David Byrne explains how Radiohead “changed our idea of what popular music can be”

Very few musicians can claim to have received glowing praise from their heroes. One band that can boast this gilded accolade is Oxford’s very own Radiohead. Famously, the quintet took their name from the Talking Heads track ‘Radio Head’, so for their entire brand to be acknowledged and praised by frontman David Byrne is significant to those involved. Byrne once effused about Radiohead in his unique way, explaining that they “changed our idea of popular music”.

When Radiohead were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2019, there was no artist better placed to do the honour than David Byrne, the forerunner to their boundary-pushing work. With Radiohead members discussing Talking Heads’ influence on them numerous times over the years, this moment saw their lives and careers come full circle.

Byrne admitted that he was “surprised and flattered” that Radiohead took their name from his song. Counterbalancing the sincerity, he joked: “But [I] had to ask myself, ‘Why that song? That slightly goofy Tex-Mex song? Why that one?’ We’ll never know.”

Byrne then explained that he is a “huge fan” of the quintet. He said they “richly” deserved the honour because of their “quality and constant innovation” and “their innovations in how they release their work… they’re creative and smart… a rare and inspiring combination.”

The ‘Psycho Killer’ songwriter continued: “Here’s a tidbit: Radio 1 in the UK refused to play their song ‘Creep’ because they found it too depressing. But then it started getting played elsewhere all over the world, and, well, the rest…”

He added: “And another: Capitol Records felt that what many consider to be their masterpiece, OK Computer, was career suicide and adjusted their release and marketing plan accordingly. It eventually went to number one in the UK. ‘Paranoid Android,’ from that album, was considered the new ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’ whatever that means. I’m looking forward to seeing the movie and seeing who will play Thom.”

Not finished with his praise, Byrne addressed his love for Radiohead’s albums Kid A and In Rainbows before praising their last release, 2016’s A Moon Shaped Pool, labelling it “cinematic”. Of the group’s effect on popular culture, he concluded that they’ve “changed our idea of what popular music can be”.

Byrne said: “Music that at one point sounded radical and on the edge now felt completely natural… Their last record, A Moon Shaped Pool, sounded very cinematic, sounded like a movie in your head. They’ve both changed our idea of what popular music can be and how it can be released and marketed to us. For those things, I am honoured to induct Radiohead into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.”

Watch David Byrne induct Radiohead into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame below.

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