Written by Books

Radio Head


I’d completely missed the fact that this book existed until I saw a reference to a Daily Mail extract via a friend’s blog (obviously I wouldn’t ordinarily link to a Daily Mail extract – it’s not as though I was surfing the site or something).
Written by John Osborne – no, not our John Osborne – it details one man trying to liven up his dull data-entry job by listening to a different radio station each day.
The radio anorak in me, meant that I had to read this book. I really do love radio. It’s why I work where I work – and I’d listen to lots of radio wherever I happened to be.
When the book arrived, the first thing I had to do was see if there was a reference to the station where I work. The list of contents didn’t show Absolute Radio, and I was scouring it for Virgin Radio – surely it must be there – when I realised that it formed Osborne’s very first chapter.
And so we get a listener’s experience of Virgin Radio, as it was about a year or so ago, from Christian O’Connell at Breakfast to Geoff in his then late show. He seemed to quite like the station, but he especially enjoyed a caller to Christian’s show who’s story transcended the entire show that day – a woman had basically married a complete stranger; and as a man of good taste, he loved The Geoff Show.
We get a canter through plenty of other stations in a fairly breezy way including Asian Network, TalkSport, theJazz (that helps date it a bit), and Resonance.
Osborne has also managed to get interviews with various people to talk about the importance of radio to them. He spends time at the Radio Times, drops into Manchester to see Mark Radcliffe, chats to Tommy Boyd, Nicholas Parsons and Five Live’s Arlo White.
Against all this, is the backstory about his dreadful sounding office, where all he has to do is enter data and fantasise about an attractive co-worked. The only place to walk to at lunchtime is an out-of-town branch of Comet. No wonder he started writing this book.
What truly becomes apparant from reading this book is the tremendously dull everyday stuff that some DJs fill their programmes with. Jo Whiley is quoted as having enjoyed watching Lost on DVD, and asking listeners to text in some of their favourite TV shows. That’s really not a great radio feature.
Osborne seems to find Radio 4 slightly scary (ironically given it’s current serlialisation – see below), and doesn’t seem to be able to make it through a full day of Classic FM or Radio 3.
But overall the book’s a galloping read and doesn’t take that long to read at all.
My only complaint with the book is that there are more than one or two typos throughout it. It really hasn’t been properly proofed. Since it’s from a mainstream publisher – Simon & Schuster UK – that’s really not acceptable in a book with a £9.99 cover price. There are couple of real clangers. At the start of one chapter, the word “I” is replaced by two words from the previous paragraph. And in another place, “presenting” appears as “preventing” which is slightly different.
Oh, and the cover could be better. While they’ve chosen a perfectly good picture of a radio on the cover in a caravan park, it’s got a poorly Photoshopped Union Jack stuck on its antenna. Even worse, the font for the author’s name seems to be Comic Sans (and despite what The Guardian wrote recently, that’s a crime), while the rest of the title is in seemingly whatever random font they first came up with, with a curious white stroke and a drop shadow. It just makes the book appear to be self-published as opposed to something that’s from a major publisher with national newspaper and Radio 4 seralisations.
Don’t let those things put you off though!
As I mentioned, the book is currently the Radio 4 Book of the Week. The first episode, aired yesterday, and featured Virgin Radio (although the nice bit about The Geoff Show was cut from Radio 4’s adaptation) while today’s features Wogan and TalkSport.