Thursday, August 25, 2011
High And Dry
I don't remember the first time I heard this song. My cousin was very into Radiohead (and so was my sister for a while), and I was at an age where whatever he thought was good music was fine in my book; I'd followed him into Oasis and that had turned out brilliantly. Then I heard this song, and all of a sudden it was my own, like the birth of something; I didn't need him anymore. I'd always loved music and felt pretty confident doing my own thing (oblivious in standard three to the fact that no-one else gave a shit about the sixties and seventies when I was getting down to Kool FM 24/7. It was actually under threat for a while and you had to call up and register your support - yeah, I was there, with all the cats and chicks), but I felt so strongly about this song, every time I heard it, that all of a sudden music and I had our own thing, and I've felt like that ever since; confident in what I like, and what I don't, and completely affected by what I hear. Years later I read that Thom Yorke hated the song and said it was for people who don't really get their other music (Wikipedia says the band thought it sounded like a Rod Stewart song - ouch!), and I was mortified, and pretended it wasn't my favourite Radiohead song. They were my favourite band at the time, and I felt as if the cock had just crowed. But I don't feel that way anymore. I understand what he meant, and I know it's not his best work. But while he thinks its pop-ness is its weakness, I think it's why I and so many other people feel so strongly about it; pop music does that to people - it's emotional music, even if that means it can be basic. I recognise that Radiohead's other work is far superior, but when I listen to it I'm not personally moved by it; it's more like a technical appreciation of a genius I can't completely relate to, except on a lyrical level, and I like to be moved. I know The Bends is not one of Radiohead's better albums, too, not making the contribution to music their later albums like Kid A did, but I still love it, too; most of their others transcend time, a bit like some of Hendrix and Helter Skelter, which is amazing, but I like how The Bends sounds just like 1995/1996, when I first heard it. I suppose in reclaiming it after the cock crowed on me, the song became more meaningful in that I didn't need Thom Yorke's or anyone else's blessing (yes I threw salt over my shoulder). I love this song. When I hear it, I feel like I'm drifting on unseen hands; a bit like I'm crowd-surfing but I can't see the people below me, just the ceiling, but I know I'm being held up by people. I don't feel entirely easy; the song has a melancholy about it, and the lyrics are mournful, but I don't feel unhappy either. It reminds me of being on my bed at my old house in Avondale, and of lying in the sun at the top of the hill at the dog exercise area near my parents' looking at the sky with Oscar sniffing in the bushes nearby, and of singing along drunkenly to my lovely soon-to-be-wed cousin playing it on his guitar while tears rolled shamelessly down my face. It made me feel acutely how lonely I was, but also that I was surrounded by people (sometimes the people round made me feel even more lonely but not in this case; I just felt separate, and like I was waiting).
I wonder if I would be disdainful of someone who liked my hideous old poetry (I use the term very loosely) - not that I think Thom Yorke would be disdainful of me for liking High And Dry. Maybe I would. Or maybe I'd think they saw something that I was too close to see; I remember once reading or seeing Springsteen say that once you release a song (or any art - I don't know if he said that or I thought it) that it's not yours anymore; people will do what they like to it and that's part of it. It's a lot like the relationship between reader and writer, and reader also being writer (I think Jeanette Winterson talks about it).
Anyway, just wanted to write about something nicer than phlegm and clammy feet. Gross. Take that and make it your own.
PS I can't decide what I think their best song is, but this one is up there.