Living in a student flat with dodgy electrics, having to share a TV with four other people, not having a VCR on which to record anything… I was always worried about missing something. Without the means to buy my own TV and living in an era before You Tube had even been thought of, trying to catch any clips of Radiohead on TV was a precarious business. It usually involved a volley of phone calls to my brother, still living at the parental home with ready access to a VCR, and pleading with him to bung a tape in and hit record. In this way I eventually got to see whichever three minute segment of Top Of The Pops or the ITV Chart Show happened to feature the band.
When I found out that the band might be on the Smash Hits Poll Winners Party, a distinctly unusual place for them to turn up, I tuned in. My flat mate’s instinct was to turn over when the Singing Squadies performed their hit. The full running order shows how much of the show was given over to the current boy band screams (and sworn enemies of real music) Take That.
Just in time we flick back to the right channel and catch Radiohead in formation on the large Wembley Arena stage, performing My Iron Lung, with the only live vocal of the whole show. Thom pulls exaggerated faces and the others faithfully mime their parts. Jonny however dumps his guitar on the floor, twirls it around by the neck and generally shatters the pretence. At the end of the song, Thom, clearly out of patience with the whole charade, stalks around in a circle. The presenters are clearly shaken and don’t quite understand what they’ve just seen. Without seeing the rest of the show it’s hard to explain how weird the performance looks amid all the boy bands and bad pop jokes. The audience sound scared.
It’s a great Radiohead moment, rescued from the jaws of some ill advised request from EMI to become a dissenting gesture against the dying pop beast. Later I hear from Sekiko (who somehow got into the audience for this show) that they had to come back to London between shows in Belgium and Holland to fit this in, none too pleased. She went to the European shows and later sends me tapes which include new songs “No Surprises Please” and “True Love Waits”. The next phase has begun.