Saturday, September 3, 2016

Radiohead, "Subterranean Homesick Alien"

Tomorrow I turn 41 years old. Instead of reaching a milestone, I'm just one year closer to the grave. Whenever my birthday comes around, I do a lot of reflection. I was originally going to pick a song this week about the onset of autumn, but all that thinking made me reflect back on how much I've changed since I first heard the songs under consideration. That's especially the case with Radiohead's "Subterranean Homesick Alien," maybe my favorite track on OK Computer. It expresses a feeling I had a lot in my youth, which I am not always happy to remember.

The narrator is walking around his mundane town, and fantasizing about being abducted by aliens as a kind of deliverance from a thoroughly unfulfilling existence. I first bought OK Computer in August of 1997, a time when my need for deliverance was especially acute. It was right before I was going back to college for my senior year, and it was the summer that almost broke me. In college I had usually done factory work to make money, but that summer there weren't any full time positions at the place I usually worked. Instead of working part time and enjoying my summer more, I made the idiotic decision to take a telemarketing job. Needless to say, it was a nightmare, and that combined with getting my heart broken in an awful fashion and having to endure living with my parents in my boring hometown where my only friend in the area was at that time institutionalized in a mental hospital in another state made each day a wretched trial. I ended up taking the part time gig at the factory on top of the telemarketing job, that way I could work sixty hours a week between the two jobs, then quit telemarketing once August rolled around. It also meant working so much that I didn't have to confront my depression.

I remember hearing OK Computer as a kind of revelation, a voice calling out to me to give solace during my time in the void. It seemed to speak to my feelings of alienation and my overwhelming desire for escape from my own flesh. These were emotions that I had often felt, and now it seemed that Thom Yorke was a kindred spirit who had felt them, too. Often in my childhood and teen years I felt trapped in my own body. I was constantly bullied until about the tenth grade, (including by former "friends"), after which point I was merely ignored. Awkward, shy, and prone to developing obsessive crushes rather than talking to women, I had managed to make it to the cusp of my 22nd year without ever having kissed a girl or woman in a romantic fashion. (I still feel embarrassed to be typing those words.) Maybe I was some kind of alien orphaned on a strange planet, a Kal-El without any yellow sun powers.

Obviously a lot has changed since then. At 41, I am almost to the point where I have spent half of my life outside of the void. It's been long enough that sometimes I forget how much of my life was spent there, and how hopeless I felt back in those days. So instead of wishing for deliverance, at 41 I am happy to be where I am. Maybe I can be happy that I hopefully have more years ahead of me, enough to make my time in the void a distant memory.

1 comment:

Terry said...

Do have a good birthday! Be nice to yourself. You've made it so far and learned so much! And you have a family to love and friends to enjoy. So - enjoy! Ban all the "buts" for a day. :^)

(I'm told "the kids" can tell I'm an "old" because I put a nose on my smiley faces. So be it.)