New Radiohead song honors World War I veteran

NEW YORK (Billboard) - Radiohead fans got their first taste of new studio material Wednesday, when the group made available “Harry Patch (In Memory Of)” for download via its online store.

Unlike “In Rainbows,” fans will have to pay for this track and won’t be allowed to set a price: The 5-1/2-minute digital file costs one pound ($1.70). Proceeds will be donated to the Royal British Legion, which promotes the welfare of former military personnel and their dependants.

The BBC Radio 4 Web site is streaming the track, which pays tribute to Harry Patch, the last known British World War I veteran, who passed away on July 25 at age 111. Radiohead lead singer Thom Yorke was reportedly moved by an interview the BBC Radio 4 conducted with Patch in 2005.

Rightfully so, the song is a slow, string-heavy production that sounds cinematic and moving, with Yorke’s voice displaying a calm, almost serene tameness.

“The way he talked about war had a profound effect on me,” Yorke explains on Radiohead’s Web site. “It became the inspiration for a song that we happened to record a few weeks before his death. It was done live in an abbey. The strings were arranged by (guitarist) Jonny (Greenwood).”

Radiohead is working on its eighth studio album, the follow-up to 2007’s critically acclaimed “In Rainbows.” The band has four shows scheduled for this month, including headlining slots at the Leeds and Reading festivals in the U.K.