In October 1993, I finally make it to University. I move into shared accommodation in Glasgow. I’m right next to the library and within 20 minutes walk of about five record shops and within staggering distance of the student union.
I start my courses. I soon realise that I feel completely out of my depth. I’ve spent the last four years or so dreaming about all the like-minded people I will meet here, all the chances I’ll get to show off my knowledge and intellectual prowess and I realise how naïve I’ve been. I’m lonely, a bit homesick and overwhelmed by all the books I’m supposed to read.
At least my pen pal Rebecca, now only lives a couple of doors away and we get to hang out between classes and go to venues like King Tuts Wah Wah Hut for gigs.
I start to buy CDs despite the fact that I don’t yet own a CD player. My roommate has a portable one so I make tapes that I can play on my Walkman. I am able to catch up on back catalogue stuff like Nick Drake that hasn’t been available on tape. I spend a lot of time listening to Joy Division, which is indicative of my doomy mood.
On 20th October, on my way to a morning History lecture, I spot a copy of the Melody Maker under someones arm. Thom stares wistfully from the cover and RADIOHEAD is in big letters across the front.
I can’t concentrate in the lecture and go straight to the newsagent afterwards to buy two copies. There’s three full pages and the centre spread, their first lead story in a weekly paper. There are loads of pictures and an in depth report from their American tour. The Yanks have gone mad for them.
They’re getting savvy at this interview lark by now and the rest of the band all have a turn. The Greenwoods seem to enjoy teasing the reporter with a few hints of sexual ambiguity, perhaps inspired by the press obsession with Suede and their blatant Bowie-isms.
This piece raises more questions than it answers. I write to Val, editor of PID, and compare notes.
A couple of weeks later, my daily vigil for post is rewarded with a blue airmail envelope, postmarked St Louis, addressed in now familiar handwriting. It feels like a flash of light in the dark tunnel of disappointment that I’ve found myself in. The return address at the top of the letter proclaims: “Radiohead lost at sea.” All, it seems, is not entirely well.
Thom’s glad I liked Killer Cars, glad he hasn’t “lost it yet”.
I’d told him about being at the Glasgow gig in September, and he responds that it was “such a joke that so few people turned up, typical Radio 1.”
I’d asked about the song The Benz and he says “there’s a god-awful early version on a French release of Creep somewhere,” but he says the best thing is to wait for it to be released, he might even send me a demo one day, “if I can find it.”
“Reading was awful,” he writes, telling me more about the day, and pulling out of the Festival. He lost his voice; he couldn’t even answer the phone.
I’d asked about America, but he tells me that it’s weird; he’s not really seen that much of it, “its all hotels and faces in crowds…”
He’s started reading a lot of Chomsky on the tour bus.
All the people at Capitol who’d got behind them have been fired and all anyone is interested in is Creep. The release of the special version of Stop Whispering has “gone down the tubes.” They have no illusions and are glad to have finally had a hit at home.
He says he’s been listening to the new Breeders record (Last Splash) and likes it despite it being “total Pixies abandonment”.
They are coming back to play more dates in Europe with James but he’s not keen. They’ve only taken on the tour to play bigger venues in Europe. He and Jonny will get a demo studio to keep them happy. It will mean they’ve done over 200 shows this year and “that does something to your head believe me.”
He signs off by thanking me for another nice letter.
It was great to get this letter, that it is me he’s telling this stuff to, but now I’m worried…