Happy Independence Day! How are my fellow Americans celebrating our nation’s escape from tyrannical rule this year? (Assuming you’re not too busy mourning our descent back into tyrannical rule, that is.) Fireworks, I assume? Grilling out with family and friends? Maybe catching a parade or taking a dip at the pool while wearing a flag-themed bathing suit?
One score and five years ago, MTV celebrated counterintuitively by welcoming our former oppressors from Great Britain. Specifically, they hosted Radiohead at the MTV Beach House — an aesthetic pairing maybe even more inappropriate than fraternizing with Brits on the 4th of July. The house was in the Hamptons that year, Quogue specifically, with a lengthy celebrity guest list that included Jon Stewart. (He was hosting a nightly talk show called The Jon Stewart Show on MTV at the time, six years before taking over The Daily Show.) Radiohead were also welcomed in to perform two songs and hobnob with Kennedy.
Guitarist Ed O’Brien and bassist Colin Greenwood mostly spent those promo ops promising that their band has more than one good single. They of course led off the performance with “Creep” anyway, a bleach-blond, ponytailed Thom Yorke doing his best to live up to the pivotal lyric “What the hell am I doing here? I don’t belong here” via a series of intense facial and full-body contortions. Humorously, his bandmates mostly look exactly the same as they do now, Jonny Greenwood in particular, but Yorke was really leaning into his wretchedness on this occasion. (The song sounded spectacular as always.)
Next up was “Anyone Can Play Guitar,” perhaps chosen for its lyric about “standing on a beach with my guitar” but more likely because it was the current single off Pablo Honey. “Anyone Can Play Guitar” is a fine but fairly pedestrian pop-rocker that’s never going to grab a crowd the way “Creep” does. (Give me third single “Stop Whispering” over it any day.) So Yorke dug deeper into his freak show by aggressively barking at the camera during the song’s breakdown and then diving into the pool at its conclusion, sealing the performance’s iconically awkward status for all time.
Check out the interview segments and both performances below.