2013 started with me working my notice period at my old job in Bristol. Then, a week before I moved to London, I slipped on some ice and fractured my wrist. The next 3 months were a strange mix of unpacking and resettling, an operation, recuperation and the start of my physiotherapy, plus desperately trying to find myself a new job. All of which mostly involved me sitting around in the flat that I’d starting sharing with my then soon-to-be wife.
By the very nature of those circumstances, it wasn’t a situation that I could really take advantage of, sit back and enjoy. But I do remember it fondly because I did spend the majority of my time with BBC 6 Music on in the background.
I heard quite a lot of my favourite music (Primal Scream, Low, John Grant, Letherette) that I’ve shared from this year came for the first time whilst listening to 6 Music’s daytime shows, but the one track that I think I’ll always associate with that brief period of my life is Toro Y Moi’s Say That.
I ultimately need to thank my now-wife for introducing me to the wonderful work of Chazwick Bradley Bundick, but full credit to the BBC for playlisting Say That, another of my favourite tracks of the year.
“There’s a million ways to write, but the way I always used to write was with John and it would be across from each other, either in a hotel bedroom on the twin beds, with an acoustic guitar and we’re just looking at each other. He’d make up something, I’d make up something and we’d just spin off each other. The nice thing for me, I’ve said it a million times, but it’s always my big memory, is seeing John there, him being right-handed, me being left-handed, it felt to me like I was looking in a mirror.
“But it was a great way to work and because we were kids together, and we’d known each other since our teenage years, we’d developed a way of working that would be one of would start an idea, and the other one would spin off it.
“[…] I know I can never have a better collaborator than John. That is just a fact. It’s inescapable. So I don’t try and escape it. I just know there’s no way I can find someone now who’s going write better stuff with me than I wrote with John.”
[Paul, BBC Radio 6 Music, 23rd March 2017]
Pics: Paul and John composing in the front room of 20 Forthlin Road, c. October 1962. Legend says they’re writing I Saw Her Standing There. Photos by Mike McCartney.
In the summer of 1997, Radiohead released OK Computer, regarded by many as one of the best albums of all time, and headlined Glastonbury for the first time, in one of Worthy Farm’s most memorable performances.
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of these moments, 6 Music will be celebrating the band through a series of programmes this month including:
The First Time with Radiohead
All five members of the band will feature in episodes of Matt Everitt’s The First Time With…
The episodes will be available on the 6 Music website, or via the BBC iPlayer Radio app, for 30 days afterwards on these dates
Sunday 11 June - Thom Yorke (repeated on Sunday 25 June)
Steve Lamacq presents some of the band’s best loved videos, featuring Fake Plastic Trees, Just, No Surprises, Daydreaming and many more classics.
Available on BBC iPlayer from Friday 16 June
Available via the BBC Red Button from Friday 16 June, 04:00 to 21:30, and at various times from Friday 23 to Friday 30 June
Classic Album of the Day
On Thursday 22 June, a day before the band return for another headline slot on Glastonbury’s Pyramid Stage, OK Computer will be 6 Music’s Classic Album of the Day, with tracks featured on Shaun Keaveny, Lauren Laverne, Radcliffe and Maconie and Steve Lamacq.
On the same day Steve Lamacq will revisit his 1997 Radio 1 Evening Session interview with all five members of the band.
Their ninth album is “utterly entrancing”, “mesmerising” and “an incisive portrayal of emotional vulnerability”, the critics said. Fans, too, lavished praise on the album, noting a return to melodicism after the fractured and fatigued King Of Limbs five years ago.
Many of the songs are elevated by guitarist Jonny Greenwood’s orchestral arrangements and the presence of the 13-person choir from the London Contemporary Orchestra.
The band haven’t spoken about the record since it was released, but Greenwood dropped into BBC 6 Music to chat to Matt Everitt earlier this week.
Their conversation covered the “traumatic” recording sessions, Radiohead’s career-spanning live shows, and their rejected theme song for the Bond film, Spectre.
The setlists for your recent live shows have changed radically every night. How many songs did you rehearse?
We started with 120. It’s crazy. I mean, it’s just every song we’ve done. And then we gave up and realised that was stupid and got it down to about 60 or 70, and we played 24 songs a night. So there’s a lot to choose from.
What was the thinking behind that?
Variety. Keeping it fresh and interesting. It drives our crew crazy, as you might imagine, because they don’t know what to do with the lights. But that’s okay. We’ve always been like that. We’ve always decided the setlist just before we play.
The image that’s grown around Radiohead’s studio work is that it’s very tortured, very emotionally draining… a very difficult experience for everybody concerned. Is that is that true?
It’s by turns really exciting - and there’s usually Thom [Yorke] in the middle of it getting very excited and motivating everyone and getting worked up about how well it’s going - and then there’s periods when nothing’s happening and it’s just not working and it’s frustrating.
But it’s like that for everyone with work. When it’s going well it’s such an exciting and “up” and happy time that gets you through anything, really. It’s only torturous looking back.
We recorded No Surprises [from 1997’s OK Computer album] and then worried about it. And then we recorded it again because it didn’t sound very good. And then we recorded it again. And then went back to the very first recording and released it.
So it’s tortuous in that way. It’s not like you’re sitting looking for a kick drum sound for two weeks, it’s more effort than that. More hitting brick walls over and over again. That’s just how it goes.
What are your memories of headlining Glastonbury in 1997 - a gig that is now regarded by many as one of the greatest Glastonbury performances ever.
I just remember it being very stressful and the monitors breaking and Thom walking off because he couldn’t hear anything and it just being a disaster!
It was pretty bad. It was like, “We can’t hear ourselves, and we don’t know what’s coming across,” and then I remember asking Andy Watson, our lighting guy, to illuminate the audience so we could finally see them. I remember that. You can’t hear what you’re playing and you hope everyone is hearing each other and that something is coming across, but it was a struggle.
You released your track Spectre on Christmas Day - explaining it had been intended as the theme as a James Bond theme, until Sam Smith’s track was chosen instead. What happened?
It wasn’t right for the film, what we did. So we thought, “Great! Then it’s ours. We can finish it how it’s meant to be and we can release it.” So that side of it was really positive, you know?
But I guess there’s lots of people interested in who does it [the Bond theme]. There’s a lot riding on it and the song we did was just too dark or whatever, so that’s fine. [It] means we get to have it back and it’s ours and we got to put it out.
We’re really, really proud of it. Why be attached to an old fashioned idea of what a James Bond thing was and it being a big deal? It’s like it’s sort of stupid to get worked up about, really.
A Moon Shaped Pool features a lot of arrangements by the London Contemporary Orchestra, who you’re a great champion of.
Well there’s songs like Burn The Witch which, very rarely for us, we managed to get strings on near the beginning. We left it unfinished on purpose and left lots of room for the strings and we never do that usually. Usually the strings are the icing on top.
At the end of Daydreaming I got the cellos to all tune their bottom strings down about a fifth [of an octave] but then still try to play the music. So you can hear them struggling to stay in tune and you have the low growl sound.
You want to use strings in a way that isn’t just pastiche and that can be hard to avoid. That was fun, trying to square that circle.
I was lucky enough to see a couple of the recent shows and it looked like you were really enjoying being on stage.
Yeah, it was really enjoyable. I think we’re appreciating being in a band with each other in the moment and enjoying the sound that we put across. So it’s a very happy time, yes. What can I say? There’s nothing to complain about really!…
bbc6music: 👩🏻🎨 She wore a raspberry beret. Catch up on St Vincent’s stupendous session and her speaking to Lauren Laverne about everything from Bowie to the human genome via her favourite podcasts and more over on the iPlayer Radio app.