Flashback: Radiohead Play a Haunting ‘Karma Police’ at Glastonbury

By Andy Greene

Radiohead will enter the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on Friday at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, but Thom Yorke has already made it clear that he won’t be on hand to accept the honor. “I can’t,” he told Variety in January. “I know I can’t, because of these piano pieces that I’ve written. There’s the Paris Philharmonic, so I have to be there for that.”

He’s talking about the Katia and Marielle Labèque premieres at Philharmonie de Paris on April 7th, which take place nine days after the Hall of Fame ceremony. Maybe we’re being a little cynical here, but it seems like he could probably find a way to be in New York on March 29th and then in Paris on April 7th. The flight is just about seven and a half hours. If he’s developed a sudden fear of flying, the Queen Mary crosses the Atlantic in a mere seven days. If that’s a little too fancy for him, he can book passage on a cargo ship and make it across in a little under nine days. Living conditions will be very rustic and he may need to help out with some work around the boat to earn his supper, but he may wind up enjoying the experience.

Kidding aside, it’s hard to imagine Radiohead playing the ceremony without Thom Yorke, presuming that any of them even wind up coming. All we know at the moment is that David Byrne is delivering the speech. If anyone in the audience wants to see them perform, they’ll have to break out their phones and watch something on YouTube. If you want a recommendation, here’s a stunning “Karma Police” from Glastonbury in 2003. Radiohead’s first Glastonbury set at 1997 gets all the attention, but they were equally as great six years later and the new songs from Hail to the Thief just killed. Even back then it was clear they were headed to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It was also pretty obvious that when that day came, Thom Yorke would find a reason not to show up.

No real Radiohead fans will hold it against him. It would have been very off-brand for him to put on a tuxedo, smile his way through “Paranoid Android” and then jam at the end of the night with Def Leppard and the Zombies. He also joins the proud ranks of David Bowie, Joni Mitchell, the Sex Pistols, Mark Knopfler, Axl Rose, Eddie Van Halen and many, many other Rock Hall no-shows.

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