2019 ROCK HALL PREVIEW: Radiohead

This year's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony is Friday at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. All this week we're shining a spotlight on members of the Class of 2019.

Today is Radiohead.

Eligible since 2018, Radiohead were elected on their second nomination. (The first was last year.) Their relationship with the Hall can best be described as prickly, as they've spoken with disdain for the whole event in many interviews. When they were first nominated, they booked a South American tour at the same time as the ceremony, many weeks before the Class of 2018 was revealed. And after the band was announced as an inductee this year,Thom Yorke said he wouldn't be attending as he'd be preparing for the debut of a new classical piece in Paris next week.

But at least one of the four other members --Ed O'Brien,Phillip Selway, Jonny Greenwood and Colin Greenwood-- will be on hand, as the Hall revealed last week that every act being inducted will be represented at the ceremony. Many fans have speculated that the decision to attend has to do with their respect for the person chosen to induct them --David Byrne of Talking Heads, who were inducted in 2002. Radiohead got their name from a Heads song of the same name on the 1986 albumTrue Stories.

One of the most influential bands of the 1990s, Radiohead's career can be broken into two distinct parts -- pre- and post-OK Computer. The group had an unlikely radio hit in 1993 with "Creep" and toured the U.S. pretty regularly from 1993 to 1996. Ed O'Brien says that worth ethic primed them for the second half of their career:

"The bands that we look towards were bands like The Police, R.E.M., U2. And these were all bands that got into a van and they toured. And one of the first things that they did was they bought a van and they just toured and toured and toured and toured. And that's what young bands have to do. And that's what you have to do. You have to want that. I mean we wanted to do that. I wanted to come to America and tour. And in 1993 we came to America and the last half of the year we did stupid amounts of touring. But it was great. It nearly killed us, but it's all part of it. And as a young band you've got to expect to do that."

In 1997, Radiohead released OK Computer, one of the most critically acclaimed and influential albums of the past 25 years. Many bands since then have based their entire sound on "Karma Police" or "Paranoid Android." That album made it possible for Radiohead to call the shots on the rest of their career. They decided to release two followups to OK Computer in the space of eight months --Kid Ain 2000 and Amnesiacin 2001. And after their record label deal expired in 2007, they decided to release In Rainbows on the Internet and asked fans to pay what they thought it was worth.

Radiohead guitarist Ed O'Brien releasing In Rainbows as a pay as you want digital download was not intended to attack the record industry:

"I don't think we precipitated any kind of collapse of the industry because that's absolute nonsense. I mean, what we did was suitable for us. It fitted us. We have a loyal fan base, we've been established for a while, we're out of contract. Most bands can't do this because they're in contract. You know, we wanted to do something different. We wanted to have a bit of fun and we certainly did that and it's been incredibly liberating. We were deeply shocked by the results of the sales and the figures."

Over the past 12 years, Radiohead have released just two albums and have toured behind those releases -- or sometimes just when they felt like it.

  • Radiohead have released nine albums in their career. Two of them hit number-one in the U.S. --Kid Ain 2000 andIn Rainbowsin 2008. Their biggest seller isOK Computer, with well over two million sold.
  • They've won theBest Alternative MusicGrammy three times and were nominated forAlbum of the Yearthree times -- 1998 (OK Computer), 2001 (Kid A) and 2009 (In Rainbows).

 

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