It was early 1997. I had a glorious pony tail and lived in the mountains. One day during idle work conversation some one asked, “What’s your favorite band?” Really didn’t have an answer. I liked bands. I was possibly “in to” some bands. Nothing that approached being a singular favorite. I must have sputtered out some answer as the conversation moved on. But it stuck with me as one of those “that’s not right” moments.
I wrestled with choosing a band from the music then in heavy rotation for me. None of them seemed right and in hindsight those choices may have been rather embarrassing today. It felt like I would be reaching back when I wanted to go forward. So, I decided that the next band that grabbed my attention I’d look into. I thought that I’d hear someone new that bowl me over with awesomeness. It ended up that it was a band whose CD I already owned, but I hadn’t given a chance.
Mountain living requires some driving around. Things aren’t always close. Music helped with that. My girlfriend kept putting The Bends in the CD player. I initially dismissed Radiohead because the ubiquity of Creep in 1993 wore on me. Creep is a song that seems clever at first and then gets progressively irritating with subsequent listens. I bought the conventional wisdom that they were a one hit wonder after listening to the rest of the Pablo Honey (I did appreciate the Jerky Boys reference. Also, worst album cover ever). I heard some songs that I liked from The Bends when it came out in 1995. Enough to buy the CD. But it didn’t really work its way into my preferred music until I ceded some control over the CD player.
I began to notice that there were moments in some songs that “gripped” me. The beginning of the album and the song Planet Telex has a whooshing noise over some atmospheric guitars. The way that the guitars come in at the end of Fake Plastic Trees. The creepy, but not in the context of the lyrics, “I used to fly like Peter Pan. All the children flew when I touched their hands” crescendo at the end of Bones. The lyrics overall weren’t as corny. The production was better. The musicianship was tighter. They were rounding out nicely. Maybe I was just finally paying attention.
In the summer of 1997 I was flipping through the channels one night and saw a live show from Ireland concurrent with the U.S. release date of OK Computer. Thom Yorke was doing some heroically bad dancing and was wobbling his head like the Chicken Lady from the Kids in the Hall or Will Ferrell doing Harry Caray. Weird, but good weird. I bought the album shortly thereafter.
OK Computer is at or near the top of a whole bunch of Best of the 1990’s lists and is mostly a concept album about the fear and ennui that accompanied the oncoming technological age. I say mostly because a couple of songs don’t fit that for me. Needless to say, I loved it and I was hooked.
It would be a fair criticism to say, “Congratulations, you managed to pick out the band that a boatload of other emo/indie/hipster/your insult of choice people like. How utterly average. Also, Radiohead is whiny crap”. Cant argue with that. But that’s not the point here. It wasn’t as important which band I chose. It was that I decided to choose.
I think I’d be just as happy if I chose Creed (Cole, I’m looking at you, buddy*). Here’s why. A ton of good things flowed from settling on a band. The nascent wild west internet combined with an, in hindsight, ill advised bet on digital copyright enforcement provided the perfect incubator for fostering an interest in a band. Not only could I wait patiently for my dial up to get every song RH had recorded (I waited 13 minutes for Treefingers and it was really a completely different Muse song!!?!), I could get a poorly recorded live version from a Tel Aviv show of Alligators in the New York Sewers. I read interviews, articles, and pieced together cryptic lyrics and song meanings with other fans. Their music also helped get me through some tough times.
The biggest benefit was exposure to other bands. It was like Pandora before there was Pandora. There were online recommendations from fans and associated acts like the Beta Band and Steven Malkmus which led me to Pavement. That this post is titled with a Pavement lyric and not a Radiohead lyric is a small testament to this. I branched out, at first in a limited space and then progressively outward. My music collection and influences grew. That’s a great result. I would have branched out from Creed as well and achieved it.
So here I am today, happier and wiser, You may think that despite my journey that I still have no taste. But I used to have NO taste. This is better.
*Creed isn’t Cole’s favorite band. Like Mari, it is Tool. Which I think is a great choice.
Mike was surprised to find out my number one band was Tool. I worked for a Rock radio station for a year, and was pimped out as a chick who loves to rock. He actually put on a Tool CD to see if I was legit. I knew all of the words. Eighties rock fans, don’t get too excited. My music taste follows with Tori Amos, Milosh, Husky Rescue, Alice in Chains, and Portishead. OH and, Lady Ga Ga. Eclectic to some people, annoying to others. I also enjoy the reggae stylings presented on Sunday mornings. I love trip hop, hard rock, and female vocals. Recently, I spent a night on repeat with Machine Says Yes, FC/Kahuna .
Mike asked me to go to Radiohead, on his motorcyle. I went, and enjoyed it. We sometimes realize our passion for music is met. Other times it isn’t. There are some Radiohead songs I love. Lotus Flower is one of them. I think it is trip hop, mixed with Mike’s favorite band. Some of the other songs, I just don’t get. What I do understand is Mike’s passion. I watched him, enamored, and it made my heart soar. I love watching him pleased. Radiohead pleases him.
If you know Mike, not much ignites him to a giddy state. Friends of his have told me I do this. Bailey definitely encourages a ridiculous emotion. Radiohead also does this for him. I love watching him get excited. He turned into a child when we went to see Radiohead. I had a similar emotion when we saw Beth this year (Portishead, friends). Thanks for showing your face Beth 🙂