My son and I went to see The Smile tonight, the side project of Jonny Greenwood and Thom Yorke. I couldn’t believe they were starting the North American leg of their tour in Providence. Providence! Amazing! Someone that well-known I would expect to start in New York, maybe Boston, but I was more than happy to reward their fine decision by splurging on the tickets back in the spring.
The show was great, though not for the uninitiated, and lots of Dudes with a capital D. That’s always a drag, except for if you want to hit the ladies’ room before leaving the venue. Thankfully, after the first song, Thom encouraged those of us who wanted to get up by saying, “just because there are chairs doesn’t mean you have to sit in them,” so we stood for the rest of the time. It’s much easier to ignore douchey bros when people are standing.
Sometime during this never-ending quarantine life we find ourselves in, my son got really into music. He had been expanding what he listened to over the past year, as one tends to do when you enter high school, but something about not being able to go out and do other things, or maybe it was burnout from too much screen time, kicked it up a level. One day he told me that he’d begun listening to whole albums, start to finish. Previously he’d just listen to songs in a playlist on shuffle.
While he certainly knew that I would go to see bands fairly often, I didn’t play a lot of music around the house. I would usually listen to my music during my commute because once I got home there was dinner to fix and eat, things to oversee that the kids were doing, picking kids up from this or that activity, etc. Generally not the kind of atmosphere that I like for listening to music. I do like having music on in the background while I’m doing things, but what I don’t like, really don’t like, is having my listening be interrupted. I don’t want to be asked a lot of questions, I don’t want to miss a chunk of a song because I have to use some noisy appliance, I want to listen (and maybe dance/sing along).
So I think it came as a real surprise to my son one day when he proudly announced, “I found an album that’s an hour and a half long and it’s only got four songs!” and I replied, “oh, is it by Godspeed You! Black Emperor?” His mouth fell open and he got a look on his face of shock and confusion. It was, in fact, their album, “Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven” and he sure did not expect that his mother would know anything about it. It was a door creaking open in his mind to a view of his mother that he hadn’t really seen before.
We got him a Walkman for his birthday in the summer, something he’d been asking about since he came across a box of my cassettes when helping his sister look for some things she wanted to take back to college with her. The Guardians of the Galaxy movie had put the idea in his head, though he had expressed an interest in making tapes all the way back when I first got a used car that had a tape deck. I took him down to our local record store and he bought his first album. He found my stereo setup to be too uncomfortable so he took the money he received from his grandparents for his birthday and got a turntable he could have in his bedroom. Now he has about eight or nine records, plus I dug out my old CD Walkman and let him have that as well so he can listen to music in any format.
We get into the chats about bands he is excited about. I suggest some others he might like to check out, he gets jealous when I say, yeah, I saw them last year. He now understands that I am someone who will get this newly found importance of music in his life. The other day he asked me about Radiohead. He’d heard of them, knew they had this reputation for being a hugely influential band, but wasn’t sure where to start. Ah, my son, I have just the thing for you. Remember when I did that make-a-CD-of-this-band-like-your-house-was-on-fire challenge from a friend? I did one for Radiohead and I thought this would be the perfect introduction for him, rather than just listening to one of the Spotify playlists with all the big hits. It took me a few days to find it and today he got to listen to it. Here’s the playlist:
Radiohead – House on Fire CD
Stop Whispering – Pablo Honey
High and Dry – The Bends
Street Spirit (Fade Out) – The Bends
Airbag – OK Computer
Paranoid Android – OK Computer
Subterranean Homesick Alien – OK Computer
Let Down – OK Computer
Everything in Its Right Place – Kid A
The National Anthem – Kid A
Pyramid Song – Amnesiac
Knives Out – Amnesiac
2+2=5 – Hail to the Thief
Where I End and You – Begin Hail to the Thief
Bodysnatchers In Rainbows
Reckoner – In Rainbows
Morning Mr. Magpie – King of Limbs
Codex – King of Limbs
(this was made before Moon Shaped Pool came out)
He’s definitely going to do a deep dive into their discography now, like binge-watching a show on Netflix. Based on the CD I made, he thinks Kid A is going to be his favorite but I said, you can’t start with Kid A! You have to have some base knowledge of the band first. I allowed as how he could circle back to Pablo Honey some other time, so he started in on The Bends. He’s really looking forward to Kid A though, and I have to say, this is a great first track to get it started.
Since I want to believe that the absentee ballots won’t all be counted tonight, and that means we will not have answers for a while, I am not investing my emotional strength in watching the returns. I’ve glanced at social media a bit for our local info but I don’t think it will help me to sleep if I just sit here doomscrolling all night. I did my shift outside the polling place this morning, holding up the signs for the Democratic candidates and I went to the grocery store, liquor store, and pharmacy, made ratatouille in the Crock-Pot, and then pasta sauce later in the afternoon, all an attempt to keep myself occupied and not fixating on the results.
I looked at my son after dinner and I could see the dread washing over him. With our internet down he can’t even get online to play games with his friends to distract himself. Luckily we got some blank CDs in the mail today so I told him we could burn some of his recently purchased albums for the car.
It is getting harder and harder to maintain the older formats, new cars don’t come with CD players anymore and even new laptops tend not to have a disc drive. Our oldest laptop was the only computer in the house that I could wrangle into performing this task. Were it not for the goal of keeping his mind off election results, I might have gotten frustrated with all the failed attempts and waiting for it to finish, but we killed a good two hours, maybe more. We also managed to rig up my phone to the printer with an old cable and a little USB-C to USB converter so we could print out album covers. I’m so glad I never fell prey to the internet of things because what happens when all of your appliances and your door locks or whatever, are dependent on the internet working? It sucks to be without internet, don’t get me wrong. Maybe having it out isn’t all bad, though. I successfully steered my son back from the edge with this little project. We’re holding on, hope you are too.
From before Twitler took office, I have felt that he would get us all killed. Today we dropped a massive bomb on Afghanistan, apparently, and are making threats to North Korea. So it seemed like maybe I should not keep holding on to my memorial service playlist but that the time is right to share it. After all, if we’re going to have World War III, I may as well make sure this is out there.
However, the caveat is not all of these songs are available online in the versions that I would actually like to use and it varies between Spotify and YouTube which ones had to be substituted. For that reason, I’m running down the list below. I also can’t help the visuals on some of these videos, which is why I prefer an audio only experience for this, but life could be short so I’m over it. YouTube above, Spotify below.
The Great Beyond
1. Angelika Suspended – Poi Dog Pondering (Spotify has the preferred version)
2. Just Breathe – Pearl Jam
3. If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out – Cat Stevens (here the YouTube is worth it for the Harold and Maude clips since that’s key to its selection)
4. Belong – R.E.M.
5. Weird Fishes/Arpeggi – Radiohead (Spotify for the studio version, though I like the Scotch Mist version fine, it’s not the “right” one)
6. Treefingers – Radiohead (optional – serves as a transition but could also be cut or used as music while people are milling about before things get started)
7. Blood of Eden – Peter Gabriel (YouTube is the correct version from Until the End of the World)
8. Calling All Angels – Jane Siberry with k.d.lang
9. Heaven – Talking Heads
10. Wendell Gee – R.E.M.
11. Untitled – R.E.M.
12. This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody) – Talking Heads
While there are a lot of songs that you might think I would have on a playlist for my memorial service, this is meant to be something you can actually play for assembled grieving friends and family and not bum people out too much. It shouldn’t make people feel worse. At the same time, sometimes it’s good to cry and let it out. The idea is that this should be in place of any hymns or prayers since I am not religious, though there are some songs that gesture toward that, after all I have a number of church-going family members, including my aunt the nun.
In the days to come I’ll take each one as a separate post with more details but for now I’ll let it speak for itself.
Oops, just had a Radiohead song two posts ago and another earlier during NaBloPoMo. Sorry, but I’ve been thinking about this album (Hail to the Thief) a lot lately. Both from the dark sound to the inescapable relevance of the lyrics. To say nothing of the title in this election year when the popular vote winner, for the second time in only 16 years, is not going to be inaugurated.
I can’t understand why the Democrats in Congress are not screaming their heads off. I can’t understand why the institutions are sitting on their hands. The man is not even president yet and already the roadblocks that ought to prevent the disaster that is being assembled are failing. How can he be allowed to still be running a tv show while he’s president? HOW?!?! How can he be allowed to still run his companies? Have his children in his administration? Have taxpayers pay for security for his building in NYC because he doesn’t want to live in DC full time? How can he NOT attend security briefings?! It’s another 9/11 waiting to happen, which will be followed by another war. Just stop! Say NO! I can’t understand. When Obama entered the White House he had to give up his Blackberry and follow protocols. Why is this not happening now? Because the Orange One is saying no? Then we fucking say no. No. He’s acting like a fucking toddler, we treat him like one. You do not reward tantrums. You do not get to be president if you refuse to follow the rules for that office. You want to stay in New York and run your businesses and Tweet at actors? Ok then, that isn’t what the president does. You will have to pick. And hey, no hard feelings when you pick the more glamorous, easy job you created for yourself instead of the very ugly and difficult job that has turned every man gray during his tenure.
The Democrats had better get their fucking shit together, and fast. With each nominee he names it gets worse and worse and worse. It’s right there before our eyes, he’s looking to dismantle every agency in the government. He’s got three or four generals ready to swear allegiance to him. Oh my god, how much more evidence do you need that this man is going to be the end of our democracy? Your alarm bells, they should be ringing. Something has to be done. The recount efforts seem stalled. The investigations into Russian vote tampering won’t happen soon enough. I’m ready for the Electoral College option, even though I was against it at first and still feel it would probably result in deaths. I like Lawrence Lessig’s proposal more than others I’ve read but I suspect there isn’t enough time left for that. Then there’s two or three legal though frowned upon ways to get Merrick Garland confirmed. There’s the run off election in Louisiana for the Senate seat and while I doubt that will help us out, my last ditch hope is that a handful of Republican Senators who still have a shred of decency left and who have spoken out against Trumpenführer could be convinced to jump ship. Defect. I’m looking at you John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Susan Collins. Do it. What do you possibly have to lose at this point? Finally, if nothing else works, the Democrats have to block every last piece of legislation and every appointment he tries to make. EVERY. ONE. Stop taking that goddamn high road and get down in the street and kick some fucking asses. Stop waiting. Stop expecting him to follow norms. Stop deferring to the ways things have always been done. He has no intention of playing that game so why on earth are we?
Nothing like a more than 13-year-old song to perfectly illustrate the situation we find ourselves in at the moment. How are we supposed to grapple with a society where 2+2=5? I really feel like it’s coming. It’s just a matter of time. So much of what Orange45 says is just completely false and millions of people either believe him or don’t care that he lies incessantly. Not to mention our public education system, which is already falling short, will soon be decimated. How can we restore the value of truth? How we can get people to care if someone is lying? How do you teach children not to cheat or plagiarize when there is no reason for them to not do so?
Can we maybe get out ahead of him and start rumors designed to focus his outbursts in favor of the outcomes we want to see? Tweet that the CEO behind DAPL, for instance, was once overheard saying something about O45s hair being fake, or whatever. Just make it up, that’s what they do. Then instead of 3 a.m. Tweets about how the press isn’t being nice to him, he’ll blast the oil barons. Any other ideas?
I had a bit of a “low flying panic attack” today when I was getting a little too freaked out about what the fuck we are supposed to do to stop Orange45 and his cronies. I feel like the man with the clipboard in this video and the mayor-type person is Paul Ryan showing me around the new unified Republican government and no one else seems to be alarmed. Here they come painting red crosses on doors and everyone is just waving. So friendly! Swords and creepy masks, that’s totally normal.
Of course, nearly everyone I know is alarmed, and I’m only saying nearly everyone because I didn’t get into a conversation with the cashier at Target tonight. But still I worry. People got used to his vile statements throughout the campaign and they stopped being shocking to millions of people because he was always saying something even more despicable than he had before.
Don’t let them normalize this! Continue to be outraged and complain loudly to the people who represent you in Congress. He will never be normal. He will never be normal!!
Things have reached the tipping point, I really hope. Earlier today I was full of rage about the total ignorance and hatred that people in, or vying for, high political offices were spewing. Truly the most vile and disgraceful comments I have ever heard.
As the day wore on, however, I came to see things in a slightly different light. The statements about Syrian refugees made by Donald Trump and others are indefensible. So, now we know. Now there’s no more guessing just how stupid they are and just how racist and xenophobic they are. We no longer have to wait for the other shoe to drop, they’ve done it. They are showing their true colors, and anyone who still supports them is just as guilty.
This is really happening. Did you ever wonder how Nazi Germany happened? How someone who was as clearly unhinged as Hitler was could rise to power? This is how. Enough people who bought into lies told about those who practiced a different religion than the one they knew. Enough people who were small-minded enough to let fear take over their better judgement. And still more people who thought, well, I don’t want to confront anyone, I don’t want trouble, if I just keep quiet maybe it will go away.
I have it easy. My friends and family are equally disgusted by what’s being said and my elected officials are speaking out on behalf of the refugees. I don’t have to worry about getting into a fight with some relative at Thanksgiving about their backwards political views. I’m sorry if you do, but do it anyway.
The Bends was released 20 years ago today, so the music press tells me. I was pretty busy at work today and didn’t really pay any attention to the mentions about it that I saw go by, but as I was flipping through Twitter I saw an article where 33 musicians listed their favorite Radiohead songs. The part of the article that made the biggest impression on me was how all of these people talked about remembering this or that song from high school. Ooph. That made me feel old.
I feel the need to point out that the Radiohead band members are basically about my age, and they weren’t even called Radiohead until 1991, by which time I was living in DC and working at the Smithsonian. Not in high school. By the time their first album was out and “Creep” was big, I was not interested. For one thing, just as a matter of principle, I was wary of bands that got a lot of attention. I had just been through what one might characterize as a messy break up with a band because of my inability to handle just that. I was not going to let it happen so soon again. If Radiohead were that great, I was not going to fall for them. In fact, I was going to avoid them at all costs and I would maintain a willful ignorance about them for nearly 15 years. And for another thing, I was trying to carefully step away from the musical edge that I often found myself staring down; dark, introspective, angry, hurting or hurtful songs were dangerous for me. Where I’d been drawn to them for years, lived through them, took refuge in knowing I wasn’t alone because of them, I suddenly couldn’t handle it anymore. I didn’t listen to those kind of songs and feel comforted anymore, I felt like my bones were exposed. Everything hurt. What I did know about Radiohead was enough to tell me that I should not go near there.
Fast forward to 2007. I had just turned 40, I had two little kids and a job that was getting worse by the day. I was in a very static place and I’d packed away so much of what I had previously felt made me, me. I hadn’t even allowed myself to think about things like that because it seemed too risky to open all of that up. But then In Rainbows was released and I heard a song or two in my travels. Something clicked. “Bodysnatchers” felt like it was written for me. I downloaded it and would practically blow out my car’s speakers I played it so loud. I needed to feel it physically. And “Jigsaw Falling Into Place” made me dizzy with its perfection. I adore everything about that song. I love that you can hear their fingers sliding across the guitar strings, I love that you can hear Thom Yorke’s frantic intake of breath, I love the quiet beginning and the roaring end. And the lyrics, whatever may have been the intention, made me think of an earlier me. The heady, swirling, sweaty, anonymity of a dark, packed club, yet the lights picking up something here, something there, possibilities and impossibilities colliding, getting lost between the notes, dancing. Those two songs convinced me to buy the whole album and from there I was hooked.
Over the next couple of years I acquired the rest of their back catalog and confirmed for myself that I was probably right to have kept them at arm’s length earlier because they had a powerful pull. By the time I got to Radiohead I had learned how to step back if I felt like I might get pulled under. I know they aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I owe them a lot for showing me it could be ok, better than just ok, to open the door to those murky waters again.
Still marveling at the Radiohead show last night. So, so, great. There are videos from the show but they’re jumpy and the quality is mixed so I’m posting the album version. However, when they busted this out in the second encore, it was fucking amazing. Just as blistering as I always imagined it to be.