You Want Me, Chuckles? Well …

I have a slightly ambivalent relationship with Radiohead, I mean I like them, I really dig their attitude on a whole range of issues*, I own a fair chunk of their stuff and I’ve seen them twice – both times they were excellent.  But, and there is a but – I can’t quite commit myself to loving them unreservedly.  I’m not sure what it is, maybe their British reserve rubs my British reserve up the wrong way.  Anyway I find myself in possession of four Radiohead 12″‘s covering the period September ’94 to January ’96 (all from The Bends), all promo copies and I’ve just spent two interesting afternoons listening to them all.

As a responsible listener I made sure the usual Radiohead Protection Protocols (RPP, as defined by the W.H.O 1997) were in place first:

  • General sense of wellbeing before listening – Check.
  • Sunny, bright weather outside – Check, sort of.
  • Mindless hair metal to play straight afterwards – Check, Look What the Cat Dragged In primed and ready to go.
  • Someone else in the house ready to turn the power off if they think you’re getting in too deep – Check

Actually, piss-taking aside, my view is that Radiohead don’t get enough kudos for a) rocking out like behemoths occasionally b) being quite funny at times**.  Obviously, being a wild-eyed big-bottomed maverick type I worked through these discs in reverse chronological order – I know, I know, it’s just CRAZY around here, who knows what I might do next, misfile a Black Sabbath LP in with the Black Crowes?

Radiohead Street Spirit

First up was Street Spirit (Fade Out) which I remember the Darkness playing last time I saw them live, albeit a bit sped up and more falsettoey (falsettoish?).  Now this doesn’t really do my whole, they’re-not-as-miserable-as-you-think theory too much good, a sample:

Cracked eggs, dead birds
Scream as they fight for life
I can feel death, can see its beady eyes
All these things into position
All these things we’ll one day swallow whole
And fade out again and fade out again

Ha! Ha! Ha! Oh Lord, it’s just the way he tells them! Hmm, Thom Yorke described this one as the band’s saddest song and as ‘a tunnel with no light at the end’.  I love it because of that, totally.  I also love the fact that the song is so restrained and controlled throughout, there is a dignity and elegance to it because of that, that would be lost if it just became too anguished a shriek-fest; it hits the mark for me every time piercing my hard exoskeleton and hitting the marshmallowy gooey feelings locked up within.  If you ever wanted a song to invoke a mood of pure existential sorrow then ‘Street Spirit (Fade Out)’ is your bunny, it’s also possibly in my Top Three Radiohead songs ever.

Thom Yorke takes part in a 1537 advertising campaign
Thom Yorke takes part in a 1537 advertising campaign

B-sides: ‘Talk Show Host’ is another incredibly good track, I can’t believe it was only used as a B-side until it was picked up as soundtrack material later, again it would take up another berth in my Radiohead Top Three ever.  I love gentle guitar over the top of the sparse, then churning, rhythm and, of course, Yorke’s bruised vocals.  It is also the recipient of extra 1537 bonus points for some brilliant swearing,

You want me?
Fucking well come and get me
I’ll be waiting with a gun and a pack of sandwiches

As a sound of a man unravelling, it’s pretty hard to beat.  The other B-side is a track called ‘Bishop’s Robes’, which is a lesser thing.  Radiohead were a bit prone to hitting a default wonky U2 sound around this time and this track is one of those, albeit with some quiet atmospherics thrown in.

Next up is Just, I really like the title track for the opening chords’ mockery of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ and the fact that Radiohead really do rock out on this one.  There are traces of Beatles-esque harmonies sprinkled throughout, allied to some stun guitar from Jonny Greenwood as well as a funky rhythmic thingies going on throughout.  This is a more ragged take on Radiohead than most of the tracks hereabouts.  I also award this 12″ bonus points for being pressed on at least 180g vinyl, it’s so substantial and lovely I can barely lift it.

My homage to the 'Just' video
My homage to the ‘Just’ video

B-sides: ‘Planet Telex (Karma Sunra Mix)’, a remix of The Bends track by U.N.K.L.E, I like what they’ve done here – they have added some slowed-down tablas, leaving the vocals poking through the mix almost apologetically.  The passion of the original track is splayed out and elongated on this mix to great effect – chuck in some great old school scratching effects and (praise be!) some talking towards the end and it becomes a really intriguing remix.  Then we have ‘Killer Cars (Mogadon version)’, which differs (by being much better) from the version of this track found on all the various collectors disc versions of the LP, is another solid tune.  Lots of strumming then loud bits, coupled with some fabulous electric piano sounds AND some more talkie bits about cars in the background AND I’ve always been a sucker for a false ending on a song AND it has some tasty noisy soloing – something for all the family on this track.

And for my third trick we have Planet Telex, which differs from what has gone before by being four mixes of the track, none of which is the ‘Karma Sunra’ version above; in fact the promo version I have is called ‘Club Mix DJ’.  Now I really like the track ‘Planet Telex’ which is here in all its’ original glory as the ‘Album Version’, which I’ve always thought is a frightful swizz on 12″s.  I love the stuttering keyboard and drums, the forceful delivery Thom Yorke gives it and the fact that it is basically rather similar to the racket U2 reached on my favourite LP of theirs, the criminally underrated, Zooropa.  There’s a certain amount of form over substance happening here, but in a good way ‘Everyone is/ Everyone is broken’ indeed.  In fact legend has it that the music was put together one very drunken night from fragments of the original version of ‘Killer Cars’.

Radiohead Planet Telex 01

Now unleash the remixes Mr DJ! The Steve Osborne ‘Hexidecimal Mix’ is pretty straight forward really, personally I think it loses a whole chunk of the melodic impact in exchange for some, umm, phatter beats^, I’m a fan of some of Osborne’s work with U2 but to my mind this mix doesn’t add enough to keep it interesting.  The B-sides are the ‘L.F.O JD Mix’ and the ‘Trashed Mix’ by Alien Beatfreak.  Now I like electronic pioneers L.F.O and their brand of minimalist techno, but their mix does very little for me, they seemingly took out all the melody and replaced it with the sound of bits of metal hitting other bits of metal, just keeping Thom Yorke in the background singing  ‘You can crush it’ over and over and over again.  Mr/Mrs/Dr/Messers Beatfreak adopt a very similar approach, albeit a bit louder and a bit more bludgeoning.  I think this was the weakest of the four 12″s here.  The best remix I found trawling the web was this live version, which really really rocks – just like when I saw them on this tour:

Last is My Iron Lung, which comes in a cool logo sleeve, rather than the plain black all the rest come equipped with.  The song is about the success the band had with ‘Creep’ and the fact that whilst it kept the band alive and financially sound, it became something of a millstone around their necks, a stifling influence^^.  Again I really rate the title track, with it’s Beatlesy opening guitar refrain and the whole quiet/loud dynamic.  When the band cut loose on this one they REALLY cut loose; the savagery contrasted with the normal melody is brilliant.

Radiohead Iron Lung

B-sides: ‘The Trickster’ is a bright, loud tune without too much substance behind it, or at least not enough to hold its head up in this company.  ‘Punchdrunk Lovesick Singalong’ is nearer the mark with some disquieting minor-key discordancy and some, umm, punchdrunk lovesick singingalong.  Again the Beatles are a good reference point here and for the next tune too.  Lastly, ‘Lozenge of Love’ (it sucks?) an acoustic, eastern-tinged, sad number also hits the spot, it’s a trifling tune by Radiohead standards but it is a decent one.

Overall I am impressed at the sheer value packed into these four 12″s, Radiohead were clearly striving to give their fans the best possible value and I really appreciate that.  It’s nice to see that the bulk of these extra tunes and bits and pieces are supplemented still further by even more different tracks on the various CD versions of the singles too.  Radiohead were clearly going through a really fertile creative period, throwing off tracks and ideas as quickly as they could record them; and this of course before they had got anywhere near OK Computer and the wide blue yonder.  You can get most of these tracks now on compilations and deluxe 2 disc editions of the albums, but there are one or two you can’t and the mean collector in me likes that fact.

Radiohead were pretty good really, weren’t they?  You disagree? well I’ll be waiting with a bun and a pack of sandwiches, cheese and pickle.

Just - slight return
Just – slight return

364 Down.

*mostly because it chimes with my own, I’m genuinely the sort of weak-assed liberal who just wants my own views parroting back at me, rather than being challenged in any way shape, or form.

**am slightly worried I may be the only person in the universe who thinks this.

^I’m not on home turf here – but I think I can bluff my way through it all regardless.

^^I’ve seen them play ‘Creep’ and it was just flat-out amazing.

58 thoughts on “You Want Me, Chuckles? Well …

  1. All those comments and I never actually commented on radiohead. Man, I heard Pablo Honey first (my buddy Brian brought it back from vacation in Florida) and I liked it. The Bends is one of the most menacing records I own. By the time i got to OK Computer, I was sold. And then from there… I dunno, I’m not so much into what they did after that. It’s OK. There are good tracks. I just don’t go for the blips and bleeps and techno crap like the Euros do, I guess. I think OK Computer was definitely a watershed moment, an opening of multiple possible avenues to follow. I just think I would have had them follow a different avenue that the one they chose. But still, power to them. I like ’em well enough. I’m sure they’ll keep on making records and people will love them. And so on.

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      1. Haha I was just naturally following the conversation. And I like talking about moose. They make me love the English language. Think about it: one goose is a goose. Multiples are geese. One moose is a moose. Multiples are… moose. Oh man, I’m a geek. Still, Wiki says a male moose can max out at 6’9″ at the friggin’ shoulder height, be 10.5′ long, and weigh 1500 lbs. Now imagine a fully-loaded lorry hitting that at full speed…

        Moose. Aren’t you glad the Canadians have joined your comments section? Hahaha…

        Anyway. radiohead truly do their own thing. I respect that. But from what I gleaned from most of their later output (I believe I have heard every album at least once), it doesn’t mean I wanna listen to it all that much.

        Maybe I need to give them another chance. Maybe I’ll grow to love it. Maybe you’ve started something here.

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      2. I vote you, Mike and I immediately form RadioMoose, a Radiohead tribute band who play wearing full moosehead costumes.

        Millionaires by Christmas!

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      3. I’m in, but I wanna be the drummer.

        One problem, moose make good eating, so we’ll have to be on our guard at all times.

        We can spend our millions on installing crosswalks on northern highways for the sake of moose preservation.

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  2. Reading about your Radiohead Protection Protocols totally reminded me of that episode of Father Ted where the depressed Priest cheers up when he discovers the Theme From Shaft just to have it all ruined when he hears Radiohead on the bus home. Genius.

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  3. For me, being from the Midwest and constantly trying to breathe from the squeeze of this Bible Belt around my neck I think Radiohead’s very British demeanor and dry, underlying humor is what always appealed to me. There was nothing like them here. Sure, they’re influenced by a lot of the same bands everyone else is(Beatles, Pixies, Dexys Midnight Runners, etc…), but then there were bands like Can and NEU! that creeped(no pun intended) into their sound. And while they seemed all cool and hip, deep down the Yorkes and Greenwoods were really just dorks like me who loved sci fi, rock n’ roll, and dancing like an idiot in front of a mirror when no one was watching.

    The first album I bought from Radiohead was OK Computer and it completely changed how I looked at rock n’ roll. They didn’t revolutionize the music, but they certainly opened the door for interpretation and experimentation. In 1997 there was a whole lot of schlocky alternative music that did nothing for me. This album came out by those weird looking Brits that wrote that song “Creep” and sounded as if it came from another planet at times. Personally I didn’t pay any attention to them before OK Computer. Once I bought that I went back and bought The Bends and loved it as well. Never took the time to get into Pablo Honey. Never will. And as far as them bitching about the success of “Creep”, it’s their song and they can bitch if they want to. I’m sure John and Paul cringed in 1965 at the thought of playing “Love Me Do” one more time. It’s not spoiled artists bitching; it’s burnout. It happens.

    These 12″ singles are pretty great stuff. Please leave them to me in your will. Thank you.

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    1. OK Computer is just monumental, a bit too big for me to even think about writing about yet, like Prince ‘Sign of the Times’; just a real game changer. I eased my way in this way, through the singles. I didn’t want to make it sound like I don’t like them, I do, you rarely get bands of such incredible laser-guided precision.

      They’re yours in the will, along with my signed White Hills poster – but on the strict proviso I die of natural causes, I’m not stupid !!

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      1. No, I don’t think so – depends on my mood. I loved the secret booklet hidden in the back of the CD box – I thought that was a great touch.

        The only LP of theirs I own on vinyl is ‘In Rainbows’ where I shelled out for the cool box set and their box set – Best of, on vinyl.

        Kid A just took it all somewhere else again, especially that first track – wow! I’d love to drive across Canada at night to the sound of it.

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      2. I’ve done that!

        The secret booklet cool. You know that was only a first run? It was sold out after a few months.

        We have no Radiohead on vinyl here, only CDs, but certainly not for lack of choices. Although these promo discs of yours, are these versions available anywhere else?

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      3. Mostly as far as I could tell, bar about two tracks – neither of which were earth-shattering. The deluxe version of The Bends has all the stuff you’d need, they do look after their fans well.

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      4. OK cool. You know the kind of versions I buy anyway 🙂 I bought my sis the deluxe of OK Computer a couple years ago.

        I saw a whole row of Radiohead 12″ singles at the store too, I didn’t even want to go there. I assumed they were all re-releases.

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      5. If you drove straight through, it’d still take you almost 24 hours to get out of Ontario from here (in Ontario). Nighttime would be a dangerous trip, too. Lots of animals about, many of them willing to walk out onto the highway to see what the pretty lights are…

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      6. Very true. I’ve never hit anything big, but my dad has hit the fabled skunk many a time. Nobody in my family has ever hit a deer or anything bigger than that, but we’ve certainly seen plenty of deer dart across the road.

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      7. One time, we were north of Sault Ste. Marie and came across an accident scene, a full-size 18-wheeler (lorry, to you Brits) had hit a moose. Let’s put it this way: they both lost. The moose was dead, but the truck was a total write-off. What a mess.

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      8. Damn. There’s always a catch. Fine, natural causes.

        ‘Sign of the Times’ is unbelievably great. I listen to “The Ballad of Dorothy Parker” at least three times a week.

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      9. I know – it deserves more than some of my nonsense and a Lego Prince figure …. actually, I just sold myself on the idea.

        I just have a major, major thing about ‘I Could never take the place of your man’ – genius.

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  4. I really really enjoyed this one. It’s funny, your technique for listening to Radiohead is the same as mine for watching really terrifying horror movies. I keep Harold and Kumar on backup for when I finish, to set my mood back to normal!

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    1. Thank you – It was really nice of Thom to help me out with the 1537 publicity poster too. Top bloke!

      Re. horror. I remember when I watched ‘The Ring’ for the first time by myself in an isolated house – I immediately watched the Charlies’ Angels film and slept with every light on in the whole house. Not quite as good as my friend who’s car broke down on the way back from seeing ‘Blair Witch’ right in the middle of nowhere – too scared to get out the car, too scared to stay in the car …

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      1. Oh I see. First it was Mark Wilkinson, now it’s Thommy, is it? I bet you call him Thommy.

        For me the movie that gave me the chills were the Rob Zombie filmes — House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects. I love those two movies and I’ve written reviews that I will be posting in a couple weeks. But I had to watch them during the day, at the cottage, and with Harold and Kumar right after. Those movies are f***ed.

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      2. Not seen ‘Rejects’ – a google image search was enough for me… What’s wrong with all those 80’s ones with unfeasibly good looking teenagers being chased around funfairs? why’d he have to make it so Goddamn creepy? not as creepy as the original ‘Chainsaw Massacre’ though – one of my all-time fave films.

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      3. Yeah! That one disturbed me when I saw it at age 12 or 13!

        One thing Zombie does that I like — he sets his movies in the 1970’s. No cell phones. No way to call for help. That’s the way to do it. If I were stuck at Camp Crystal Lake today, I’d get on my Blackberry, take a selfie and post it to Facebook.

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      4. I watched those Zombie movies and thought they were dumb. Nothing redeeming about those characters. Sorry, Dude.

        I don’t get freaked out by movies. I once worked a 12 hour night shift, came home exhausted, and then watched The Ring and the first Saw movie back to back in order to stay awake to switch back onto days schedule. When the films were done, I went down in our old house’s basement, no one else home, and proceeded to sledgehammer out an old wall into a cistern, not knowing what was behind the wall (it was full of stuff, though). My wife told me I was nuts. It wasnt the first time she’d said that… Anyway, point is, that stuff doesn’t bother me, I guess.

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      5. Okay, should we all ever meet up together in a big rented house in the woods, then I vote you go in to check out the fuse in the basement first!

        Obviously as the pretty boy of the group I’m the one at maximum risk from baddies!

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      6. Haha that’s awesome. Moviemakers love it when stuff like that happens, it validates what they did. Thing I didn’t understand about Blair Witch is they got lost in the woods in friggin’ Maryland, which is not only one of the smallest of the US States, but also one of the most densely populated in the country. Pretty sure if they had just kept walking and ignored the silly sticks hanging from trees, they would have found other people fairly quickly. 😉

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      7. So a bit like getting lost in Central Park really? I loved that film when I first saw it, didn’t stand up to much of a second viewing though.

        I still have a real soft spot for Rosemary’s Baby as my possible favourite horror, that and all the old Hammer Horror movies.

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      8. Sure, I’ll go down in the basement first. But no way in hell am I wearing a red Star Trek uniform shirt when I go.

        Mike, if that was Zombie’s point, then those movies were just about the cheap gross-out (Dolphin Boy, seriously?) and a raised middle finger to his audience? Or is it that sometimes violence has no rationality and we’re supposed to watch it and accept that? I just don’t get it.

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      9. Whichever, I forgive him everything for being a part of ‘Astro Creep: 2000’ – funnily enough I blasted that one out today; gotta love ‘Supercharger Heaven’ !

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      10. Central Park? Haha pretty much! And actually, I’d say there are scarier characters in CP on a daily basis than there ever could be in a Maryland stand of trees at night.

        I’m not sure what it says about you either Mike, except you like them (and also don’t like them) and that’s your thing and I respect that.

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      11. I didn’t even make it that far in Moulin Rouge. I left the room screaming, and went upstairs and hid under the bed, begging my lovely wife to shut it off and make the horrors stop.

        Ooo, the 6-hour Colin Firth Pride & Prejudice. There’s another horror film supreme!

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  5. Radiohead has always had that complex rock thing going as a band. They are incredible musicians and all that stuff and they have some albums that are just brilliant such as OK Computer. But while some rock bands are loose and fun (think Stones or Replacements ) and others are just really good at being perfect. Maybe that’s what is wrong, Rock & Roll was never meant to be perfect

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  6. They put me off when they started moaning about how the success of Creep was cramping their artistic style. A lot of what followed was like a child throwing a prolonged artistic wobbly. I would say this to Thomas – People like you. Enjoy it. Yes, we’re all gonna die, get over it. Can you play Creep please. It’s the best song you’ve written.

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    1. Haha Creep was the first radiohead song I taught myself on the guitar because it’s so bloody easy to play. Maybe that’s part of why they don’t want to play it, too. I meanthey’re professional musicians, and if me, a total hack amateur can do it too…

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