In 1995, Oxford indie legends, Radiohead, released their second studio album, The Bends. The album came as the group’s first refined and balanced offering with a bounty of radio-friendly singles and moody grunge-inspired anthems.
The record achieved what it set out to do in helping Radiohead migrate from their status as a one-hit-wonder with ‘Creep’ to being recognised as one of the most important British bands of the time alongside the might of Oasis and Blur during their Britpop battle.
Of the six single releases from The Bends, ‘High and Dry’, which was released together with ‘Planet Telex’ as a double A-side, was one of the most commercially successful and one of the band’s enduring favourites among fans. Despite the song being popular among listeners over the past three decades, frontman Thom Yorke has expressed his dissatisfaction with the song, once dismissing it as “not bad… it’s very bad.”
Yorke wrote the anthemic classic while he was still a student at Exeter University and recorded it in the early 1990s without any intention of including it in the album. As Yorke once recalled, the lyrics were about “some loony girl I was going out with” but became “mixed up with ideas about success and failure”.
Ultimately, the track was included on the album because of its assumed commercial value – and right they were. While I agree that ‘High and Dry’ isn’t great when compared with some of the other more insightful and considered tracks on the album and not a fraction of the quality we would see in the band’s next two albums, the anthem is perfectly acceptable as a cheesy singalong.
The success of the song can be mostly attributed to its catchy rhythm guitar phrases, but there is also much to be said for the percussion too. Below, you can hear Radiohead’s ‘High and Dry’ as never before through the isolated drum tracks performed by the brilliant Philip Selway.