Radiohead: Seven Television Commercials


Wife and I sat down to watch Radiohead: Seven Television Commercials, a brief collection of Radiohead music videos. It had been sitting in the NetFlix queue for so long I had forgotten it was there — arrived in the mailbox like the memory of an old friend.  Such impressionistic stuff, we decided to skip any attempt at actual review/synopsis and instead just riff words off the visuals and post whatever came out, do a sort of Kerouac typewriter roll on it.

What follows are seven songs, seven paragraphs.

n.b.: Radiohead (or its label EMI (c.f. John Lydon on EMI) or the copyright Mormons, or whomever) have seen fit to disable embeddable video for the band’s videos, so you’ll have to click through to see moving pictures, sorry).

Fake Plastic Trees


Through the grate of a shopping cart (the good kind, the metal kind), young Yorke riding rows of bioluminescent beverages. A chaise lounge, woman in beehive. Slow shaking of head like trying to scare out a wasp. Strange babies along for the ride. No exit? This is a British high-fashion dream-time shopping spree. Old man Jackson brandishing sterling six-guns. Dudes in sweats mosy down. “It wears me out.” On surveillance it’s all black and white, the gushing colors gone, but only for a moment, then the moment’s gone. If Stanley Kubrik made music videos, they would have looked like this.

No Surprises


Love that ringing bells guitar sound. Yorke reading backwards text, his own lyrics. This must be the man in the mirror. Reflections on face make it seem like he’s in a space helmet, but no. Too much oxygen here. Uh oh, close up of bad teeth and the water line. I take it back about the oxygen. Tension line of the water rising. Submerged. Nostril bubbles. Like that his eyes are two different sizes. No surprises. Lips fleshy underwater and a bit pale like they’ve been submerged for a year, pair of sea cucumbers. Ah, breath! Ears wide like wings.

Street Spirit


Leaping from Silverstream trailer, ninja ballet chick becomes dragonfly. Yorke lets out a little spasm shudder dustfinger. Yorke in Pumas. Fooling around with infrared and stop-motion. Spit flies from doberman’s mouth in slo-mo silver light flurry, ninja girl better bend her knees or she’ll break her back! This ain’t no “Chimes of Freedom” flashing. Is this something a film student would do? They’re obviously angst-ridden. Yorke’s face melts and morphs. This chair ain’t gonna fly itself… oh wait it is.

Karma Police


Shot over hood of big American cruiser down night highway, grass on sides of road unearthly glow. Man running down road like a deer escaping headlights. Yorke is a perfect walking enigma. “This is what you’ll get.”  Camera pans over the Lux Interior, scarlet velvet, more of a ketchup red. Running man won’t give up, won’t give in. Lens flare like 70s sci-fi. Those square headlights bearing down. I think these guys hate their fathers. Running man has stopped, struggling to light a match. Center line goes up in flames, car bearing backwards, then engulfed.



Tilt focus! Businessman falls to pavement. “Jesus I’m sorry I didn’t see you there.” “No I’m fine please leave me alone.” Apparent suicide, doesn’t want help. Citizens want to be involved. Is this utopia? Dialog in subtitles, like a noir flick backwards. Build of momentum reminiscent of Cul de Sac. Guitarist’s front hair damn long. Damned. Man confesses reason for suicide to crowd, who  all lie down as well. Something existential going on here, but I don’t know what it is.

Paranoid Android


Cartoon boy rubbing shampoo from eyes. Phone ringing, oh my god. Countries voting. Jesus girl jumps from trees. Boys choose dinosaur fish from pet store, gap-toothed women make me sneeze. Ship sails away off into the dentist. Fat man in loincloth pulls axe from briefcase. Angel in helicopter rescues boy, teaches boy to fly, turns out he’s better at ping pong. Fat man amputates own legs with the axe, mermaids rescue him from seabed.  Taxi off into the sunset, limbless man in tree fed by snowy white egret.

High and Dry


First 30 seconds totally generic, broken by a diner pushing his housekey into a bowl of pudding (mayonnaise?) The waitress’ mascara the deepest blue, like Klein Blue, yeah that blue. Nice to see ordinary people lip synching the lyrics rather than the artist. They’re good at it.  The diner is called Dick’s. A stopwatch buried in french fries. A flaming Corvette. Kind of a Tarantino thing going on. And we’re out.

About Scot Hacker

Scot Hacker is a web developer, teacher, and blogger living in Northern California. He is the author of Can You Get to That? The Cosmology of P-Funk and Understanding Liberace: Grooving With The Fey Heckler. He works by day as webmaster at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and Knight Digital Media Center, and runs Birdhouse Web and Mail Hosting on the side. Hacker is the author of The BeOS Bible and MP3: The Definitive Guide, and posts near-daily on random stuff at Scot Hacker's foobar blog. He's ecstatic that we're sitting on 100 years of recorded music history. How I Got Stuck When was the last time you bought a record because of the cover? 25 years before MP3s, I used to make a weekly pilgrimage to Cheap Thrills in San Luis Obispo with friends, where we'd surf through dusty wooden bins, de-flowering ourselves in a mist of vinyl, grabbing piles of cut-outs about which we knew virtually nothing. Junior Samples, Temple City Kazoo Orchestra, The Buggles, Paul Desmond, Instant Chic, Smithsonian collections, Robert Moog, Dream Syndicate... didn't matter. If the cover was cool, we assumed there was a good chance the music would turn us on. And we were often right. In that humongous wooden warehouse, between around 1977 and 1984, my musical universe bloomed. There were also duds - dumptruck loads of duds. The lesson that a great cover doesn't tell you jack about the music inside was a long time coming (the inverse correlation - that great music was often hidden behind terrible artwork - came much later). But it didn't matter, because cut-outs never cost more than a couple-three bucks, and all the good shit we uncovered made it worthwhile. In high school, I (for the most part) ignored the music going on around me. The jocks and aggies could keep their Rick Springfield and their Jefferson Starship - we were folding papers after school to The Roches and Zappa and Talking Heads and PiL. But inevitably, some of the spirit of that time stuck with me. ELO and McCartney wormed their way (perhaps undeservedly) into my heart. No one escapes high school without an indelible tattoo on their soul describing the music of that time. When I went away to college, the alt/grunge scene was being born, and getting chicks required familiarity with The Pixies and Porno for Pyros. I couldn't quite figure how these bands were supposed to be as interesting as Meat Puppets or Cecil Taylor or Syd Barrett, but I went along for the ride for a while, best I could. But I never quite "got" alt-rock. Never understood why The Pixies were elevated in the public imagination over a thousand bands I thought were so much more inventive / rocking / interesting. What exactly was Frank Black offering the world that Lou Reed had not? In general, I like music carved in bold strokes - extremely rockin', or extremely beautiful, or extremely weird... I like artists that have a unique sound, something I can hang my hat on. I love Mission of Burma and The Slits and The American Anthology of Folk Music and Devendra Banhart and Bowie and Nick Drake and Eric Dolphy and Ali Farka Toure and Marvin Pontiac. If you were to ask me who was the last great rock and roll band, I'd be likely to answer "The Minutemen." I know it's not true, but I'd say it anyway. And yet, in a weird way, I totally believe it. Today while jogging, I listened to a long interpretation by the Unknown Instructors: "Punk Is Whatever We Made It To Be" - half-spoken / half-sung sonic collage of some of D. Boon's best stanzas. Boon's powerful words rained like hammers and I felt like I was back in 1980, careening down the highway in a green VW bug with The Stooges blasting. It was that spirit of amazement that I used to live for - the one I never got from the 90s indie scene. And then, just as quickly, I thought "God, I'm living in the past. I suck." I'm stuck. I have vast collections of LPs, CDs, and MP3s. I listen to music for hours each day, and yet I'm completely out of it, musically speaking. I confess -- I've never listened to Guns-n-Roses or Pearl Jam or Prince, and I've only recently heard "Nevermind" in its entirety. If it weren't for Twitter, I wouldn't even know Lady Gaga existed. I'm oblivious to the stuff that supposedly matters to "music people." It's not like I'm totally unaware of pop music. I just have a finely tuned ability to tune out whatever doesn't interest me. I don't quite know how to explain it. I can only say that my friends register shock when they learn that I've never heard of Elliot Smith. And yet I do not feel thirsty. I'm always open to being turned on. But I learned long ago that, unfortunately, you can't trust beautiful cover art to promise great music, and you can't always trust your friends to push your music buttons. I'm happy to listen to damn near anything. And every now and then, that "anything" will turn into something that will become important to me over time. Something that will last. I like music with staying power. Belle and Sebastien have a certain appeal, but I don't think they're going to occupy even the tiniest slot in my consciousness in 20 years. But the power and inventiveness of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, John Fahey, Robert Wyatt, Can, The Carter Family, The Clash, will never dissipate. I have little interest in the "new" factor. I could not care less whether this year's model is the baddest thing going on in Atlanta or a rare gem rescued from 78 rpm oblivion by Robert Crumb. It's all the same to me. Just squeeze my lemon / 'till the juice runs down my leg. Please. A friend once said that he felt lucky to have been born so late in history, because the later you're born, the more history you have to work with. I don't think I really understood what he was saying until I was about 40. It's not about being born late, it's about this massive archive we're sitting on - the entire history of recorded music under our butts, which we can either choose to ignore or to mine for all it's worth. Every hour I spend checking out the flavor of the month is an hour I haven't spent with David Thomas or Richard Hell or Shuggie Otis. Life's too short. I'm going to use this site to drift back and forth through musical history, modernity be damned. You turn me on, I'm a radio. Let me know what I'm missing. shacker's station at