When I first heard Duke Special’s cover of Radiohead’s incredible ‘Lucky’ I wanted to learn it and sing it. Even before it was over, I knew that I couldn’t give this song what it needs. As a performer, I’m not restrained enough to not let all my thoughts come straight though and ruin it. As a human being, I don’t have enough wisdom to do this song justice. (This is not a love post for the Duke. That will come on a different day.)
What’s so striking about this song is that we know what it’s about – not from the lyrics, but from the marriage of the music and lyrics.
I think that most people have been in the place this song is about. We’re walking through life smiling and talking and doing things. To others it might seem that everything is going our way, but inside we’re feeling dark. It’s going through the motions, doing your very best not to alert anyone to how you’re feeling, because if you’re honest with yourself, you don’t know what this feeling is, how to fix it or how long it will last.
“Pull me out of the aircrash,
Pull me out of the lake
‘Cause I’m your superhero
And we are standing on the edge…”
There’s a very tangible sense of restraint through this song. The narrator never says anything directly, or at least he never says anything that we can make full sense of. He’s dancing around the issue. Nothing is certain with him: he’s ok, he’s not sure if he’s ok.
“I’m on a roll, I’m on a roll this time,
I feel my luck could change…”
In the original Radiohead version, the track is introduced by a sort of high-pitched scratchy noise which remains throughout most of the song. It reminds me of a device sometimes used to make listeners feel uncomfortable. If you ever watch a horror movie, there may be a subtle high-pitched sound – as you’re focused on other things, you’re not aware that you’re getting more and more anxious because of this persistent noise. I think it’s all linked in to the psychological aspect of this song. It’s getting right in there, and explaining something that most people can’t put into words.
In the Duke Special, the accompaniment is so beautiful. It’s very measured and again, very restrained. It supports what’s happening with the voice, but has its own story to tell. To me there’s a sense that it wants to just go absolutely insane with running chords and scales. There’s a slight hint of this coming through around 3 minutes in, where the piano wants to take off, but it restrains it. (In the Radiohead version, there’s a very tortured guitar with a lot to say. It almost sound like it’s crying.)
All in all, it’s pretty sad. I want the guy in the song to just scream and shout and run until he can get this feeling out of him. I want the music to rage and the voice to cry what it’s really feeling.