The Thom Yorke story.
CJSR’s 25 Anniversary Fundrive is coming up in a few days, like, September 23, 2009. One more reason that September is truly the greatest month. If you’re an eager beaver, you can go and pledge in advance of the fun RIGHT NOW, but if you’re clicking there from here, you better freakin’ well give 68Comeback credit when you go there. Also, come back when you’re done, okay?
If you’re not quite ready for pledging just yet, well that’s cool, for now. While you wait, please consider this, gratis, a story hardly anyone remembers, but is nonetheless true because I was the Music Director at the time and I saw it with my own eyes. I call it the Thom Yorke story because that is what it is.
So, you know who
is? He’s the guy from Radiohead? Okay, they might have 20 bazillion adoring fans now, but there was a time – 1996, to be exact – when Radiohead played in the University of Alberta’s own Dinwoodie Lounge, which used to be right down the hallway from us, on the second story of the Students Union Building.
Right at 3:15pm, the EMI rep delivered the guest of honour, such that he was. Coming on a Wednesday afternoon as the Radiohead show did, the DJ from 3-5 was Sensitive Biff, who was no more thrilled about the interview that had been scheduled for him than was the interviewee.
And so, the hunched, pouting, up-and-coming rock star Mr. Yorke was introduced to the hunched, pouting show host Sensitive Biff. One man didn’t want to be interviewed, the other didn’t want to interview him, but there were…expectations.
Was there ever an explicit agreement struck between the two? Not exactly. As I remember it, the two of them sat down next to one another in the booth. Biff had Pegboy on the turntable – not all that much time left in the song no matter what – and, casting a sidelong glance at the promo copy of The Bends he had just received asks, “Is there any song from your album that you want me to play?”
Yorke had, as soon as he sat down near the stack of CDs and records that Biff had pulled for the show, became quite involved with them. There was lots more punk where the Pegboy came from, which is where Biff was coming from most times, but there was other, weirder stuff too, like Tall Dwarfs and Weird Paul. Like a true music geek, he was analyzing the covers, reading the track listings, the notes. “Nah,” he mumbled, somewhat distractedly, “what you’ve got here is good.”
Biff shrugged, back-announced his set, played an ad or two, and then set about not-interviewing Thom Yorke from Radiohead. He introduced him as a new volunteer who was going to spend some time learning the radio ropes that afternoon, and that is exactly what happened. Thom Yorke read public service announcements. Thom Yorke fetched listener requests from the library, and he also spent a lot of time just sifting through it, looking at records. Thom Yorke was allowed to put together one, four-song set (don’t forget Canadian Content!), DJ it himself, back announce it himself. The gig got plugged. Not one Radiohead track was played. And Thom York hung around for the entire show, helping, chatting on-air with Sensitive Biff about music, bitching about bands that he used to like but didn’t care for so much anymore, about the movie that was playing at the Princess which he had seen and thought was quite good and whatever other junk came to mind.
And when it was all said and done and the rep was about to take him back to soundcheck, Thom Yorke smiled a little tiny smile, put his hands in his pockets, nodded at Sensitive Biff and said, “Thanks, that was fun.” It really was.
Quite Important Post-Script:
My friend Christine Chomiak, the greatest Program Manager in CJSR’s herstory, makes it seem, if for only a moment, just like the good old days by adding, “I remember Thom running to my old office (we were still up on the 2nd floor) where we were talking to the emi rep. He wanted to know where we got the new girls against boys cd, and if he could have our copy. You politely said no.” Ah yes, I remember it well.