A GUEST SERIES
15 – No Surprises – Radiohead (1997, Parlophone Records)
Released as a single in January 1998 (Reached number 4)
In an ICA that Tim Badger wrote for this very fine blog, on Teenage Fanclub, he told a tale about how he sang a cover version of ‘Tears are Cool’ and dedicated it to a girl in the pub. He told us that he never sang live again as a result of that. Well, ladies and gents, that was not strictly true because he forgot to tell the tale of the Open Mic Night at the Thatch. Although I think it happened after JC published the Teenage Fanclub story, so he was telling the truth I suppose.
The Thatch is my local. An old pub right near the sea, which in the winter is largely deserted and where five or six weary locals prop up the bar and tell tales of old to each other. A few years back, the new manager of the Thatch decided to have an ‘Open Mic’ night as a way of getting some new folk in.
It just so happens that Badger and I and a few others had arranged to meet there one night anyway – and that night was Open Mic night, although we didn’t know it was Open Mic night.
Anyway we sat in the corner drinking our beer and chatting about everything under the sun as various people turned up and played – one lady played a ukulele, another chap did a passable impression of Bruce Springsteen and so it went on – it was a good evening.
After about four pints, Badger stood up and wandered over to the bar and came back with a wry look on his face. “I’m going to do a couple of songs” he said. Which caused all of us to laugh out loud. One of the guys we are with, Mark, asks if he can record it to ‘ward off burglars, cats and foxes’ as he intends to play it on a loop as an alarm.
I’d never heard Badger sing before, largely because he said he ‘sung like horse with laryngitis’ so I was mildly intrigued because that would make him sound like the singer of Mumford and Sons.
He ambled over to the stage (I say stage, I mean floor space) popped his pint on top of the speaker, spent a few minutes tuning the acoustic guitar, took a heavy gulp of Fursty Ferret and spoke into the mic.
“Ok” he said, his voice had gone all quiet, “this is a Radiohead song, and, er, it goes a bit like this, I mean I’ll fuck it up, but its supposed to be ‘No Surprises’, it will sound more like the ‘Wheels on the Bus’ but…” he stops, or rather he starts.
Radiohead were one of Badgers favourite bands and ‘No Surprises’ was one of his favourite tracks by them. He would also tell anyone who was listening about when he first saw them live in a venue called The Cockpit in Leeds (I think) where they were supporting a band called Suede.
Metal Mickey – Suede (1992, Nude Records, Number 17)
Of course, its brilliant, its Badger, I wouldn’t be telling you this if it was rubbish, well I would, but, anyway…he gets it near perfect and when he opens his mouth to sing about fifteen mouths drop open at the same time. The boy can sing. I mean he can really sing. The singing is better than the guitar playing and that is bloody good.
He finishes ‘No Surprises’ and the place goes mental – largely in the corner occupied by me and the guys we’d gone to the pub with. Badger, looks at us and says “Shut Up, you numpties, I’m not Ed Sheeran” but he smiles. He uses this as an excuse to carry on, and he follows up with
Levi Stubbs Tears – Billy Bragg (1986, Go! Discs, Number 29)
Which he dedicates to ‘all the communists” but I think the joke is lost on people. Again its wonderful – to be honest its better than Bragg’s version and I wish I’d recorded it and then he sits down. Three people immediately bring him over pints.
“I see that horse laryngitis has cleared up”. Is all I can think of saying.