KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #97: Let Down by Radiohead.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #97: Let Down by Radiohead.

Just a word of warning: if you are feeling tired and don’t have the energy right now to think about something clever and a bit weighty then, take a break and come back to this post another time. But, if you are in the mood for something that speaks to the human condition; especially, in urban centres AND that is incredibly clever in how it is constructed and presented then, read on because “Let Down” by Radiohead is for you.

“Let Down” by Radiohead is from their album called, “OK Computer”. The album had a lot of terrific songs that explored the concept of our increasing sense of loneliness and isolation that we, as humans, are beginning to feel because of technology. I have loved this album since the very first time I heard it…..waaay back in my Columbia Record Club days in the 1990s. I know that saying I love an album of songs about loneliness makes me sound like someone who is fun at parties! But, I stand by my statement. What attracts me to this album is that it is very intelligently written but, more than that, the way that Radiohead constructed their songs, using advances in the very technology that they are describing, gives these songs a depth of meaning that doesn’t ordinarily exist in most songs.

Specifically, “Let Down” tackles the sense of isolation that one feels in social situations. In particular, it focuses on the value of our time, as humans, when we are commuting. In this song, when you are stuck in the commuter lifestyle, you are always with others but rarely part of a group. You watch others and are watched in reply but rarely ever interacted with. You are not at home nor where you want to be. You are in a nether world of motion and movement but, all the while, you are actually nowhere, doing nothing and wishing against hope that things had worked out differently for you and that you were somewhere else. In essence, “Let Down” is a song about realizing that you have fallen into a trap and that you are simply going through the motions of living while, in reality, the world is passing you by as you whiz through it.

What elevates this song is the clever way Radiohead use technology to further their point. For example, the song is filled with blips and beeps. These tonal notes are meant to stand for commuters. Each beep is someone, going somewhere. As the guitars play, you will notice that the notes seem to be isloated and play crisply and clearly. The guitar notes are meant to act as humans, too. All of the sounds fluctuate from being close to in harmony and then, to being discordant but, not in a painfully annoying way, just slightly askew. This is all meant to replicate the social environment of the commuter. Loads of people, all sharing a common space and direction but lacking community. The lyrics speak to the tedium of commuter travel; comparing it to the soul crushing existence of bugs being stepped upon on the sidewalk. The one ray of hope that is offered by the band in this song occurs near the four minute mark (of this five minute song). At that point, the beeps, blips and guitar chords all harmonize. The tedium-stricken commuter resolves to “grow wings” and live a more fulfilling life. His spirits soar. He feels as though their actually is hope for a better life and then, his train/bus/airplane arrives, the harmony gives way to discordant blips and bleeps again, as everyone leaves the common space and heads out on their separate ways, leaving our commuter alone again, in a crowd, going somewhere he would rather not be.

Obviously, “Let Down” is not a dance song nor a party, rock-out song. Not all songs have to be like that to be great songs. “Let Down”, for me, is akin to reading the George Orwell book, “1984”; it may be bleak in subject matter but, the ideas being discussed are important and the impression left after hearing the song is long-lasting. When I first read, “1984”, the storyline moved me and actually caused me to have a visceral reaction against the protagonist, Winston Smith who, like the commuter in “Let Down”, realizes that he is trapped by the society in which he finds himself. In “1984”, Winston Smith makes a decision that went against everything I believe in and, as such, it provoked in me, an angry reaction. Radiohead leave their song open-ended. They know that for many of us, we are the commuter in this song. We know what it feels like to walk into a crowded subway car and hope to disappear. According to Radiohead, we still have room to make a choice of how we wish to live a more fulfilling life but, time is running out. Our train is about to pull into the theoretical station. What will we do once we arrive? That choice is what “Let Down” is all about.

The beauty of music is that their are songs that fit all occasions and all moods. Sometimes, cranking AC/DC is where I am at. Sometimes, I am in the mood for Celtic fiddle music. But, there are also times when I appreciate the intellectual discourse that a song like “Let Down” provides. It is ok to listen to music and have your mind stimulated by an idea. So, as you listen to “Let Down”, remember that the concept of the song is social isolation and living a fulfilling life. Pay attention to the musical structure; the blips and bleeps and discordant notes that aim to replicate a social scenario where we are surrounded by our fellow humans yet, completely disconnected from them as well. Radiohead are my favourite band for a reason. They make interesting music and, at the same time, make music interesting.

Without further delay, here is Song #97 in our countdown…..”Let Down” by Radiohead. Enjoy…..and think.

The link to the video for the song, “Let Down” by Radiohead, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Radiohead, can be found here.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #114: Creep by Radiohead.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #114: Creep by Radiohead.

“Creep” by Radiohead holds the distinction of being one of modern music’s most complex debut singles of all-time. It is a single that the band didn’t initially want to record because they felt it was “crap” but, as it turned out, it became a huge hit and, for awhile, defined who the was band was in the eyes of the public, much to Radiohead’s chagrin. It is a song that guitarist Jony Greenwood attempted to sabotage during the recording process by making three hard, slamming chord strikes, only to have those very strikes become a symbol of the fresh, innovative thinking that would go on to become Radiohead’s hallmark, going forward. It is a song that was a live concert favourite in the early years of touring that the band soon came to hate to play and has rarely played in later, more recent years. The song is “Creep”, from Radiohead’s debut album, “Pablo Honey”; a song that is adored and hated, praised and scorned, played obsessively and yet, completely ignored. Here is the story of the song that opened the door for Radiohead and, in doing so, became one of the great songs of all-time, whether the band wanted it to or not.

“Creep” is a song about self-loathing. It was released in the early 1990s and mined much of the same material as did The Smiths, a decade before. It is a song about not being attractive enough to be successful in a society that places so much personal value on our physical appearance. Specifically, lead singer Thom Yorke wrote the lyrics to “Creep” when he was in College, before he became famous, when he was just another “geeky-looking, awkward” young man trying to meet woman and not feel lonely. The song was based upon his feelings after approaching someone he had seen and being nastily rejected. The chorus of the song tells you much of how he felt at the time.

I’m a creep.

I’m a weirdo.

What the hell am I doing here?!

I don’t belong here.

The final line of the chorus is sung, almost in a whisper, as if resigned to being regarded as a social misfit and an outcast because of how he looks.

When Radiohead first gathered together to start work on their debut album, “Pablo Honey”, their producer asked them to play everything they had so he could see what would stick and end up on the album. They obliged and, in the end, the producer thought “Creep” was the standout tune and should be their first single. The band disagreed. “Creep” is rather a simple song, in construction. It is based upon the same quiet-loud structure perfected by The Pixies during the 1980s. The members of Radiohead thought is was not indicative of where they saw their musical style going but, in the end, being newbies and all, they recorded it (Greenwood’s guitar strikes and all) and “Creep” was released to a world that didn’t know it’s anthem had arrived.

The song, “Creep” did not do so well in the UK, where Radiohead are from. But, it found traction in the US on “College radio” and very quickly became a huge hit that, along with songs like “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana and “Loser” by Beck, formed a, sort of, trinity of “slacker anthem”-type songs that spoke directly to the hearts and minds of everyone who has ever felt rejected by the very society they longed to join. When Radiohead began to tour in support of “Pablo Honey”, they were shocked at the reaction they were getting from fans and, more to the point, how obsessed these fans were with “Creep”, at the expense of all other songs they were trying to play. It quickly came to be that the band started to absolutely hate having to play the song live. They were feeling trapped by its’ success and were desperately trying to distance themselves from it so, in the end, they simply announced that they were no longer playing it live. Fans be damned.

You know that saying that goes, “Be careful what you publish on the Internet because, once something is out there, you can never really delete it. It is always out there, somewhere, in some archive, waiting to be re-discovered.”….well, “Creep” kinda falls into that category of thinking. As much as Radiohead may have grown tired of singing “Creep” live, the rest of the world was not so eager to give the song up. What has happened is that other artists rushed in to fill the void that Radiohead left behind when they publicly abandoned the song. Consequently, “Creep” has become one of the most covered songs in the last thirty years. What has always set “Creep” apart is that it is a song that is built primarily upon the skills of the singer. There are some very delicate sections to this song that are all about pauses and inflections but, there are, also, sections of the song that require vocal acrobatics that few but the very best singers can match. Thus, “Creep” has become the bar against which many singers measure themselves. All manner of singers; professionally-trained and rank amateurs, have given “Creep” a go on talent shows such as “American Idol” and “America’s Got Talent”, as well as, on YouTube, in local bars and even, busking alone on some city sidewalk. “Creep” has taken on a life of its own and exists now, more as a special song for people to sing than a Radiohead song. But, having said that, Radiohead has pulled the song out recently and performed it at festivals (pre-covid, of course) such as Glastonbury, where their performance was greeted with rapturous applause.

So, it appears that Radiohead have come to terms with the monster of a song they have created. They play it, on occasion but, by refusing to let it define them, they gave themselves room to grow creatively in front of their audience and, as such, Radiohead has been able to create some of the most innovative and creative material in the past twenty-five plus years. But, regardless of how high they climb on the musical mountain, there are still scores upon scores of ordinary-looking, socially-anxious people out there for whom “Creep” is their hymn. It isn’t everyday that, as a creative-type, you get to create something that leaves a lasting legacy of touching hearts to the extent that “Creep” has for Radiohead. Whether the band liked it or not, the fact is that each time that song is played, some lonely figure feels less lonely because they feel as though they have been seen. There is great value in helping someone feel less alone in this world. That is what “Creep” has ended up doing.

So, without further delay, here is Radiohead’s first big hit, “Creep” from their debut album, “Pablo Honey”. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “Creep” by Radiohead, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Radiohead, can be found here.

The link to the video for the song, Creep”, as covered by Brian Justin Crum on “America’s Got Talent”, can be found here.

The link to the video for the song, “Creep”, as covered in a supper club by singer Carrie Manolakos, can be found here. *Beautiful, powerful cover!

Thanks, as always, to KEXP, for playing the songs that touch people’s lives. The link to their wonderful website can be found here.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #210: Exit Music (For A Film) by Radiohead.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #210: Exit Music (For A Film) by Radiohead.

In 1995, Australian movie director Baz Luhrmann was nearing completion of the second in his “Red” triliogy of movies. His first movie was a well-received, modest hit called, “Strictly Ballroom”. His third and final movie….one that would win him an Academy Award for Best Director…was to be “Moulin Rouge”, starring Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman. The middle moive…the one he was working on in 1995 was a modernized adaptation of Shakespeare’s, “Romeo and Juliet” starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Clare Danes. All of Luhrmann’s movies showcased his love of music and, as such, the soundtracks played a crucial role in all films, including, “Romeo and Juliet”. Luhrmann knew that he wanted a song for the closing scene of the movie that was forward-thinking, innovative and emotive, all at the same time. As he thought of who best to fulfill this important element of his movie, he turned to the gentlemen from my favourite group, “Radiohead”.

At the time Luhrmann contacted “Radiohead”, they had already begun the process of recording songs for their new album called, “OK Computer”. Luhrmann sent them the rough cut of the final 20-30 minutes of the movie. In short order, “Radiohead” sent Luhrmann a finished song that, because it played at the very end of the movie, was entitled, “Exit Music (For A Film). “Exit Music (For A Film)” is not part of the official “Romeo and Juliet” soundtrack because “Radiohead” had already slotted the song on their new album, “OK Computer”. But, for Luhrmann, it was the final puzzle piece that completed his movie and he happily acquiesced to “Radiohead’s” request. “Romeo and Juliet” went on to be a very successful movie; earning several awards along the way. “OK Computer” went on to one of the most critically-acclaimed albums of the last 25 years; with “Exit Music (For A Film) being one of the reasons why.

In terms of record sales alone, (almost ten million in sales), “OK Computer” ranks as one of the biggest albums of all-time. It spawned a series of innovative and ground-breaking songs such as “Paranoid Android”, “Karma Police”, “Climbing the Walls” and the song that Spin Magazine declared as the #1 song of the 1990s, “Let Down”. These songs are not Pop songs and, as such, did not race up the charts but, listening to them each, it is easy to see the intelligence of lyrics that accurately predicted what life was to become for all of us as we transitioned to an information society. “OK Computer”, not unlike famous albums such as “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” by The Beatles, has been lauded as being that album that comes along every generation or so, and pushes the entire music industry forward with some element of technical innovation. For “Radiohead”, this innovation manifested itself in the form of new recording techniques that made better use of emerging technology….techniques that are common today but were unheard of back in the mid-1990s. I am biased in my critique of this album because “OK Computer” is my favourite album of all-time. The title of the album comes from the book, “A HItchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, where one of the characters is always talking to a computer and saying, “Okay Computer, chart a course for……..” and so on.

The song, “Exit Music (For A Film)” is sung in a hauntingly slow, word-by-word style. Lead singer, Thom Yorke, says that he was inspired by the song, “Folsom Prison” by “Johnny Cash”, of all people but, if you listen critically and carefully, you will be able to see how the slow beginning of “Folsom Prison” is present in “Exit Music (For A Film)” and how both songs have powerful moments about three-quarters of the way through and how both end in quieter tones, with just the singer’s voice at the end. When I first heard, “Exit Music (For A Film)”, I was unaware that it was meant to be for the “Romeo and Juliet” movie. The song stands alone as capturing a seemingly life-and-death moment in the lives of young lovers (who are never named). But, knowing the story of “Romeo and Juliet” adds a deeper layer of meaning to the lyrics and elevates the song to a higher plain. I am pleased with this song, as are “Radiohead” and Director Baz Luhrmann, too. I hope that you will be, as well.

So, without further delay, here are the very best band around, “Radiohead” with “Exit Music (For A FIlm)” from the movie, “Romeo and Juliet”. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “Exit Music (For A Film) by Radiohead, can be found here.

The link to the video for the trailer for the movie, “Romeo and Juliet”, as directed by Bay Luhrman, can be found here.

The official website for Radiohead, can be found here.

The official website for Rolling Stone Magazine, can be found here.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #233: Karma Police by Radiohead.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #233: Karma Police by Radiohead.

“Karma Police” was the second song released from my most favourite album ever, “OK Computer”. I like this song very much and if I was merely making this list up on my own for my own personal pleasure, “Karma Police” would definitely have made that cut, too.

As is the case with many songs that resonate with me, what I like about “Karma Police” starts with the writing and with the story being told. First of all, we start with the philosophical notion of “Karma” as a life force that brings balance into the world and into our own lives. If we misbehave, “Karma” will ensure that we are bitten in the end. It is thought of as a cosmic energy that ensures no good deed goes unrewarded and no bad deed goes unpunished. In the band, the term “Karma Police” was often tossed out from one band member to another if anyone started getting frustrated with another member and began acting out. “Behave or else the karma police will come for you.”

More specifically, this song deals with Capitalism and the mind-numbing, tedium of finding yourself in a cubicle in an office being yelled at by middle-managers or else, on a never-ending assembly line, packaging widgets for sale in order to generate revenue than never seems to find its way into your pocket. While many songs have been written about being frustrated with our bosses (like, “Take This Job and Shove It” by Johnny Paycheck or “Working 9 to 5″ by Dolly Parton”), for my money, none describe the irritatingly annoying presence of Company men better than lead singer/songwriter, Thom Yorke who writes and condescendlingly sings:

“Karma Police

Arrest this man

He talks in Maths

He buzzes like a fridge

He’s like a de-tuned radio.

Karma Police

Arrest this girl

Her Hitler hair-do

Is making me feel ill

And we have crashed her party.”

Have you ever stopped and listened to your fridge buzzing? Or, how annoying it is when your radio is slightly off setting? Take that visceral feeling of annoyance and apply it to the environment of a work place that no one likes to be at nor did they aspire to be there in the first place and, you have a song that not only makes you think but, as well, makes you feel the revulsion, too.

I think that “Karma Police” is written very cleverly but, it also employs a musical technique that was, at the time, quite unheard of and one that changed the way “Radiohead” created their music going forward. “OK Computer” was “Radiohead’s third album. By the time it was completed and the band went on tour, they were all chafing at the constraints they felt they were performing under when it came to how their songs were viewed and how music was able to be recorded. Not unlike The Beatles, around the time that “Strawberry Fields Forever/Penny Lane” came out and forever changed who they were in the public’s eye and how they approached the craft of song writing and producing their work, “Karma Police” changed Radiohead and gave their fans (like me) a sneak peak at how they would approach all of their music in the future. At the end of the song, the band stops playing and the song descends into a cabal of noise. This “noise” was created after all of the instruments had been played and all of the recordings done. It was created using techinques such as distortion and feedback and sound loops and so on. It was all done electronically/digitally on computers. The use of digital technology on “Karma Police” was Radiohead’s way of experimenting with new ways to change how sounds could be used in a song. By employing digital recording techniques, Radiohead expanded the range of sound possibilities which, moving forward, helped them to create some of the most innovative music being played live today. In addition, the “noise” at the end of the song is a further layer of sensory stimulation added to a song that works so hard and so well to get you feeling uncomfortable and annoyed with being where you are.

The official music video for this song won awards as “Video of the Year” for the minimalistic storyline involved and the hopeless, helpless feeling it invokes in the viewer as we watch what happenes to the characters involved in the mysterious scene depicted on screen. But, for me, I have always loved Radiohead when they are performing live and “Karma Police” is no exception. So, for the videos accompanying this post, I will share a live performance first and then, I will post the “official” “award-winning” video for your listening and viewing pleasure, too.

In either case, enjoy…sort of.

The link to the video for the live version of the song, “Karma Police” by Radiohead, can be found here.

The link to the video for the official version of the song, “Karma Police” by Radiohead, can be found here. ***PS: The actor in this video actually burned his fingertips by holding the matches which were really aflame.

The link to the official website for Radiohead, can be found here.

Thanks, as always, to KEXP, for playing the most innovative music of all-time. The link to their wonderful website can be found here.

The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History: KEXP- Song #449…Kid A by Radiohead.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #449: Kid A by Radiohead.

Of all of the songs profiled so far, this song is the one that is the most personal for me. Radiohead have been my favourite group for years, in the same way that Kate Bush has been my favourite female singer for years, too. I first came to be aware of the band in the 90s when I bought a compilation CD called “MTV: 120 Minutes Live”. On this CD was a song called, “Fake Plastic Trees”. In the liner notes, it said that this song was best enjoyed with headphones because the song was going to fill the air with sounds in a way that no other band was doing at the time. So, I put on my headphones and listened as “Fake Plastic Trees” built up and built up and built up and then, explode in a finale of sound, a cacophony, really. I was impressed. The song was from an album called, “The Bends”. On that CD was a song called, “Street Spirit” which remains one of my personal Top Five songs of all time. I came late to the party when it came to “The Bends” because, not very long after buying that album, Radiohead released a new album called “OK Computer”.

“OK Computer” is my favourite album of all time, bar none. I listened to it in awe. I love originality in Art and this entire album was filled, from start to finish, with the most original, thought-provoking, intelligent rock n’ roll music I had ever heard. “OK Computer” coincided with a time in my life when I was in transition. I was well into my teaching career, I had just bought my first house, I was hoping to find my soulmate but had not yet met Keri. So, “OK Computer” helped fill my empty Oshawa home with sound and helped to fill my mind with stories and images. I wasn’t the only person who thought “OK Computer” was a special album. It was ranked by many critics and magazines as being the #1 album of the entire decade of the 1990s!

Not only did “OK Computer” arrive at a time of transition in my life, it arrived at a time just before the Internet really started growing into the all-encompassing entity that it is today. There was no social media back in the day when Radiohead was touring in support of this album. Therefore, I had no way of knowing that the members of Radiohead were miserable on tour and were actually contemplating breaking up the band. Unlike many band breakups, their desire to stop playing the music that was making them famous had nothing to do with internal band strife. Instead, they simply began hating the musical form they were playing. They began feeling constricted by the structure of rock music. At the time of their tour, they had a lead singer, Thom Yorke, three guitarists (Ed O’Brien, Jony Greenwood and his brother, Colin Greenwood) and a drummer, Philip Selway. That was a fairly common rock band configuration. But, by the time their tour was at the mid-point, the band (in particular, Thom Yorke) were sick of guitars and of songs with a chorus and of just about everything to do with music as they were making it. So, as I sat in my tiny home in Oshawa, Ontario, having my mind blown by their songs, Radiohead were making the very deliberate choice to abandon everything and completely re-invent themselves and how music is made. I knew none of this when news came out that Radiohead were releasing a new album called, “Kid A”.

There were no singles released from this new album. Usually, bands pre-release a new single in order to drum up interest in their new album. Radiohead did not do that. They simply created “Kid A” and sent it out into the world. I rushed out and purchased it, sight unseen. I raced home and immediately put in on. And, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. It seemed like all ambient sounds! It was nothing at all like “OK Comuter” or, even, “The Bends”. It seem like gibberish to me. I have never been so heartbroken and disappointed in anything in my life as I was with Radiohead’s new album. I played it a couple of times to see if it would grow on me but, the only thing that grew was my sense of revulsion. I hated it so much that, within a week, I took it to a used CD shop and sold it to the guy who ran the place for $2.50.

I didn’t listen to Radiohead for awhile after that. In time, the internet grew into an important part of all of our lives. As it developed, it began giving all of us increasingly greater and easier ways of accessing content of interest. For me, I began listening more to music, watching videos and reading articles about music from all manner of sources. One of the things I discovered while doing so were live Radiohead performances. I had only ever listened to them. I had never watched them before. I found their live performances mesmerizing. Some of the performances that I was most drawn to were of songs I was unfamiliar with. I conducted some research and discovered, to my embarrassment, that some of these songs were from “Kid A” and from the sister album, “Amnesiac”. I was watching/listening to “How to Disappear Completely”, “The National Anthem”, “Everything In Its Right Place”, “Spinning Plates”, “Optimistic” and so on with fresh ears and eyes. I was stunned at how completely transformative it was to watch the band live, as opposed to, listening to these songs at home, alone. I truly was not sophisticated enough to understand what Radiohead was trying to do with “Kid A” and “Amnesiac”.

Simply put, what they were trying to do was not only re-invent themselves but, in the process, re-invent how musicians made music. What Radiohead did was change the way sounds were used. They developed various technologies that isolated sounds in loops that could then be played in any manner the band liked; more quickly, on a slow reset, stretched out, condensed, played on offbeats, etc. They de-constructed their vocals in the same way. Some songs have actual vocals, some have snippets of words that are recorded in isolation and re-edited in a stream in whatever fashion they chose. They use traditional instruments but they don’t always play them in search of harmonies or having one instrument act as a means of amplifying the notes from another. Sometimes, they play rock n roll like jazz fusion is played; all discordant but, all producing sounds that lend themselves to new song stylings that work in the end. In short, Radiohead revealed themselves to be inventors and magicians all rolled into one. And I, in reply, revealed myself to be unsophisticated when it came to my own understanding of infinite number of ways songs can be made.

I am going to close by talking about the videos I am going to share with you. First of all, I don’t want the song, “Kid A” from the album, “Kid A” to be your first introduction to Radiohead, if you have never heard them before. The song, “Kid A” has been described as the most inaccessible song the band has produced. It was almost as if the band was challenging their fans to see who was really ready to follow their new directions and who wasn’t. I did not like the song then and I still do not play it very often now. So, instead, I will start you off with a live performance of another song from, “Kid A” called “The National Anthem”. This song has more vocal sounds than it does vocal words but, there is no denying that it is a real song. On stage, you will notice Jony Greenwood operating a computer-like box called Ondes Martnenot, which controls how some of the sounds in this song appear. Thom Yorke’s vocals are transmitted through a voice modulator. There is a jangle, discordant wall of sound that erupts out of this song that really gives it a sense of great energy and excitement. All in all, this is quite a performance. More importantly, it is quite a song.

Radiohead remain my favourite band. I still think “OK Computer” is my favourite album but, my appreciation and admiration for the vision that Radiohead employs has grown immeasurably. If this is your first encounter with Radiohead then, buckle up! “The National Anthem” is not a pop song. I will post the song, “Kid A” in the comments, for anyone who wishes to give it a go. Thanks for hanging in until the end of this, my longest post.

The link for the music video for The National Anthem by Radiohead can be found here.

The link for Kid A by Radiohead can be found here.

A link to Radiohead’s website can be found here.

Thank you, KEXP, for supporting original and challenging music, such as that produced by Radiohead. A link to their website can be found here.