I still remember the date – Feb 18, 2011. I was at work, surfing the web, and found an opportunity to experience something I had ignored for years, but a number of my friends described as life-changing and a huge part of their own identity. So I decided to check it out a little bit. And I was transformed – and regretful of all the wasted years which I’d spent without it. Since that day, I’ve surrounded myself with it and allowed it to work within me, changing and growing me.
Does this sound familiar? No, it’s not a Christian testimony (although I confess to writing it as closely as I could). On Feb 18, 2011, Radiohead released “The King of Limbs” and allowed NPR to stream the whole thing in one pass. Like most of the mainstream music industry, I’d ignored Radiohead since “The Bends” and their music became less accessible. Toward the end of 2010, Rolling Stone put out a list of the best and most influential albums of the decade – and it didn’t escape my notice that both “OK Computer” and “Kid A” were on the short list. But it wasn’t until February when I heard “The King of Limbs” when I realized what I’d missed all these years, and said to myself “oh boy…I’ve made a mistake here.” (Upon posting this on Facebook, my friends definitely affirmed this as a mistake, and encouraged me to dig deeper.)
Within the next few weeks, I bought the entire catalog, and spent the next two months really diving in. (The “OK Rainbows” or “01 and 10” mashup of the “OK Computer” and “In Rainbows” album is particularly fascinating to me.)
Part of my regret and shock at my own ignorance is how much their music means to other musicians – and I missed it. It doesn’t take much to see from just the cover versions – Brad Mehldau’s many jazz arrangements, several lullaby CDs, even John Mayer making the song “Kid A” actually singable. One of my favorites is this recent fan mashup, released on this year’s anniversary of “OK Computer”.
Since that day, I’ve been an eager evangelist for the band, although not as much as I have been for The Civil Wars. I literally can’t say enough about hem, but I will actually try to restrain myself here.
I recently tweeted out, “The crazy part of musicianship is that you strive to do complexity like @radiohead and write sublimely like @thecivilwars.” How many chords does YOUR last song have?
The eternal problem is that I’m a mad evangelist for the wrong things. I can so easily tell somebody how experiencing a band or piece of music will change their life, but I’m terrified of sharing the gospel with them. I’m equally afraid of offending a friend and of being rejected as a friend. And of course I’m embarrassed of being associated with crazy (and some not as crazy) right-wing Christians too. And yet Penn Jillette’s words haunt me – “I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize…If you believe that there is a heaven and hell, and people could be going to hell…how much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize?”
It’s just difficult for me to communicate “I tell you this because I truly care about you”, when so many folks over the years have essentially said either “I’m trying to get you on my team” or “I’m trying to show you I’m right” or even just “you’re wrong!” That’s the last thing I want to communicate. My intention is more of a combination of “I really think you’re missing out on something bigger” and “I think a train is coming down the tracks and I’m begging you to get out of the way”.
This feels like a pathetic way to do it, but seriously, friends, if anybody wants to have this conversation, I would love to – I just don’t know how to start it effectively.