I think there are very different associations based on when/where you were born. Over the years, colleagues 10-15 years younger (is this Gen-Y?) have told me personally that Radiohead was their entry point into electronic music. I mean, that’s cool. I don’t want to take away from those experiences. I just had very different ones.
For me, my encounter with Radiohead was much earlier. It was based on “Creep”, which of course was played 50 times a day and represented more than any other song, the death of commercial radio.
But it really wasn’t that song so much – it was the fact that other types of music – mainly the kinds of stuff on 4AD – were no longer played on commercial stations (and remember, no youtube, nowhere else to go to discover music…)
At least around the time of Nirvana and surrounding bands there was a peaceful coexistence. No one band or style came to dominate. But by the time of “Creep” there was suddenly a disappearance of so much interesting music from the commercial realm. And so that’s what I remember.
Furthermore – it didn’t help around the same time to experience the death of rave culture – in the form of crass commercialization and betrayal of many of the founding principles – in which I had been invested for several years prior. the pirate radio (e.g. MARS-FM) associated with this either died or changed format then finally just died. Again – not that Radiohead were in any way responsible, it just happened around the same time. Kind of a double blow.
So – Radiohead’s “Creep”, I remember as the soundtrack to the closing down of possibilities, to the disappearance of more experimental (and yes, electronic) music on whatever channels were available. I think that’s fair – Radiohead weren’t the “cause” of this event (the end of an era), but the soundtrack to it. Totally unfair to them and their later albums, but what can you do.
For others, later Radiohead seems to symbolize the exact opposite – the opening of possibilities, the entry point into a new world of electronic and experimental music.
Both perspectives are correct, but incommensurable… it just shows that where/when we were born, what else was going on at the time, etc. can lead to so radically different (and in this case, opposite) interpretations. I think perhaps that’s the more interesting thing that’s being revealed here.