Cutting and pasting. Notes from July & August 2000

July.

The NME announces the LP will be called Kid A. It will be available in October. The gigs that have already been announced are in September, in a specially constructed tent that the band are taking out on tour with them. The track listing for the album is still to be finalised, with The NME speculating that the songs played at the Royal Festival Hall will make up LP4, the internet is rife with ideas about which tracks will be included.

The relatively new phenomenon of mp3 downloads means that bootlegs of all the songs, apart from Idioteque are available “with the right software.” Piecing together info from fan sites and Ed’s diary (on Radiohead.com), the NME claims the band have about 40 songs to chose from. They speculate that the remainder will be released as a series of 12 inch singles…

From Thom’s website postings I note names of possible forthcoming songs: There There, Wicked Child and Knives Out. These ramblings on the website have a lot to answer for. My old notebooks are variously full of:

  • quotes from Guardian editorials (including whole columns by Hugo Young),
  • notes on anti-globalisation
  • unrecorded playlists
  • meaningful paragraphs from Douglas Coupland novels, [e.g. Miss Wyoming p114: ” If he learned one thing while he’d been away, it was that loneliness and the open discussion of loneliness is the most taboo subject in the world. Forget sex or politics or religion. Or even failure. Loneliness is what clears a room.  …He also just wanted to see her face. This is how fans feel about stars, he thought. So this is what it’s like…”]
  • notes for an unrealised short film drama about George Orwell, including long passages from Nineteen Eighty Four
  • telephone numbers for film making training courses I never joined
  • scored out ‘to do’ lists
  • fragments of overheard conversations
  • email addresses
  • definitions of words like ‘lassitude’
  • the seeds of melodramatic and unfinished short stories about people who run away from home
  • notes for gig reviews
  • evidence of an obsession with Jonathan Richman’s Roadrunner
  • scribbled lists of situationist book titles.
  • Things written to make me look occupied while drinking tea at a media training course.

I eventually get a work experience placement at Scottish TV, writing factsheets on social issues to accompany their daytime programming. I go and see The Unbelievable Truth at King Tuts again. I go and see Rob Newman at the Edinburgh Fringe again. I go and see Drugstore, again.

August.

I luck into a job with an independent TV production company who are looking for a researcher for their video review show. My friend Nigel is one of the presenters, and another friend of mine has already been unsuccessfully interviewed for the post. After submitting some of my ideas, they decide to give me the job for a trial period.

Not one of the reviews of the summer gigs agrees on what the new songs sound like. There are several mentions of prog and jazz, but that is usually short hand for “music we don’t understand that isn’t entirely based around guitar, bass and drums.” The lyrics, often mumbled, are oblique and misquoted. I have a go deciphering some of them in my notebook.

The Tent Tour shows are advertised in the broadsheet press, and quickly start to sell out.

In an attempt to prevent the album leaking out before its formal release, there are a selection of listening parties. The Daily Telegraph documents the one for journalists, (a sign that Radiohead are now a serious, even mainstream, band).  “Yesterday I woke up soaking” the author David Cheal mishears the opening lines. “Commercially,” he concludes, “it’s probably suicidal.”

The playbacks for the fans take place the following week. Admission is granted on a one ticket per person basis. I pop into Fopp and pick one up as soon as they’re available. The playback is on September 4th at King Tuts. I go along alone and am given a specially printed “Radiohead drinks voucher.” I get a beer and find somewhere to sit. There are less than 50 people milling about, drinking and chatting. They’re just going to play the album over the venue PA, none of the fancy headphones and beanbags that were at the press event. It’s hard to listen with everyone talking. I close my eyes and try to focus. I just want to hear it. They play it twice round. I can pick out the brass on The National Anthem, which is the main difference from the live version I heard in London. It’s frustrating because of people talking. But I get a flavour of the record and I’m intrigued and excited. The texture of it is different to anything they’ve done before. There are no pop songs, but as lately I’ve been listening to plenty of Warp Records releases and other electronica on the recommendation of my brother, and the playlists that Thom has been putting up on Radiohead.com, I’m not all that shocked. Kid A isn’t that weird if you’ve spent the last 6 months with Autecre albums on your headphones.

The album cover is already on the Radiohead website. And there are some of the video blips, with very short clips of the songs, but my internet access is still too slow to play them all or absorb them coherently. I find an unused poster for the playback, with the mountains from the album cover in another record shop. I drop a pound in their collection box and take it home to put on my wall.

After the playback I email Thom. I tell him I’m impressed that he finally carried out his threat to use brass bands; that I’ve started a new job and that I want to come to some of the tent shows but don’t have tickets. They are £25 each and are selling out. This is the moment to take him up on his oft repeated offer to see me right for the guest list.