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TRANSISTOR LOVERS
by Peter Paphides



(Presentation of the article in the NME Originals issue about Radiohead from 2003)


RADIOHEAD
ULU, LONDON

THINK about it for a minute. Think about all the ways a band could mess up a gig. There must be thousands of ways of not getting it right. And with that in mind, imagine how amazing it would be if I were to try and convince you that the half-hour that they performed (and that’s the right word) before this besotted audience, Radiohead were perfect...
You see, to watch Radiohead perform in 1993, is to watch a rare and magical thing. You might recall that the same alchemical change happened to The Stone Roses tour years ago, or Suede last year. It was more than having their first hit single or that they finally learns to play well. Sure, all these things are happening to Radiohead, but the reason Radiohead now remind me of The Stone Roses then, is that the heavens have conspired to make them one of those groups who combine with the times to generate the most illuminative synergy. In other words there’s one f*** of a buzz about them.
Since I last saw his group three months, Thom Yorke’s star quotient has really begun to snowball. Tonight he's sporting a rather longer bleached barnet that would look like a gardening accident on most other people. On Thom however, it serves only to accentuate his runtish demeanour. I wouldn't normally be so insensitive, but the lyrics to so many of Radiohead’s songs (”I'm better off dead” or "I wish I was special”) would suggest that he already knows.
The irony of course is that these days Thom has made such an art at of looking troubled, petulant and sulky that it’s also very sexy. You realise this roughly around the point at which he announces "Ripcord" and stumbles backwards into his guitarists. The thick sound that fills every last crevice uninhabited by its fierce melody is a seriously disorienting thing, as indeed is the song that follows it...
“Creep” is the song that saved Radiohead. It's three confused, deeply poignant minutes have people stop seeing them as another corporate tax-loss band, and the sin of not hailing Seattle. It’s also a spellbinding showcase for the rap-dead cool of their lead guitarist. Putting Johnny Greenwood on a stage is like dropping phosphorous in oxygen. Not content with playing the whole f***ing concert bent double over his guitar like a stick-man aflame, Johnny is responsible for unleashing that crunching powerchord on "Creep", you know, the one that chimes dramatically for a compressed eternity on the words “creep” and "weirdo".
When I eventually get round I to writing my encyclopaedia of Great Pop Moments, "Creep" will comprise a whole chapter. The psychotic adulation it elicits from is sweaty morass of converts is validation enough. And me? Oh, it’s alright, I've just got something in my eye.
Alter a couple of encores it takes a titanic rendition of “Prove Yourself" - elevated to the gods by an acrobatic vocal performance from Thom, straining to be heard over his own guitar - to convince us that Radiohead can't possibly improve any more. He appears to be a man at war with himself, which is probably scant consolation for him, but mesmeric spectacle for us.

I haven't overdosed on hyperbolic steroids. Radiohead, in January 1993, are just "so f***ing special’, and they're coming to your town. Watch them paint it blood red.

SINGLE OF THE WEEK
RADIOHEAD / ANYONE CAN PLAY GUITAR (Parlophone)
by Dave Jennings



WITH this multi-faceted gem, Radiohead’s star status will surely be assured. That’ll be a nice irony, because “Anyone Can Play Guitar” is essentially about rock stardom, and the sorry mental state of most of these who dedicate their lives to its pursuit.
The irony doesn’t end there. Thom Yorke’s ingenious lyric acknowledges the distance between rock rhetoric and reality – “…And if the worm does turn, and if London burns / I’ll be standing on a beach with my guitar” – but the sound of the song is vibrant and urgent enough to leave you feeling like music is the most vital thing in the world.
It’s well worth sticking around for the bonus tracks, too. “Faithless, The Wonder Boy” is a sweet, lilting little number spiked with chemical references and desperate anguish, while “Coke Babies” alternately drifts dreamily by and explodes into violent storms of shimmering guitar noise.
So now we know for sure that the mighty “Creep” was no fluke – and I’M left counting the weeks to the release of this priceless band’s debut album. Not long to go now, thankfully.