God Is In The Radio (Unbridled Enthusiasms 1980-2020)
Omnibus Press has just published God Is In The Radio, Barney Hoskyns’ Unbridled Enthusiasms from 1980-2020. 50 articles spanning 40 years. There are other great music writers, I guess I’d be thinking of Ira Robbins, Lester Bangs and the like, the legends, and there are others who wrote about great music, (it’s a symbiosis for sure), while happening to be standing in the right place at the right time. And don’t they make sure we know it? What you need to know now is that God Is In The Radio is one of the best music books this year. It’s a joy to read, reminding us that writing about rock matters. So easy on the eye these essays, you can hear the artists’ music in Barney Hoskyns' words as they saunter mashed up together so smoothly from the page. When mash ups were a thing.
The God Is In The Radio format is a favorite, an article about a band, an interview or an LP review, served up in perfectly bite-sized pieces, given context, making this a delight for bus riders, since you can snatch a few pages at a bus stop, and then while trundling along, absorb that until the bus hauls up again. No need to risk motion sickness from the bombed out streets of your town. Sometimes I think the third spoke in the wheel of Birmingham City Council’s war on cars is the lack of a war on potholes. I don’t mind the war on the ICE so much but the street surfaces. Oh how we joke on the school run about it feeling like we are in the first Hyundai on the moon.
We like books that are good for bus journeys and this is a good book for bus journeys. And elsewhere too if you’re not a bus rider.
I’d have to say, I missed the last 30 years of this book, from 1990-2020. I wasn’t so interested in music at that time and was listening to whatever I was given. No matter. A lot of this content is news to me. Meanwhile there’s a cavalcade of stars here given that Barney has been an All-Star since, like, forever. Bowie, Bjork, Mary J Blige, Nirvana, Gillian Welch… You get the picture, a who’s who of musicians that have really mattered to a lot of people. So I flipped open the book and began with… James Brown. “Ask him about how many turkeys he gives away for thanksgiving…” Barney is advised. Across the room, award winning photographer Tom Sheehan is being told how to compose a picture. By goons. You can imagine how Barney tells it. Way better than that. Of course.
The snippets from a career captured in this book are rich, intimate, beautifully written and rewarding to read. It often feels as if he is relating an old anecdote over a quiet drink in the bar someplace. How cool is that.
Barney Hoskyns has spent a career in music, enabling people to hear. It's worth reading about.
Get a signed edition of God Is In The Radio, for a limited time, directly from Omnibus