As I write this blog Radiohead have just shared their 9th album, a Moon Shaped Pool on Spotify. Thom Yorke once described Spotify as the “last desperate fart of a dying corpse” and pulled his solo work and Radiohead’s post parlophone albums from the streaming service.
So what has this got to do with Weird Decibels blog? I want to explain the influence that Radiohead have had on our band.
Around 1994 95 Radiohead had already released the single ‘Anyone Can Play Guitar’ my father didn’t seem to care much for the record so he kindly handed me the vinyl and I ran upstairs and played it.
Anyone Can Play Guitar was hugely influential for a young guy trying to learn guitar. Then there was the song Creep.
Weird had already formed when Radiohead’s 2nd album The Bends had surfaced and this more accomplished album would eventually see me experimenting with delay pedals and the structure of songs. It also opened up the possibility of mixing acoustics with electric guitars. That would be Firkin Outburst then.
Greg and I went to see them at the Barrowlands towards the end of the Bends tour. Perhaps one of the greatest gigs I had ever been at (I think Greg would agree). Witnessing Thom Yorke jumping around onstage and publicly displaying his every emotion when singing was now on my repertoire
At this point Derek kinda lost interest in Radiohead, Greg no longer listened to them and Stu would visit the ‘head later in his musical journey, for now Ok Computer was mine. I loved the CD, studied the extensive artwork and slotted it eagerly into my Philips CD drive (again supplied by my ever influential father).
Ok Computer would be the latest album to be imprinted on my psychi. Nirvana, Soundgarden, Smashing Pumpkins had only held this honor until now. Radiohead showed me that British music could be as good as the states.
Ok Computer… I cannot work out where to begin. My love for the structure and ambition of this album almost frustrated me as I could not reach it. Then I had started to sit up and listen to Nigel Godrich’s spacious production. Steve Albini had been my hero for a while, both these guys would now influence my desire to try sound production. This obsession of mine would influence the sound of Weird Decibels until the present day (for better or worse)
Ok Computer unlocked another band for me, Grandaddy, and well that’s a whole other blog
As I moved away from my grunge rock roots (I was writing acoustic solo albums) Kid A arrived to the distaste of music critics and much of the radiohead masses. Only the true fans clung on after this ( there were many). Kid A was and still is a fascinating record (Derek hated it, Stu and Greg didn’t say much). I conquered Kid A, listening to it several times and unlocked the beauty of the wonderful sonic landscapes that Yorke and co had created. Then it dawned that you could do anything with music but it was incredibly hard to get right. I recorded a terrible solo ep called ‘The man without a heart’ although I do still listen to it for my own selfish indulgence.
It was now the year 2000 and we all survived the millennium bug but alas Weird did not, the 17th (more on this at a later date) would be formed for a while and I would continue to consume whatever Radiohead had to offer. Indeed Amnesiac would influence my contributions to the 17th significantly. Pyramid Song would forever teach me how to find a mood for a song. Its a beautiful piece of music.
Hail to The Thief was the first kick at the shins, the first stumble from my biggest influence. I found myself floating away from my heroes and by 2004 the punk ethic had gripped me as Weird had reformed to record One More Solo. In our opinion one of our best.
Radiohead had left EMI and for them things went south, they didn’t record an album until 2007’s wonderful return to form ‘In Rainbows’. We went on to the ‘Acts’ arguably our weakest era.
In Rainbows was a great album however it wasn’t the shiny disc that influenced us this time. It was Radiohead’s decision to let listeners ‘pay what you want’ for their new album. I remember not trusting this, I wanted a CD not MP3’s so I steered clear, however this would have a profound impact on the industry. People downloaded albums for free, privacy was rife anyway and I think Radiohead were trying to find a new approach,however they alone would be unable to stop the demise of the record industry that had bloated to greedy heights in the 80s and 90s.
Our next album (2012) Weird Decibels 1 would be the first to embrace the online community( we were behind the times). It would be the first album to have different price entries. Free on Spotify, pay for a normal CD or pay more for a deluxe CD, Radiohead’s decision to let the fans pay what they wanted had helped pave the way for what was now an option on Bandcamp.
By the time King Of Limbs had surfaced I hardly listened to them. Thom Yorke started his spat with Spotify, yes it’s shocking how much these services pay and we have to see an increase in payments per stream but his won’t happen until Youtube in particular stops being a free platform for artistic content. .
One of my favourite singers took his vitriol out on the wrong (or flawed) service of Spotify. He took a stance and removed his music.
So where are we now. Have Radiohead been paid a handsome fee to upload their new album? Is it the record company that have done it on their behalf? The bottom line, they won’t lose money (it’s been suggested that streaming sites actually encourage consumers to buy physical products albeit on a far more selective way) on this but bands like us continue to do so.
Thanks to piracy, MP3’s and a general reluctance by the mainstream consumer to pay for music we make nothing yet pay a significant fee to get on these services. The bands who are at the top shouldn’t be fighting against the payment per stream, it’s here to stay until the next industry disruptive format arrives. Perhaps they should be asking a local band from every town they visit to open their shows. This would be far greater that anything they could do including anti streaming protests.
Moon Shaped Pool lands on Spotify on the 17th of June. Click and listen, it’s a sombre but beautiful piece of work from one of my favourite bands.