The Rock Hall's Radiohead Dilemma

The Rock Hall has very few first ballot Hall of Famers left to induct. So when Radiohead, this year’s no-brainer, decides to preemptively make plans to be elsewhere on induction night, it’s a bad look for the Rock Hall.

Despite the perceived acrimony, the Hall of Fame has actually had a pretty good run of artist participation in the induction ceremonies lately. You have to go back to 2006 when the Sex Pistols wrote the “piss stain” letter and rejected the honor that there was this level of total indifference from an inductee. Since then, there have been a few artists who have stayed home, like Andrew Loog Oldham (2014), Axl Rose (2012), and most of Van Halen (2007), but there is usually at least a portion of the band there to collect the trophies and play some songs, even if they’re doing it more for the fans than the Hall of Fame itself.

Radiohead don’t seem to care about any of it. Earlier this year, Andy Greene from Rolling Stone got these great quotes from the band about the Rock Hall:

Phil Selway: "It's a bit like having the free bus pass in the UK when you reach a certain age. Blimey. Have we got to that point? God knows [if we'll go]. We'd have to sit down and talk about it, but it's probably not at the top of my list of things to do. But who knows? I don't know.”

Jonny Greenwood: "I don't care. Maybe it's a cultural thing that I really don't understand. I mean, from the outside it looks like ... it's quite a self-regarding profession anyway. And anything that heightens that just makes me feel even more uncomfortable.”

Ed O'Brien: "I don't want to be rude about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame because for a lot of people it means something, but culturally I don't understand it. I think it might be a quintessential American thing. Brits are not very good at slapping ourselves on the back. It seems very show-biz and I'm not very show-biz. We haven't even been asked. I don't want to be rude. But if you ask me what I'd rather be doing that night, I'd rather be sitting at home in front of the fire or going to a gig. I realized years ago that I didn't like award ceremonies. You walk in there and you feel self-conscious. It's just really uncomfortable. Wherever there is media there seem to be a real level of bullshit. It just feels non-authentic to us.”

Thom Yorke: "It wouldn't be the first place ... don't ask me things like that. I always put my foot in my mouth.”

Colin Greenwood: "I'd be grateful if we got in. Look at the other people that have been inducted. I don't know if everyone else will go though. It might be me just doing bass versions of everything like, 'Come on, you know this one!' I'd have to play the bass part to 'Creep' five times.”

So what options does the Rock Hall have, assuming Radiohead gets the necessary votes for induction?

  1. The remote trophy presentation: You’ve probably seen something similar on other award shows, where the artist is shown receiving their trophy via satellite and maybe does a song from the concert. With Radiohead performing in Argentina the night of the ceremony (two hours ahead of Cleveland), this is technically feasible, but it seems like a long shot, especially after the band rep’s terse statement of, “They’re not attending.”
  2. Make the best of it: Treat Radiohead’s induction similar to the way they have with others who wouldn’t perform (Madonna, Black Sabbath) and put together a tribute performance (“Creep”, of course) that would at least provide some content for HBO to work with.
  3. The bare minimum: The Rock Hall would show the inductee video, have someone make a speech, then accept the award on Radiohead’s behalf and just skip the tribute performance.
  4. The deferral: If the Rock Hall believes this year’s absence was just an unfortunate conflict and have been assured that Radiohead will have a change of heart and agree to participate in the future, they could basically defer their induction a year or two.
  5. The blackball: The Hall of Fame could simply ignore them and move on with other artists who aren’t so resistant to the idea of being inducted.

So what will the Rock Hall do when they inductees are announced next week? Our guess is they will go ahead and induct them with the bare minimum option. The Rock Hall would likely prefer to get their induction out of the way now rather than go through this humiliation again.

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