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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

No Alarms and No Surprises


I first listened to Radiohead’s OK Computer in my friend Alyson’s flat in Anniesland, Glasgow, in 1997, not long after I had moved there from Melbourne.  It was evening, we’d had a few drinks and were listening to this strange music in a darkened room.  The impact of that first listening stayed with me.  I can remember buying a copy of the CD somewhere in Sauchiehall Street soon after and listening to it over and over again alone in my crazy third floor tenement flat in Dennistoun.  I listened to it all through that Glasgow winter with the wind howling through the gaps in my bedroom window, with the calor gas heater valiantly trying to fend off the icy dampness that Scotland does so well.  My memories of this time in my life are still clearly etched; I was quite lonely, living in a not particularly lively part of town, not knowing many people, spending a lot of time by myself, in my own head, writing music, listening to Radiohead, eating oatcakes and drinking whisky.  It was a very intense time and sometimes my more maudlin tendencies would come to the fore, particularly under the influence Radiohead’s strange introspective soundworld.  My life was opening into a new and unknown phase in a different country, a long way from home.

Today I am listening to Radiohead while I cook dinner for my family; the cat is sitting on a kitchen chair keeping me company while our two children rampage around the house.  I’m looking out at a very green and slightly overgrown garden, tucked away in a quiet street in Melbourne’s Northern suburbs.  I am far from lonely or alone -  I am in a place that feels very much like home.  There is no time for the self-indulgent introspection of the younger me and the maudlin me of the late 90s has been superseded by a reasonably happy and well adjusted version.  So it is all the more disconcerting to listen to this music that powerfully transports me back to another time and place, when I was in many ways a different person.  The music evokes the sense of a particular time and place more powerfully than mere recollection.  If I close my eyes I could almost be back there, nearly 15 years ago, with the very particular smells and sounds and sensations that surrounded me then.  I’m not sure that any other art form or medium can evoke our personal pasts with such directness.  Another reminder of the power music has in our lives.

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