As I get older I find that I look back at my life through different lenses and one of those lenses is music. The soundtrack to your life – think about that for a moment. From the first music you remember hearing, to the first record you bought. From the songs you danced to at your school discos, to the first dance at your wedding. When the radio plays a song you haven’t heard for years and you obsessively pull the album out and lose yourself to those old songs and the sights and smells they conjure in your mind. That’s the power of music and why it’s so important to me.
One of the highlights of my life’s soundtrack is OK Computer by Radiohead. Today they release the 20th anniversary reissue, OKNOTOK 1997 2017. There have been many album reissues and gigs, particularly in the last decade, to remind me of how the years are passing by; all conjuring memories, all vital parts of my soundtrack but none, so far, with the impact of this one.
1997 – I was 22 and had just come back from a year living in France. I had my final year of University ahead of me and was contemplating a summer empty of plans, or worries. Remember those?
OK Computer and Spiritualized’s Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space both came out on June 16th. I went straight to my local Our Price, bought both on CD (evidenced by the receipt which includes Bittersweet Symphony on CD single) and spent the rest of the day listening to them, laid out on my bed, poring over lyric sheets, absorbing every note. Two weeks of obsessive listening later, a mate of mine called and said he was taking his brother’s camper van to Glastonbury and did I want to go? “We’ll jump the fence or something when we get there” – halcyon days! We didn’t jump the fence, we paid a security guard to borrow his pass, and once your hand was stamped, you were in for the weekend.
Radiohead’s Saturday night set (http://www.setlist.fm/setlist/radiohead/1997/worthy-farm-pilton-england-7bd7be7c.html) was probably the most iconic gig of their career and of my life so far. As Thom Yorke sang “rain down on me from a great height” from Paranoid Android (https://youtu.be/ATvonKDt6jQ?t=21m52s), the heavens opened (it was the year of the mud) and it was completely magical, so much so that I swore I’d never go to Glastonbury again. I mean how do you top that? Believe me though, I’d be there in a heartbeat this year. When music, place and time all come together, these are the times you’ll never forget.
Since 97 the album, and Radiohead’s music, has been a near constant soundtrack to my life. There aren’t many months that go by without me playing a song or two from it. I know every word, every drum fill, every guitar lick, I mean you memorised albums then, didn’t you? The Internet has brought many great things and I love Spotify and the musical exploration it brings, but the over proliferation of music means that you don’t spend the time with albums that you once did. Also, time doesn’t move in the same way when you’re 22. I wish it did.
In the intervening 20 years I met my wife and we’ve now got shared memories soundtracked by Radiohead’s music, other bands too of course, but there’s a special place in our hearts for these five boys from Oxford. In the last ten years we’ve also had our two boys, and whilst they’re not fully signed up members of the Radiohead fan club yet, their memories of our house, our car journeys and the time we spend together in their own formative years, are going to be coloured by all the music we’re exposing them to.
As Colin Greenwood says on his The First Time interview on BBC Radio 6 music “You’re making something that is feeding into people’s lives and memories that is entirely theirs and has nothing to do with yours. There’s a sharing of that when people come to shows and it’s a powerful combination.”
So today as I tweet to death about this anniversary and what this amazing album means to me; as I feel the excitement of running to the record shop to buy OK Computer all over again; as I listen to it at work, at home and settle down with my wife to watch Radiohead play Glastonbury tonight (20 years and no fence jumping), I’m remembering the 22 year old me, laying on his bed obsessing over 12 songs that, in 2017, reverberate with all the life and love of the 20 years that separate me from him.
Thank you Thom, Jonny, Ed, Colin and Phil.