I am not an unadulterated fan of Radiohead in the same way as I am a fan of The Kinks, for example. The Kinks have done some horrible stuff, a few great things, some of their good stuff is even schmaltzy and a bit juvenile, admittedly. But, they hold a special place in my heart. Ray is an unusual person. He is the father of a child with Chrissie Hynde, one of my favorite female songwriters and rock performers. He’s also a vegetarian who has been known to indulge in vanilla milkshakes after a concert rather than a bottle of Jack Daniels.
Their U.S. appearance in St. Paul, MN, in September, 1981 was my very first rock concert. And—“L-O-L-A”—I was not disappointed. To this day, I want women to have dark-brown voices and, should they squeeze me tight, want them to nearly break my spine, oh, my Lola. La-la-la-lay Lola.
Radiohead has appeared on the scene long after I can give my heart and a good chunk of nostalgic memory over so readily. Yet, they battle for ground within my head. And, goddamn them, they’re doing pretty well at setting up their musical shop there.
Since I’m not knowledgeable about musical structure I’m unable to tell you why I hear some of the things about Radiohead that I’ve heard. NPR did a short piece last year about a classical musical composer who is attempting to create arrangements of Radiohead songs that can be performed by orchestra. He feels that their music—the chord structures, time signatures, etc.—are challenging and inventive enough to create interest for a classical music audience.
For me, the attraction is watching Thom Yorke, that overexcitable elf (and I mean that in the best sense, Mr. Yorke), as he gets punk–rock‘n’roll–crazy while performing his songs. There’s an energy there that is infectious. And even with my limited musical understanding I can feel that the songs are not just verse–chorus–verse–chorus, etc., and all of it made of one slab of the same-colored plastic 95% of radio’s pop trash is built from. And by that I mean pop trash that has no feeling, no righteous groove and no development of lyric, mood or tempo.
Radiohead’s songs don’t even wander close to that kind of pop boneyard and yet they maintain some pop accessibility which, according to the more complicated qualities I’ve said they possess, they have no right to encourage this kind of happy, uncritical enjoyment by the listener.
Rather than go on all day about what their music is or is not like, let me post a new Radiohead song from their latest album, “In Rainbows.” Did I mention that Radiohead had a marketing experiment going on in which people could buy their latest album buy naming their own price (until 12/2007)?
Here’s a link for an interview with Thom Yorke (Thom Yorke Interview 3) talking about the problem of global warming and how ignorant and sold-out we look from the U.K.’s side of the Atlantic.
The video, “Bodysnatchers,” from Radiohead.
P.S. Mr. Yorke and company, if you read this, please share the wealth and send me one of those older Fender guitars, OK?
A guitarless, guitarist wannabe.