When you’re a kid the journeys to places seem to take forever. When you go anywhere with your Mum or Dad and they let you sit in the front seat – that journey can, for all you care, take forever because it feels like you’re driving. You can barely see anything above the dashboard but for the first time in your short existence, you can see the world.
I bought my mum a tape for Mothers’ Day 1998. It had been advertised on television as ‘The Best Rock Songs EVER’ and the ‘Ooh’ which left my Mum’s 28 year old mouth was one which created a mental note in mind. She had just wrapped her own gift.
Whenever my Mum and I went anywhere post Mothers’ Day, we did so to the sound of this gift. It was a two cassette package, which even in the 90s was rare. It meant four sides of constant music and because of the longevity of one tape it was months before we reached Tape 2; we would always rewind the cassette back to the beginning at the start of journeys. The length to our local shop or town centre was no more than a hop, skip and a jump so it’s no wonder that I know all the words to ‘We are the Champions’ seeing as it’s the first song.
So. I was sat in the car at our local shopping outlet waiting for my Mum to hurry back from Argos, or some other mundane 90s shop. I don’t remember getting to the outlet or why we were there but I do remember the smell of the air-freshner in the car as I dared to go into the second tape.
When I first heard the guitar introduction to High and Dry nothing washed over me. It seemed like a happy song, different to the other ‘rock anthems’ we had been listening to of late. It was when I heard (what was to become known to me year’s later) Thom Yorke’s voice hit that high note of the chorus, that my arms pricked with goosebumps and head darted out the window to check my Mum wasn’t coming. The music interlude after the second or so chorus made me feel proud and happy and motivated. I can even, to this day, see myself in the car, edge of the seat, watching the tape player and front door of Argos to check for my mum. I felt it was a clandestine affair and I shouldn’t enjoy a song I had never heard before so much. To rewind the tape to listen for a second, third, and fourth time; to rewind the tape and get the end of Roy Orbison as I was desperate to hear Radiohead again. It was illicit because it was the second tape. You’d think it would be because of the lyrics but as a kid, I didn’t care about them or the meaning behind the song. I didn’t even hear the lyrics until late in my teens but I’m sure that it didn’t stop anyone wondering why I was singing about killing myself for recognition.
When my Mum got back in the car she looked at me and simply told me:
‘Put on that other tape, we don’t know any of these. We like Queen.’
I looked at her, smiled gently and put the other tape in. I’d created my own bed and I should lie in it. After all, it was always me that got excited to put this cassette on and she was probably just appeasing me to make me happy. She wasn’t to know that I had just experienced beauty. I didn’t argue but I also didn’t murmur a single word to this song she had declared our love for which had so little feeling considering it was triumphing being the best.
My heart sank the year after when I saw that ‘The Best Rock Songs EVER II’ had been released, feeling cheated that I loaned my ears to a lie. Ever doesn’t come around twice but I still choose to listen to High and Dry over any other song on that compilation.