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Radio Head: Up and Down the Dial of British Radio Paperback – 5 May 2009
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About the Author
John Osborne graduated from the University of East Anglia in 2004. He has taught English in Austria and Germany, and has had poetry published in the Guardian and the Spectator. Radio Head is his first book.
Top customer reviews
As the background narrative progressed I found I had broadly similar opinions to the author, which naturally has had a positive effect on my opinion of his book.
I don't want to give anything away, but the author meets interesting radio people, which elevates the book from 'They played this song' to a thoughtful look into the world of broadcasting.
As with any non-fiction book I buy it because I hope to learn something new - this book was very successful in that. Informative and pleasing to read. I'm very pleased I bought this book, I've no hesitation in recommending it.
Osborne is a genial, humorous commentator, intertwining the narrative of his listening project with the daily aspects of his life - his rather mundane job, his co-workers and his personal aspirations - as he gets involved with local radio and the research interviews that would eventually become part of the book. Much of the time he lets transcribed excerpts from the programmes he listens to do the talking, followed by his reactions to them - far more interesting than it sounds and quite an effective idea.
"Radio Head" is unlikely to change your world to any extent, but Osborne's enthusiasm and genuine love of radio make this a far more rewarding read than it might appear on first consideration.
A gently absorbing book, worth picking up.
The author chooses a different radio station each day and writes down his thoughts about the presenters, the discussions and the music played.
He does much of this from while supposedly going about his mind-numbing daily job (data-inputting), and also describes his crush on Poppy, a woman working on the other side of the office.
There are also some interviews with people involved in radio (Mark Radcliffe, Nicholas Parsons, etc.), which provide welcome interludes and some useful context.
It's gentle, funny and oddly compelling stuff. Pretty good idea for a book, too. Has anyone else done this before?
Osborne is in his twenties and most of his favorite listening is music, not surprisingly. However, his project is to be open to all kinds of stations and he manages to make nearly all of them quite interesting to read about. I suspect this has more to do with the quality of his writing rather than the quality of the radio shows.
He tries out different sorts of music, spending an entire day each with classical and jazz for a change. He listens to sports talk radio, political talk radio, the BBC Asian Network. When there's an earthquake in the area one night, a very unusual occurrence, he listens to the local station and is impressed at how smoothly they switch to reporting on the effects of the quake, while staying calm. It reminded me of when the Loma Prieta Earthquake hit when I was in San Francisco and how the first thing I did after finding that the phone lines were overloaded, was to grab the battery-operated radio and find out what was going on. No stiff upper lips on American radio, I'm afraid, nothing but rumors mixed with semi-true reports and breathless drama.
You wouldn't think that radio would be a very interesting thing to write about, or at least I wouldn't have thought so. And yet here's a book that is about almost nothing but listening to the radio, a book that I read from cover to cover and was sorry to come to the end. I enjoyed it so much that when I finished I had to find out whether John Osborne has written any other books. Yes! The Newsagent's Window: Adventures in a World of Second-Hand Cars and Lost Cats.
Two more recommended books that feature radio - Travels with My Radio: I am an Oil Tanker and Travels in a Strange State.
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