Notes from 1998. January-October


The year begins with the release of No Surprises on January 12, more B sides (Palo Alto and How I Made My Millions) plus emerging news about Grant Gee’s forthcoming film documentary. Ed and Phil do their bit on the radio, Thom’s pretty much stopped doing interviews, they’re going to be touring until the summer but there are no more UK dates. No Surprises hits number 4 in the top 40.

This is my last year at university. Mostly I am spending it drinking and talking cultural bollocks with the Visual Art Club and supervising the Film & TV resource room. (This involves kicking the photocopier and watching a lot of videos.) I’m enjoying this more than any of the work I’m supposed to be doing for my courses. I’m reading a lot but getting mediocre marks, I think I’ve got education fatigue.

January 26, a big envelope arrives through the post from Keiko. It’s a copy of Snoozer magazine with Thom on the front, but on closer look I see that he has signed it and written “Lucy’s” on his shoulder.  There is no letter enclosed to explain it. But a week later I get a postcard. Keiko and Izzy went shoe shopping with Thom while he was in Tokyo. “Great great greatest!” she says.


February 14. The Unbelievable Truth play at King Tuts. Emily with red hair is there, having been on their trail and been to 15 gigs. They seem to be more a 4 piece than the advertised 3 piece, with Nigel (Thom and Jonny’s pal with the funny hair) on drums. Andy is darker, taller and physically just a bit bigger than his brother, but in his face, his chin and especially when he closes his eyes to sing, the resemblance is there as well as in his expressions and the inflections of his eyebrows, and his not-quite-posh Oxford way of speaking. I’m a little bit freaked out. Some of their songs are not bad, but my oh my there was a lot of REM in their house when they were kids.

Emily is down at the front taking photos but I hang back at the sound desk. She hangs around at the end because she’s not yet got autographs. Off stage Andy doesn’t have the physical nerviness of his brother, or indeed the vague look of ill health. I feel like I’ve fallen into the Twilight Zone. Emily and her entourage head off with the band up Sauchiehall Street and I tag along for a while, but keep going in the direction of home, not feeling in a position to do any proper ligging.

February 16. A friend has taped the MTV Radiohead Night for me. It’s a long play VHS so I have to go and watch it on the more up to date video players in the Resource Room. I fast forward through it and watch the interviews. Talking about touring, Ed says playing big gigs is about trying to reach out to individuals. Thom says it’s a “dream state.” It’s about “something in the air that wasn’t there when you started.” He also talks about how he feels after the shows, “I don’t go and say hello to anybody… I just go and sit on the bus now because I can’t do anything else.” The feeling of getting a new song right can “keep you going for ever.” And he says, “The most important thing in life is to establish heartfelt communication with others… there’s bugger all else to do.”

For some reason this interview in particular touches a nerve.

February 25. Get an email from a chap called Nick, who is producing a documentary on the band for Radio 1. He has a day of interviews with the band and Mr Donwood booked. He’s interested in breaking away from their “deadly serious image” and in Thom’s early artistic career. I email back, dropping a few hints. I’m interested because it’s radio (and not one of those rip off books that have started appearing).  I want to get involved and help out, use this as a way into something bigger, maybe. I send him some bits and pieces I have saved that might assist with the research.


When I get another email from Nick, it’s all off. Thom has cancelled. I take the opportunity to ask the radio producer for some career advice.


Atsuko sends me a letter with a slightly worrying report of Thom on tour, he was tired and fed up. I’d sent her a letter to hand to him, as it felt like the only way to get a message of support through.

I get to see Drugstore a couple of times this month, just to keep my hand in with the ligging. At one of the shows I end up buying the whole band a round of drinks. El President, their duet with Thom, has charted.


Seven Television Commercials, a compilation of the band’s promo videos is released. It’s weird to finally get to see all the videos after only ever seeing the bits they play on TV. They’re all about death and rebirth aren’t they?

I spend the remainder of the term trying to understand Hegel and Post-modernism well enough to pass my art history exams. I distract a friend in the exam by wearing my Leisure Is Pain T shirt – he is sitting behind me and spends the whole exam trying to read it.

Another letter from Atsuko. She got another note from Thom. He sent her his invitation to the Ivor Novello Awards and told her that he has a new house by the sea.


W.A.S.T.E. arrives and confirms Thom is by the sea. He likes the sound of the waves. There is a postcard to send to Bill Clinton about Tibet. They are playing one of the Free Tibet gigs with REM. He’s not losing it, he says, “Honest.”

June 25. Much to my relief I get my degree result. I got a 2:1.

June 29. A Rabbit In Your Headlights, Thom’s song from the UNKLE album, is on the radio. It makes sense. It sounds like they locked him in a room with a piano until he came up with something suitably doomy.


Graduation.  Which is fairly inauspicious. My parents visit and then leave me to get riotously drunk with people from my class. I end the evening playing pool in Nice ‘n’ Sleazys.

July 12. Go to T in the Park on a one day ticket. See The Beastie Boys and Unbelievable Truth (who have Jonny’s guitar tech Duncan as one of their roadies) and Portishead.

July 15. Nick the radio guy is in town and I meet him for veggie food in the 13th Note. We talk about the documentary that was never to be (despite the fact they’d lined up Eddie Izzard for the narration) and I entertain him with some of my anecdotes.


I exchange several emails with Max K, (who at this time is running the best Radiohead website). He seems to know whenever Thom gets spotted in the street. I arrange to swap a load of bootleg tapes with him. I also get Caffy’s new email and find out that she’s been working on a new fanzine that I could write for.

August 14. Go and see comedian Rob Newman at the Edinburgh Fringe… I’m happy to see him again (it’s been a while) but he has a gag about Radiohead being whiney and it upsets me. He was glad they weren’t on at Glasto this year, and “don’t let anybody tell you that they’re good, because they’re not.” He mocks High And Dry and says that’s the voice that your mum tells you off for using “One more word out of you like that…” It’s hard to hear one of my heroes slag off another…

I spend the summer failing to get jobs, even temporary ones and ones that pay £3 per hour. My “self esteem” is possibly at an all time low, now I don’t even have University to distract me, I feel rather purposeless. The band seem distant from day to day life, once in a while I note in my diary how good a particular album sounds on my headphones. My film tutor suggested that I should be a journalist and that I should send articles to magazines but I’ve not been writing a great deal lately and I lack confidence. I fail to get jobs in two book shops and a video shop; and I can’t seem to stick to office temping for more than a couple of days at a time. I give in and sign on.


Max sends tapes, there are gigs with the new songs – Big Ideas (Don’t Get Any) and How To Disappear Completely And Never Be Found. Maybe there will be something to look forward to now.

September 26. Max emails to tell me that Thom and Jonny are in Israel, that there is not going to be a B-sides album  (which had been rumoured) and Meeting People Is Easy (Grant Gee’s film, henceforth referred to as MPIE) will come out on video at some point. Apparently it’s full of depressing footage of Thom facing off the media circus. Radiohead are playing an Amnesty International gig in Paris on December 10 and the W.A.S.T.E. HQ was very busy when Max visited recently.

September 28. I buy the Velvet Goldmine soundtrack, which has Thom “doing” Bryan Ferry, he sounds… drunk…and not like himself, but you can hear its him in the characteristic splutter on the plosives.


Go for training at a job in a book warehouse, but I also have an interview on the same day for a job in a record shop called Fopp. I know which job I would rather have. I leave more nervous than I went in and spend the rest of the day feeling like I’ve blown it. But they call me the next day to ask me to start on Monday (in two days time). I’m so surprised, I nearly fall over.

October 5.  Start the job and learn the ropes quickly. The next day I sell a lot of Morcheeba CDs.

October 7. Thom’s birthday. I’m in the shop first thing and I put one of my favourite B-sides, Lull, on the stereo in his honour (as when it’s not busy we can play what we like). We play and sell The Beta Band 3 EPs a lot in true High Fidelity fashion.

I phoned up a number advertised in the NME to find out about the Show Travel packages for the Paris gig, but the prices are off putting.