I dosed myself up on cold remedies and went back to work.
As soon as the tour was over there was an announcement on the Zane Lowe BBC Radio 1 show: Radiohead will play the BBC’s Maida Vale Studios, a special acoustic session and a Q&A to be recorded for his show (now in the regular evening slot) and it is happening on December 8th, the following Monday.
The RHMB goes into overdrive and quickly organises people to enter the competition for tickets, Ken taking the helm and sharing email addresses so that no matter who enters, everyone who can get there will be in with a chance of getting inside.
I email Hilda to thank her for the tour and to ask if there’s any way she can fix it… after such big gigs, a little session like this will be extra special. Ken enters the draw using my address (being online at the right moment). A volley of emails to Hilda later, and I’m confident enough to book a flight down, take a couple more days off work and make sure there are bodies for all of the tickets. And then I get an email from Radio 1, because I’ve won more tickets!
On the Monday there is much lunacy as both my flight from Glasgow and Pocki’s from Sweden are equally late. Eventually we meet at Stanstead and take the train to Liverpool street then tube to Tottenham Court Road. We find a noodle bar so we can eat and coordinate with incoming boardies to meet at Russell Square to go to Ken’s flat. Boardies from all over the place (Marv from London, Dop from Belguim, Nien from Holland) are already here. We then go on a London transport odyssey which involves a lot of walking, particularly around Baker Street Underground Station (leading to a lot of air saxophone tributes to Gerry Rafferty.) Everyone’s in a good mood. We eventually have to take two black cabs from Paddington to find Maida Vale tube station as the trains weren’t running. Here we find a shop to purchase beer and then follow the instructions on our maps to find the studios – More boardies – Angie, Jodi, Fiona and the At Ease contingent (Irish Claire, the Italian sisters) are already waiting. Colin Greenwood passes us to go inside the studios and we all act cool.
Kim rocks up in a cab with two bottles of M&S own-brand champagne. Clara arrives in a cab straight from work, closely followed by Tim C, they will take my spares.
Tim the TM appears on the entrance steps, “Wotcha”. He hands me an envelope with my name on and two tickets inside…and then asks me if I have any spares
Everyone is queuing at the wrong door. I have to wait to claim more tickets at the and miss the best spot. Tim G collars me, wants to know who else he should give his spares to, he has just four tickets left and he wants me to call it! I can’t, I know all these people, or they know me, so I tell him I know Jodi (who is still waiting) and he should get in and the rest should be random. He wants me to go out and hand them out but I refuse the responsibility. I go inside, convinced I’ve missed my chance to get near the front but the others are all sitting on the floor forming a front row and have saved me a spot right in the middle.
We pop the cork on the first bottle of Kim’s Champagne, pour some plastic cups full and pass them round.
Tension mounts while we wait, we are given a stern briefing from the BBC producer about not taking photos or using recording equipment during the set. “Zane Lowe” (Who is this weird man little man in big shorts?) appears and fauns over his introduction. He’s got one of those DJ voices that sounds insincere because he’s trying so hard to make everything sound “amazing”. Awesome, Zane, awesome.
Thom and Jonny come out from the back and hop on stage. (“Is this it? Do we start now? Have we been introduced?”) They’re going to do a semi-acoustic set:
Jonny plays his Fender with the sticker “Attack no. 1” for opener Go To Sleep.
I Might Be Wrong. Being at the front makes me conscious that people can see my fidget dancing.
Like Spinning Plates. I literally bite my lip to stop coughing or crying. Or grinning like a loon.
Bulletproof. There is not a dry eye in the place.
Follow Me Around. An audible “Yay,” as we get an unreleased oldie. Later, when I hear the radio broadcast I can pick out other people’s voices and my own.
Fog. Thom makes a false start on the piano. We all shout “AGAIN!” He corrects himself, “It’s called Fog, Again.”
He turns back from the piano, looks over and sees me, “Alright Lucy? I see you’re on the bottle already!”
I’m surrounded by champagne bottles and cans of red stripe. What a time to name check me. Everyone laughs and drowns out my pathetic reply, “They’re not all mine! It’s a picnic!” (To my disappointment this doesn’t make the final cut on the broadcast).
They play Lucky. I’m still grinning and biting my lip and trying to contain myself.
No Surprises has Jonny playing the glockenspiel parts on a celeste, and afterwards Thom tells a story about how after they had “toured themselves stupid with OK Computer,” he got drunk in his local with a man who said that No Surprises was the most depressing song they’d ever written and at the time he had to concur.
So he brings us back with Karma Police, Jonny once again playing the celeste and I feel like I could burst from happiness. The whole thing is a dream – like the ones I have where I’m at a gig in a library or a greenhouse, some place where it shouldn’t be, wouldn’t be in waking life.
In between the set and the Q&A, I open the other bottle of bubbly and it gushes everywhere – I fetch some toilet paper to mop up and of course pass the band on their way back into the studio. Sheepish.
Tall stools are brought in then Phil and Colin join Thom and Jonny. Ed is not here (his baby is due.) There is a lot of laughter, Thom succeeds in sitting cross legged on the stool, yoga style, giving everyone a great view of his torn jeans. We all heckle. It’s like an in-joke that Zane Lowe doesn’t understand. Some of this will get cut for the radio.
Fan: “Is there anything you would have done differently?”
Thom: “No Chesney Hawkes hair do – he copied me!”
On the radio the questioners all sound very nervous, some utterly star struck.
Thom ends by telling us that this year has been “psychologically quite hard for me” but today is like the end of term and they all seem in good spirits. There’s just time for infamous message board user Damien to lower the tone, I don’t find out until later but apparently he accosted Thom for an autograph in the gents at an inopportune moment. Some people have no idea about etiquette.
On leaving I find Hilda and give her a huge hug. Twice. I can’t see Tim to thank him and find out who he let in. I see Julie from the management and ask her if Thom is still about – I think I referred to him as “The Chief” forgetting she wasn’t in on our RHMB-speak.
This is it and I have to act now. I walk through a barrier and call his name and lean over the half open stable door to the green room area. I hand him the another dice wristband, “You might as well have the pair,” it’s not much but I don’t know how to express how I feel, because I don’t really understand what it is. We do a weird convoluted handshake and I say Merry Christmas. I can leave now.
The others are loitering outside, not really wanting the dream to end. They wave the band off and everyone is euphoric, that they got in, that it happened. We start walking away and Plank and a couple of the techs come out. “Don’t drop those guitars” says Clara, “Spare us a Tele mate!”
“You looked like you were going to burst all through that!” Plank says to me and he gives me HIS set list with all the tunings on it. I shake his hand because I never get to thank him. I can barely talk, my voice is gone.
We skip off to the pub, a place called The Prince Alfred which has funny little half doors that you have to open and go under to move between snugs. I am instructed to drink slowly. We meet Max K, the legendary webmaster, now caught up in Stanley’s art world in Bath. He realises I’m “The” Lucy and we catch up on each other’s notoriety.
There are more shenanigans on the tube, everyone is in a great mood, we get sandwiches at Euston station and then go back to Ken’s Bloomsbury pad for more booze, some detuned guitar, a bit of gloating on the board (not me) and then eventually I drag Clara away to go to her place on the night bus. Utterly hollow and exhausted but boy, what a finish.