It’s not often that I’d have the opportunity to write about a UK band that has made international waves for three decades without them necessarily playing in Hamilton. This weekend though, a local musician, professor and author offers up his recent book Radiohead: Music for a Global Future (Rowman & Littlefield Publisher) on the band with a special live performance.
Born and raised in Grimsby, Rose would study at McMaster University — studying English and Music and getting his masters in Music Criticism — and become an official Hamiltonian back in 1993. It was something that probably blossomed from his own dreams of being a musician himself. He’d play battle of the bands that featured competition from the likes of Speck Jennings (later Freedom Train) and the Monday Nuns (that would morph into the Killjoys) but he’d officially study music at Humber and Mohawk Colleges before officially digging deep into his post scholastic education.
Phil Rose (PhD) is an adjunct professor in media ecology at York and McMaster Universities. Media ecology studies the interactions between communications media, technology, techniques, and processes, and human thought, feeling, value, and behavior. He is the author of Roger Waters and Pink Floyd: The Concept Albums, published by Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. Recently, he took his love of another band and decided to write a book on them.
“I liked Pink Floyd because the music is packed with thematic content that is really cohesive,” says Rose. “I appreciated discovering Radiohead for similar reasons. I’m a pianist and guitarist that I’ve studied for formally but singing, my informal studies in vocals were from Thom Yorke.
“The kind of book I wanted to read on Pink Floyd had not been written so I decided to write that book,” says Rose. “It started as my master’s thesis and then republished with more of the Pink Floyd albums on that. I learned about Radiohead and became interested not only in their music but also in what they were trying to draw attention to through their work. One of their prevalent themes, is people not paying attention enough to what is going on. The book covers that and more so this is the book I was looking for on Radiohead.”
The concept(s) and presentation of their albums, the lyrical fodder, as well as the Radiohead’s desire to draw attention to technological changes and dealing with that are all covered in Rose’s book. This isn’t a teen biography but an in depth analysis of a life’s work. Phil Rose dissects Radiohead’s entire catalog to reveal how the music directs our attention toward themes like cyber technology, the environment, terrorism, and the inevitability of the apocalypse.
“Radiohead is a cool band but we should pay attention to the band because their work is superb, reinventing themselves along the way,” says Rose. “The book does mark the biographical development of their careers but the book is about what the music is about. When things are bad, people don’t normally want to know about it but Radiohead kind of makes people go there. Listening to their music, that conflict comes out. Their body of work presents an important resource for assisting us in the social and psychic navigation of our new technological age.
“Fans of the band or people more interested in the activism of the band and what they’re trying to communicate,” adds Rose. “Every academic writes about things they like so to some extent they are fans. Like a defense lawyer, I’m defending something that is really worthwhile.”
Most authors don’t pick up an instrument to perform for a book release but Rose will also be performing a couple of sets of Radiohead songs throughout the evening for this release — perhaps again dovetailing all of his loves in Radiohead, music criticism and performance.
“The book is available everywhere on line but I will be bringing copies to sign at a greatly reduced cost,” says Rose. “I will be performing some Radiohead on keyboard and acoustic guitar touching on a cross section of the studio albums over the years. I’ll probably offer some comments on the songs as I go. I might test out doing a reading although it’d probably be rather short as people will probably be more interested in the music.
“I hope anyone comes out although I imagine a lot of friends,” adds Rose. “I hope Radiohead fans come out but everyone could come out to celebrate this release. I don’t play as much as I used to and while I don’t normally do a full night of Radiohead, this performance has never been done before and probably won’t happen again.”
Phil Rose celebrates the release of his book "Radiohead: Music for a Global Future" this Saturday June 8 at Dunas Verdes Cafe (259 James St N.) from 9pm to 1am and there is no cover. Click on https://rowman.com /ISBN/9781442279292/Radiohead-Music-for-a-Global-Future