My friend has been having roommate problems. The kid who moved in with him from New York is not happy in L.A. and wants to go home but he can’t afford to break the lease. There has been some exchange between them involving potential roommates to take over the lease that is quite adversarial. And this young man is terribly depressed. A week ago or so, my friend found his unhappy roommate in the bathtub weeping copious tears and listening to Lotus Flower. Shortly thereafter a new roommate was found.
Photo by Patrick Hoelck
Tonight when I couldn’t sleep I was wandering around the virtual world and intermittently taking things out of this puppy’s mouth while she hung out with me in my studio, and I came to visit Sail to the Moon. Maybe because this white dog is so like the moon. Note to self: moon as dog = English bull terrier.
One song. Just play it over an over again. Listen and watch different versions, so many versions! Le Reservoir. Jonny’s, the way he looks when he plays, making me cry. Well, that kind of thing happens at four in the morning. The song has brought me out of myself and into the moment, but not the present moment, the moment that was captured in the video. Not that moment either, of course my mind’s recreation of that moment as if I’d been there. Weird. Here I am at Glastonbury. Not.
Thom’s wearing four wristbands in the unplugged version. I think about wristbands and what’s so cool and so weird about them. They kind of remind me of the tags farmers put in cow’s ears to identify them and yet I still have my own Coachella wristbands on for the past two years because …. Well, because I do. The moon – I mean the puppy – ate most of my Club Amok band when it fell off earlier tonight.
Versions with comments entirely in Spanish. A comment on another version with some guy saying he’s learning piano just to play Radiohead. I understand. Ohmygod there is a version with some chick doing dancy acrobatics in a sheet hanging from the ceiling while a kind of jazz band riffs away. WTF????? Brothers in their underwear playing in their living room, the light coming through yellow curtains is gorgeous and they actually look like a painting that someone ought to do. This actually makes the thing worth watching.
Back to Radiohead. The album version. I want to eat this song. Bite by bite until I am full of the moon. And it gets to be five in the morning. So I listen to one more version. Not Radiohead. Warren Lain. Beautiful.
And I can finally go to sleep.
I’m wondering about the people Thom told to shut up at Club Amok in Los Angeles back in June. Not because I want to yell at them too, but because I am — maybe because so much was made of such a small moment in the larger and greater whole — interested about what exactly happened at that moment. I don’t know when they started. I could not hear them from where I was. What I saw was pretty specific and not mysterious but maybe I’m wrong because I am making an assumption based on limited information. And there is always a gap between what you imagine and what actually happened.
I can tell you one thing. When Thom was done with the frustration and anger that had been building, everything changed particularly his connection to the song but also the audience connection to him. Even adrenaline runs out after two plus hours. And it wasn’t because he yelled. It was because he called — however he did it — for respect due.
And the issue of paying attention is a larger one. I don’t mean schoolroom attention. A yell of pure exhilaration at being in the middle of an incredible musical moment is not inattention or disrespect, even when the moment is poorly chosen. I mean being there to listen, to feel, experience something musical with total presence. We come to do that and then something happens and we find ourselves doing something else… which inevitably takes us out of the moment.
The urge to capture it all through a cell phone is sometimes, not always, a virus of distraction from what is really happening. Intention is the difference. The direct experience trumps the recorded one of course. But it’s like good sex. You have to be willing to risk things to experience it and suffer that exquisite anticipation in order to know how to get there again. There are people at shows not willing or able to give up the hook up to instatweetbooking even though they came to be in the moment. They’re like the kid in that movie who wants to have sex with a girl. The price is a pastry. But while he’s waiting for her outside her door, he can’t resist eating it himself.
There is this one big rubber band of connection that you either have hold of or you don’t. The rubber band that night was strong and taut enough to catapult you into orbit. So I am incredibly curious, although it seems utterly banal, as to why people were talking at that moment. And what their relationship to the band was. I would love to talk to them and find out.
In any case I think about that night from time to time and that even though we’d like to be cool and casual and not give a fuck, we really are in the thrall of something big enough to consider supernatural at some musical events. And at those haunted moments, you are lost if you give up the ghost. The possessed just will not have it.
I am walking from one tent to another admiring the way the sweat runs down the backs of the young gentlemen when someone in the happy throng shouts out “Who here wants to sleep with Thom Yorke?” As if by a puppeteer with a thousand strings between his fingers, nearly every hand in the very large crowd goes up.
I have a sleep disorder and spent ten years in a virtual fog of sleepwalking, seeming to be awake but really not functioning except in a kind of dance that looked like a normal life. The whole time I was struggling just to stay conscious. I am mostly better now, except for the occasional mythic three am episode in which I pour dish soap into bread and try to eat it.
I mention this because it informs everything I do. To be awake is a gift I took for granted. And what I woke up to was music. Cloyingly poetic but also true. There was the world in glorious banal detail, and there was Radiohead.
They had been there before of course but my attention was elsewhere in those years. I’d been a writer, artist, worked in film, was and still am a dog trainer. But when I woke up after that decade, and I first heard Street Spirit it was like remembering something from my fifteenth year that I could almost believe happened.
Reckoner was my lullaby. Jigsaw was my afternoon ride. I have been eighteen for thirty-two years so I don’t rip through their catalogue. I obsess on one song at a time and I have a lot of songs left. Occasionally I will sing a Radiohead song for people when I really don’t like them very much and get what I have to call satisfaction from the act. They are good company for when you get the Alienation blues. And for when you feel frisky for the beat. And for when you are yearning for a hit of pure beauty. A lot of Radiohead seems like music I already knew, I already experienced before I feel asleep and now that I’m awake I think: well, here’s another part of me coming into the light.
A sleepwalker like me ends up falling from the wall frequently and breaking into a handful of pieces. I need poetry and metaphor to make sense of things as I lay there and think, “Fuck, I did it again.” So I have a tear sheet from some French magazine on my wall that is a photo of Thom asleep on a floor somewhere. It reminds me that we both dream, and that gives me a certain feeling of comfort I can’t explain. And every song I’ve ever heard Radiohead do puts me back together again,
I think that maybe, in the end, all we do of value is comfort each other a little bit when life becomes a struggle. Sometimes that comfort comes in the form of a song and ends up changing your life just a little bit with its beauty. Radiohead changed my life. Every time I hear them I’m reminded of that one thing that I advise you to do (because life I short and brutal but it’s beautiful):