yorke's piano and vocals, respectively, with the Korg Kaoss Pad on live performances of Everything In Its Right Place).

Notable contributions to Radiohead include the high-pitched lead guitar in No Surprises, the "spidery" guitar line in A Wolf At the Door, the main rhythm guitar on Weird Fishes/Arpeggi, the second guitar on Talk Show Host, and the arpeggio riff that makes up the closing song on The Bends, Street Spirit (Fade Out).

His unorthodox guitar playing, focusing on effects to enhance the framework of the music, is notable in songs like Lucky (creating the effect that opens the song), Karma Police (effects during the end of the song), Bullet Proof ... I Wish I Was (improvised guitar effects), Staircase (the wailing guitar sounds that form the background for the song), and Treefingers (his guitar chords were processed electronically to sound like ambient music).

Besides his guitar work in most of Radiohead's songs, O'Brien is also known for contributing vocals to songs such as Karma Police, Weird Fishes/Arpeggi and Reckoner. He also sings the backing vocals in the live versions of many of their songs, including Idioteque and No Surprises.

In an article for Rolling Stone, David Fricke picked O'Brien as the 59th greatest guitarist of all time.

Personal life

O'Brien studied economics at the University of Manchester. O'Brien lives with his wife Susan Kobrin, who previously worked for Amnesty International, in London. The couple have a son, Salvador, born in January 2004 and a daughter, Oona, born in 2006.