Meeting People Is Easy
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|Meeting People Is Easy|
|Directed by||Grant Gee|
|Produced by||Dilly Gent|
|Edited by||Jerry Chater|
|Distributed by||Parlophone (EMI)|
|30 November 1998(UK, VHS)|
Meeting People Is Easy, first released on 30 November 1998, is a rockumentary by Grant Gee following British alternative rock band Radiohead on their exhaustive world tour following the success of their 1997 album OK Computer. The film was nominated Grammy Award for Best Music Film at the 42nd Annual Grammy Awards in 2000.
Meeting People Is Easy takes place during the promotion of Radiohead's 1997 release OK Computer, containing a collage of video clips, sound bites, and dialogue going behind the scenes with the band on their world tour, showing the eventual burn-out of the group as the world tour progresses. The inaugural show of the OK Computer tour began on 22 May 1997 in Barcelona, Spain. Their final performance, 104 concerts later, was in New York's Radio City Music Hall.
Unlike other music documentaries, the film does not focus on the band's friendship with one another, families, or anything else outside the direct production, promotion and touring of a record. Most of the film contains footage consisting of music writing, concerts, promotional material, and abstract video footage.
During interviews, the rock group take on critics, record-label hype and American modern-rock radio, which Yorke compares to "a fridge buzzing". This coincides with the soundtrack of the film, with sounds that weave in and out of snatches of interviews, conversations, and songs. Along with this "radio wave" effect is a series of edits and quickly moving shots with stills, slow tracking shots, time-lapse photography, and colour/black-and-white film and video.
The documentary opens with video taken from the back of a subway train, along with the track "Fitter Happier" from OK Computer. This cuts to the band members reading off several dozen radio intros. Interspliced with the promotional material is live footage taken from various venues around the world, including the song "Karma Police" on Late Show with David Letterman.
Included in the documentary are various video clips of television appearances, newspaper articles, and other mentions of Radiohead in the media. In a clip from a Sky News programme, presenter Kay Burley comments on the video for the band's song "No Surprises", saying "Music to cut your wrists to. [...] It's the most miserable-sounding tune I've ever heard." While watching the video, the programme's music reviewer quips "You'll probably quite enjoy it because he actually drowns at the end". The making of the video is then shown, where frontman Thom Yorke is lip-synching while trapped in a tank of rising water.
The world tour that is the subject of the film has subsequently been admitted as a low point for the band, specifically Yorke, who had a near-breakdown. As "On Your Own Again" by Scott Walker plays on the soundtrack, Yorke is seen placing a note that reads "i am not here and this is not really happening" on his hotel windowpane, which looks out onto midtown Manhattan. This message was suggested by his friend Michael Stipe (singer of R.E.M.) as a way of dissociating himself from everything around him, and was used as the central lyrics of "How to Disappear Completely", released on their following album, Kid A. This would also form the background of Radiohead's recording sessions beginning in 1999 for their next albums Kid A and Amnesiac, inspiring a different songwriting and recording style and the band's changed sound after OK Computer.
In an interview, director Grant Gee explained the production process of filming Meeting People Is Easy. Gee explains that Radiohead "sat in these hotel suites for three days, four suites booked up simultaneously" doing interviews; 20-minute slots for interviews, a 40-minute slot if it was a bigger newspaper or magazine. To film and record every individual interview, Gee had to have been "running around, leaving a microphone in one room, going and filming something in another".
Although Meeting People Is Easy is not a traditional concert film as it often cuts away from songs before they are finished, it features clips of several recordings that are not found in other official releases:
- "Follow Me Around," played by Yorke on an acoustic guitar to an empty auditorium, with the rest of the band later joining in. This track was known only from this film, and in 2000 during the band's Toronto concert it was performed live during the encore following a female fan's vocal request—Thom responded to the fan, and then played Follow Me Around to an ecstatic audience. Yorke has since performed the song several times at solo appearances, or included a few lines from the song in Radiohead performances, but the song has never been performed with the full band. The lyrics of later versions differ, referencing former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, with Yorke singing "Did you lie to us, Tony?/We thought you were different/Now, y'know, we're not so sure" at Earl's Court in November 2003.
- The band's ultimately scrapped recording sessions for "Big Boots" (AKA "Man O War"), then planned as an addition to The Avengers film soundtrack.
- Several unidentified brief instrumental keyboard pieces are heard in the background during the film.
Versions and live performances of songs that were already released or eventually released:
- A brief clip of Yorke singing an early version of "I Will" in soundcheck.
- An acoustic guitar version of "Life in a Glasshouse" performed by Yorke in soundcheck.
- Clips of the band mixing the song "Palo Alto", intercut with urban scenes of Japan.
- An early version of "How to Disappear Completely" from a 1998 tour.
- Partial performances and recordings of most songs on OK Computer and some of that era's b-sides, including a long sequence featuring instrumental song "Meeting in the Aisle."
- Several performances of "Creep".
- A sample from what would later become "Cymbal Rush"" on Thom Yorke's album The Eraser.
- A live performance of "Nude" from a 1998 tour, which would later be released on In Rainbows nearly a decade later.
- Very brief clips of live performances of "Planet Telex" and "Street Spirit (Fade Out)".
Meeting People Is Easy was released on VHS on 30 November 1998 in the United Kingdom, later on 12 June 2000 on DVD. It was released in both VHS and DVD format on 18 May 1999 in the United States.
In subsequent years EMI and other record labels had released countless DVDs to promote pop and rock acts, as the format has become dominant over VHS in most parts of the world. In 1999, the film became the first DVD ever released by Radiohead's record label EMI/Parlophone/Capitol Records.
Several television channels broadcast Meeting People Is Easy after its release. In the UK, Channel 4 broadcast the film on 6 May 1999. In the US, MTV broadcast a premiere of the film on 16 May 1999, and The Sundance Channel broadcast the documentary 9 times during May 2000.
- "If you have been rejected many times in your life, then one more rejection isn't going to make much difference. If you're rejected, don't automatically assume it's your fault. The other person may have several reasons for not doing what you are asking her to do: none of it may have anything to do with you. Perhaps the person is busy or not feeling well or genuinely not interested in spending time with you. Rejections are part of everyday life. Don't let them bother you. Keep reaching out to others. When you begin to receive positive responses then you are on the right track. It's all a matter of numbers. Count the positive responses and forget about the rejections."
The back of the package has the lyrics for the aforementioned "Big Boots" intentionally misprinted:
- "drift all you want fromocean to ocean.search the whole world. but drunken confessions and hijacked affairs will just make yumore Alone.If you come home ill bake youa Cake made of all their yeyesi wish you coould seeme dressd for the Kill.what a nastySURPRISE.unplug thephone.stop all the taps.itall comes flooding back.from poison cloud to poisoned dwarf>>>what a nastydulkbhs SURPRISE.the wormsll come for you big boots"
Reception for Meeting People Is Easy was positive. The film received an average rating of 6.5/10 on Rotten Tomatoes, giving it 71% freshness. Reviewer Jessica Brandt of theshrubbery.com gave 5 out of 5 stars. Film critic Daniel Fletcher named Meeting People is Easy one of his ten favourite films.
Bart Blasengame gave the film 4 out of 5 stars, stating: "Instead of taking the usual tour documentary approach and dwelling on individual concerts or behind-the-scenes banter between the band, Gee's film focuses on the absurdity of being an important rock band in the current musical landscape – the shallow marketing of the band, the endless stream of redundant interviews, the blinding photo shoots and awkward television appearances."
Kevin Archibald of IGN gave the film a rating of 8/10.
The film has sold over half a million copies on DVD/VHS.
Awards and nominations
- Blasengame, Bart. "It Ain't Easy Being...". music-critic.com. Retrieved 14 May 2009.
- Sullivan, James (9 April 1999). "Radiohead's Un-`Easy' Life". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 14 May 2009.
- Kim, Brandon. "Is "Meeting People" Still Easy?". Independent Film Channel. Retrieved 14 May 2009.
- "RADIOHEAD MEETING PEOPLE IS EASY (1999)". BFI Film & TV Database. BFI. Retrieved 27 February 2010.
- "Meeting People Is Easy on Sundance Channel". ateaseweb.com. 1 May 2000. Retrieved 14 May 2009.
- "Radiohead: Meeting People Is Easy (1998)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 14 May 2009.
- Brandt, Jessica (June 1999). "Movie Review – Meeting People is Easy (A Radiohead Documentary)". theshrubbery.com. Retrieved 14 May 2009.
- "THE TOP 10 PROJECT INDIVIDUAL LISTS". thecinematheque.com. Retrieved 14 May 2009.
- Patterson, Troy (21 May 1999). "Video Review – Meeting People is Easy (1999)". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 14 May 2009.
- "Grant Gee – Director Profile". sheffdocfest.com. Retrieved 14 May 2009.
- "Awards for Meeting People Is Easy". IMDB. Retrieved 14 May 2009.