the band performs in front of a display of red and white lights
Radiohead playing in Italy in 2010 (Photo/Flickr-Daniele Dalledonne CC BY-SA 2.0)

Radiohead in Israel: ‘What the hell am I doing heeere?’

This week, on the “(Is It) Good for the Jews” podcast …

Larry Rosen: Let’s get away from sports but into something that’s also good for the Jews.

Eric Goldbrener: And that would be…?

LR: Radiohead.

EG: Radiohead?

LR: You know, the band: Radiohead.

EG: I know. (starts singing) “I’m a creeep! I’m a loooser! What the hell am I doing heeere…?”

LR: Yup. That’s the one. And I used to be a big fan of Radiohead. Loved the first two albums. Thought they were brilliant. But then, I guess, they decided, “You know, we’re tired of guitars. Boring. We’re going electronic.” I’ve heard these albums are fantastic but I haven’t listened to them. I’m not an electronica guy. Anyway, they’re going on a U.S. tour, and their opening act will be the Israeli Jewish-Arab rock group Dudu Tassa and the Kuwaitis. I watched a couple of their videos.

EG: What’d you think?

LR: Definitely pushing it to call them rock ’n’ roll. The guy has a Telecaster, but they’ve got a stand-up bass, or a cello, I can’t remember the size of it, and a violin and some bongos, the kind of thing you would like.

EG: Like a Middle Eastern vibe?

LR: Right. Very world music-y. The tour begins in Miami on May 30 and ends in Tel Aviv on July 19.

EG: That sounds cool.

LR: It’s all cool, and in fact, Radiohead guitarist… now this is what bugs me.

EG: Here it comes…

LR: Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood…

EG: Is he ours?

LR: No, but he’s married to an Israeli-born artist named Sharona Katan, and he’s collaborated with Israeli musicians on a solo album, so I think, “This sounds great to me. I think I’m going to Google Radio Israel and see what comes up.”

EG: There’s your mistake. You can do that, fine, but don’t read the comments. You can’t read the comments. How many times have I told you not to read the comments?

LR: Many. But I read the comments.

EG: It’s not very hard for me to imagine what happened. “Roger Waters comes out against Radiohead.”

LR: It’s interesting you bring up old fossilized Roger Waters, because the first article I found was in an English paper, I think the Guardian UK, and the headline was something like, “Radiohead Bucks Industry Edict Against Playing in Israel.”

EG: (laughs) “Industry Edict.” That’s the Guardian for you.

LR: And the comments, of course, were a thing of wonder. Off the charts. Most were calling it a “money grab” by Radiohead.

EG: Naturally. What other reason would one have to not only play in Israel but also employ Israelis as your opening act? Are these people all unaware of the fact that the Rolling Stones were in Israel last year?

LR: Britney Spears is on her way there right now! And yet, nobody cares.

EG: Madonna. Britney? Yeah, nobody cares.

LR: The level of fanboy disappointment with Radiohead was palpable. And pathetic. And the people who were defending Radiohead had this twisted thesis: “Clearly you don’t understand what’s going on here. Radiohead is a very political group. They’re doing this so they can go there and expose the atrocities happening in Israel.” And it’s funny, too, because a lot of these commenters are equally outraged that they’re touring the U.S.

EG: Yeah, you know the whole BDS thing, people locking onto this showy obsession with Israel, I think it’s coming undone. They’re losing a whole lot of steam right now. People are getting more panicky, they’re looking for ways to keep themselves in the news, ways to keep their momentum going.

LR: That is a fine segue you’ve just inserted in there, as I was planning to talk about the state of the BDS movement today. This wasn’t a set-up folks, it’s just how we work.

EG: After 135 shows we’re working on intuition. Like a well-oiled machine. Like Radiohead, I would imagine.

Larry Rosen
Larry Rosen

Larry Rosen is a writer, husband, father and author of “The Rabbi Has Left the Building,” a memoir about his son’s bar mitzvah. He co-hosts the podcast “(Is It) Good for the Jews?”

Eric Goldbrener
Eric Goldbrener

Eric Goldbrener is a Libertarian, Zionist, atheist and autodidact technologist. He co-hosts the podcast “(Is It) Good for the Jews?”