After somehow getting passed over last year in their first year of eligibility, Radiohead are finally going to enter the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2019. Unsurprisingly, they didn’t have much to say about the honor when it was announced this morning. “The members of Radiohead have been surprised to learn of the band’s induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2019,” they wrote in a brief statement. “The band thanks the Hall of Fame voting body and extends congratulations to this year’s fellow inductees.”
It’s unclear if they’re going to pull a Sex Pistols and not show up; pull a Kiss and show up very unhappily and not perform; pull a Steve Miller and show up, play but find a way to complain the entire time; or pull a Pearl Jam and suck up any reservations and get into the spirit of the night. It’s a little hard to imagine Thom Yorke putting on a tux and smiling his way through “Fake Plastic Tree” and “Creep” while Def Leppard and Janet Jackson look on from their tables, but stranger things have happened. If the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame can reunite the Talking Heads, Cream and Led Zeppelin, they can do anything.
Back in the summer of 1996, not a lot of people thought that Radiohead were headed to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. At the time, they were mostly known in America as the “Creep” band that Alicia Silverstone labelled “the maudlin music of the university station” in Clueless. They had just started work on their third album when they agreed to open up for Alanis Morissette, then at the absolute pinnacle of her fame thanks to the wild success of Jagged Little Pill.
The tour meant that Radiohead got to play to sold-out amphitheaters, but it wasn’t exactly their typical audience. “My main memory of that tour,” Jonny Greenwood told Rolling Stone last year, “is playing interminable Hammond organ solos to an audience full of quietly despairing teenage girls.” To Morrissette, it was a very different experience. “It was such a lovely pairing in my mind,” she told Rolling Stone. “It was really grounding for me to be with such bona-fide-to-the-bone artists. It felt really validating because the industry was very wild and patriarchal, so to be on the road with such true savants was a gift for me.”
Realizing that nobody in the audience knew anything besides “Creep,” Radiohead used the tour as a chance to road-test some in-progress songs from OK Computer. Here’s video of them doing “Paranoid Android” in Mansfield, Massachusetts. This is the night they first played “Climbing Up the Walls” and “Karma Police,” even if many in the crowd were bored to tears waiting for Alanis to come out and sing “Ironic.”
The version of “Paranoid Android” here is relatively close to the one that appeared on the album, but it does end with one of those “interminable Hammond organ solos” that Jonny referenced. When they got back into the studio at the end of the tour, they wisely chopped that last bit off and never did it again.
Radiohead are on a bit of a hiatus right now after touring very heavily over the past two years, and now their fans enter a long “will they or won’t they” waiting game regarding the Hall of Fame. At this point, it feels like even odds either way.