OK Computer is my favourite album. Yet it was one of those passionate musical journeys that you’re somewhat unprepared for in terms of the sheer emotional impact. I bought OK Computer in an HMV when I was a young girl in rainy Newcastle. Intended for my Dad, my friend persuaded me to give it a listen before wrapping it. It was an actual cassette- seriously – and that was a possibility in those days. I felt bad, but it was a gentle wayward act for a teenager.
I secretly had concluded that it was clearly very intriguing yet my friend laughed at the lack of quality after roughly seven seconds, and wanted to put on B*witched or Westlife. That was her idea of good tunes: anything where there is matching denim and at least one musical guru touching up the camerawoman.
I heard that album in the family car for roughly a year, and took no real heed of its content. Yet I would eventually understand it while sitting in our family friend Jaine Raine’s kitchen in Glastonbury. I was left alone with the album gently playing, and I suddenly realised its absolute wonder. As the beautiful sounds proceeded to softly play, I thought, “this can’t get any better”, and it absolutely soared into new heights. Then as the track itself drifted out I would sit astonished, wondering how the next one could possibly match that. And as the next song managed to equal or exceed its astounding qualities I had one of the most religious experiences of my existence. I realised: this is my favourite album. The years only heighten my adoration of the band, and I have fallen in love with Kid A, Amnesiac, Hail to the Thief, In Rainbows, and The Bends. And King of Limbs. And a couple of songs from Pablo Honey. Ok, I absolutely love it all. All of it. And the collector’s editions of each of the albums. And their left earlobes…
I have nothing but respect for a band who never allowed their song to advertise capitalist products. In the modern world this is extremely heroic and strikingly unusual. It’s only a matter of time before an album comes with a free Pizza Hut buffet, and Radiohead would be the only artist in the mainstream who would allow their fans to go kind of hungry and yet be musically satisfied. How amazing. How totally Radiohead.
I saw Radiohead once in 2008 at a festival in New York. It was the only time I had been to New York and the only time I had seen Radiohead, and so you can imagine my ecstatic face as I turned from the Noo Yahk skyline to my favourite band. The entire atmosphere was like that of a musical church, and the band was completely in tune with their audience’s wishes that you had to sit back and admire them – in tears. They were not the ramshackle hooligans who covered the latest number one and got caught snorting coke in the portiloos. And no one would want their hero to disappear for two hours and then emerge dishevelled trying to remember his own name if they only understood how perfect a musical experience could be: a professional, environmentally-friendly performance.
Thom Yorke was visibly sad when he performed Nude on stage, and he sung like a bird in a cage called a human being. The release of those emotions resonated within my own emotional world and his striking calibre as a person was evident. His genuineness and open-heartedness is able to touch people.
Yet it stems from genuine struggles with life in general. Thus OK Computer led to Thom’s complete nervous breakdown, his deviation from straight rock to electronica and his the deepening of his emotions. It was arguably worthwhile in the sense that the expressiveness of his words, voice and musicianship is parallel to the great artists of the past.
Watching him perform the trying balancing act between his extraordinary levels of fame and his admirable maintenance of artistic credibility is a pleasure with Thom Yorke.
He sets the bar higher than any of the other inhabitants of planet Earth.
Who could say a bad word about Thom Yorke?!