Music History

Twenty fabled moments in Denver music: #16: Radiohead's gear gets jacked in 1995

Over the course of the next few weeks, Backbeat will be counting down the twenty most fabled moments in Denver music history. Today, a look back at the time when Radiohead had all of its gear stolen outside the Rockmada before a 1995 show at the Ogden Theatre.

Okay, so it's bad enough that Radiohead was Soul Asylum's opening act on its fall tour in 1995 -- perhaps the most upside-down bill since Hendrix opened for the Monkees in 1967 -- but, to add insult to annoyance, Radiohead's instruments were stolen the night before they played the Ogden that October. No trace of the band's gear has shown up since.

See Also: #20: Beatlemania at Red Rocks#19: Michael Jackson's secretive stay in Denver#18: Black Flag openers Nig-Heist get arrested for nudity 1984#17: Einsturzende Neubauten play '86 junkyard showMark Bliesener on how he coined the Dead Kennedys' monikerRadiohead at 1STBANK Center, 3/13/12

Radiohead circa '95-'96 is hardly recognizable as the Radiohead of today. The band's then-new album, The Bends, barely cracked the Billboard charts, reaching the lowest ranking of any Radiohead album since. Back then, Radiohead was arguably a one-hit wonder band ("Creep") opening for another one-hit wonder (Soul Asylum's "Runaway Train" was damn near inescapable for a few weeks during the summer of '93).

Besides this, guitarist Jonny Greenwood's ear was bleeding and ringing for weeks, for which the doctor prescribed steering clear of loud noise -- a tall order for a guy whose life consists of making music. Greenwood wound up wearing noise-reducing headphones -- the heavy-duty kind construction workers wear -- at shows.

Although Radiohead played to a crowd of a few hundred at the Mercury Cafe just a few months earlier, this visit proved to be far more memorable -- and not for good reasons, either. The night of October 3, the band was staying at the Ramada Inn on East Colfax. By the next morning, all of the outfit's gear -- guitars, drums and amps -- had all disappeared, along with the tour van, never to be seen again. That afternoon, Radiohead bassist Colin Greenwood visited Twist & Shout, where he met Paul Epstein.

"He was just a record geek," Epstein recalls, noting that he and the band went out to dinner later that evening. Everyone but frontman Thom Yorke, that is. "He's a nut," Epstein adds, "phobic of the public, as many lead singers are, for good reason. They're the one all the attention and focus is on."

Yorke and guitarist Jonny Greenwood did end up playing the gig that night, borrowing Soul Asylum's acoustic guitars for a stripped-down set. Their bandmates took the night off. "They handled it like champs," Doug Kauffman remembers. At that time, "they were building into something huge, and you could tell that. It was a drag, what happened and everything. [But] they just picked up and played."

The show was sold out, so Kauffman made money on the Ogden gig. Radiohead went to the next tour stop in Salt Lake City, but skipped playing that show entirely. A local band called Myrrh stepped in and opened for Soul Asylum instead. And the group also skipped the next tour date in Vancouver. "A lot of people were bummed out once they learned Radiohead had cancelled," says Phil Dewan, who was at the show. "I think more people were wanting to see [them] than Soul Asylum."

Radiohead, for its part, was a bit humiliated by having to miss its own shows. In a 1995 interview, Yorke said: "Just having one's gear stolen, then having to carry on with the tour, it wasn't much fun, especially since we just came off R.E.M., so you couldn't really go down further." (Somewhere, Michael Stipe is still trying to think of a witty comeback to that.)

According to legend, Radiohead swore never to play Denver again after that debacle. But, of course, the guys never made good on it -- if they did indeed make such a vow -- and have returned several times, including a pair of stints at Red Rocks, and, more recently, a show at 1STBANK Center this past spring.

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Mark Sanders
Contact: Mark Sanders

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