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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Radiohead not for football games

    Am I the only one who thinks the marching band shouldn’t be allowed to play Radiohead songs at football games? To be honest, it’s personally offensive, not to mention specifically annoying and in bad taste.

    Last Saturday, I had the slight misfortune of finding myself in the skybox at the USC game, serving food to people rich enough to eat lasagna and fettuccini alfredo while watching jocks beat each other up. This particular catering job gave me an opportunity to stand and watch the half-time show, which to my surprise consisted of songs from one of the most innovative, expansive albums of the ’90s: OK Computer.

    While people began bustling around, complaining, searching for baked desserts, cheering and maintaining their buzz, the marching band started playing. I couldn’t hear it very well over all the talking and hubbub going on, but I began to make out the sounds of “”Airbag,”” a song about car crashes, interstellar bursts and the next world war.

    The topic struck me as rather arbitrary for a football game, but the situation didn’t become offensive until the medley morphed into “”Paranoid Android.”” As any Radiohead fan already knows, “”Paranoid Android”” is one of the most creative, individualistic works of art in popular music’s repertoire. It is a tour de force of intrigue, despair, human discomfort and irresistible beauty, stretched out through 6 1/2 minutes of wailing guitar and vocal passion. Singer Thom Yorke seems to succumb to an unfathomable epiphany when he forces out the lyrics “”That’s it sir, you’re leaving/The crackle of pig skin/The dust and the screaming/The yuppies networking/The panic, the vomit/The panic, the vomit/God loves his children.””

    While the marching band played through this chorus and danced around the field, I stared out at the hundreds of thousands of red shirts throughout the stadium talking and bullshitting. Afterward, the band played “”Bear Down Arizona”” and the game resumed.

    Is nothing sacred? I’m sure the players in the Pride of Arizona had no part or blame in the decision to perform Radiohead, but “”Paranoid Android”” isn’t really an appropriate choice for this kind of setting. It is a serious and progressive work of art that speaks to me as a person at the most basic level; it is not halftime entertainment.

    Football games are for Top 40 hits from 10 years ago and generally grating and bad songs of all kinds. That’s why they always blast “”Enter Sandman”” by Metallica, or all those cheesy Phil Collins numbers to “”pump you up.”” The DJs at football games don’t even have enough sense to put on newer hit singles, because the drunken crowd probably wouldn’t comprehend even that level of garbage.

    Radiohead, on the other hand, is possibly the most progressive, individualistic and talented group in today’s world. They stand for originality and uniqueness. They stand for pushing boundaries and rebelling against the norm of popular culture (i.e., football games.) Their last album, in fact, was titled with a not-so-obscure reference bashing American culture and the president: Hail to the Thief. The blind patriotism and anti-intellectualism that is often associated with football games is directly opposed to Radiohead’s ideals.

    I have to admit though, I may be a little biased, because “”Paranoid Android”” has been my favorite song since eighth grade. When I was younger, I used to put it on my personal headphones, turn off all the lights except for a candle, and lay on my bed listening for hours. To see it ignored and misunderstood at a football game hurts me as a person.

    There are plenty of decent songs the marching band could take on in this setting; songs that would be both fun to listen to, palatable and respectable works of art. Selections like “”Loser”” and “”E-Pro”” by Beck, for example, would lend very well to orchestration, and they would be instantly recognizable too. The band could even take on some older material like Van Morrison or David Bowie. The possibilities are endless.

    It’s understandable that the director would like to pay tribute to one of the great bands in history, but there is a time and a place for everything. Until football crowds are intelligent, sober, critiquing members of the arts community that are willing to take on the subtleties and intellectualism of Radiohead, playing their music is more of an insult than praise.

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