‘Lucky’ began life as the ever-crotchety Thom Yorke’s attempt at a ‘political’ record, bound for a benefit album in aid of children affected by the war in Bosnia. While the track did indeed appear on 1995’s Eno-produced Help Album, its original lyrical intent was quickly abandoned. Yorke’s efforts at sincere, right-on stanzas, the man himself pithily concluded, were ‘bollocks’. Instead, the resulting ditty was an enervated, dead-eyed-in-the-bed-sit ballad hidden in a haze of lyrical obscurantism, with lines about crashing planes and lakeside rescues and snubbing the Head of State. And as with all such Radiohead songs, it’s wrenchingly emotional, burdened with an overwhelming weight of feeling that drags the tempo down to a lethargic plod.
You sense that if you were just able to bat away the almost-impenetrable lyrical fug you’d find something horrific at the centre. The tone is one of weariest defeat, as though everything is wrong, but it is impossible to put things right – such woeful impotence can be seen, in a characteristically Radiohead kind of way, as being astutely political. It’s a fitting message from a very postmodern band – after ideology, and the fall of religion, we’re left with next to no concrete meaning, and rather than using this opportunity to make something better and right injustice, society rolls over and lets corporate unaccountability and political cowardice tickle its belly. Over the years it’s become clear that politics is torturous for Mr Yorke, the anti-capitalist eco-warrior in a sick society overflowing with insular ignorance and apathy, who veers between reluctant political engagement and very understandable disgusted withdrawal.
In any case, the first thing you will probably notice is that this is definitely not the Radiohead version. ‘Lucky’ is fantastic, but the Bemolution has never been overly fussed about OK Computer, the critically-worshipped 1997 album on which the track later made its official Radiohead debut, favouring the deep-frozen millennial anguish of 2000’s Kid A instead.
Here, then, we find the song entrusted to Warren Haynes, one-time member of unstoppable blues-rock powerhouse the Allman Brothers band, leader of the Southern jam outfit Gov’t Mule and now a solo singing-songwriting guitarist. Taken out of the hands of the English private school boys and reinterpreted by Haynes, ‘Lucky’ comes out sounding gnarled and aged, reinforced by the bluesman’s heft. Musically and culturally a million miles away from Abingdon-born alt-rock acts with electronica leanings, Haynes demonstrates a pleasing breadth of musical taste, for which the Bemolution duly salutes him.