OK Computer makes me think of a guitar teacher I studied under in college, he was a nightmare. A pedantic, completely coked up jazz freak, who worshipped at the altar of Radiohead – specifically OK Computer. We had a one on one class two days out of the week at ten in the morning and more times than not our time together was spent with the teacher, let’s call him “Liam,” telling me how genius Johnny Greenwood was for creating his own musical scales, and berating me for not sharing, or caring about this particular form of genius. Then he would either play John Coltrane on the guitar (the best way to hear the bird), or he would tell me why playing a Steinberger was better for intonation and staying in tune. That may be true, but it’s also for nerds.
Liam’s devotion to wonky guitar nerd music, and seeming need to direct all of his vitriol about not being lauded as a guitar genius, was so traumatizing that whenever I hear anything from the first three Radiohead albums I immediately think of him and feel embarrassed. When the opening chords of “High and Dry,” a song I had to “noodle around on” for my final, waft through a super market I tense up, worrying that someone will hand me a guitar and asked me to play through the scales, inventing variations as I go.
The only victory I was able to hold over Liam was the morning when he lugged in two guitar cases into our cramped practice space. One held a stock, white, Stratocaster, the other a gold top Les Paul. He had just joined a 70s, 80s, and 90s cover band and had been told that he had to play an instrument that fit the band’s aesthetic. As we tried to play through whatever song he felt that I could handle he kept stopping to complain about the guitar; the action, the neck, the bridge, everything, while switching between the two of them. Then he explained that he would do what he to do to make money before bringing our lesson to an abrupt end. After that day he grew more passive aggressive about my playing until I stopped going to class, vowing to listen exclusively to post-guitar Radiohead for the next 12 years.