Volume 93, Issue 1

Friday, May 14, 1999


Hale an OK author

New Mummy movie is a tightly wrapped package

One step forward, two steps back

The Cranberries sour in Toronto

Soundtracks to summer

Hale an OK author

Gaxette file photo

WRITING BOOKS IS EASY. Ex-Gazette Entertainment Editor Jonathan Hale's first book is on his favorite topic, Radiohead. From A Great Height is now available everywhere on ECW Press.

By Sara Martel
Gazette Staff

One of the first things I hear from Jonathan Hale is his regret for not having accomplished everything he had hoped to this year. Although this rueful sentiment is not unusual among students, it seems strange coming from a guy whose itinerary included finishing his first year of law school and writing his first book, Radiohead: From A Great Height.

Writing a book is a seemingly arduous and time consuming task. However, judging from Hale's Radiohead T-shirt or the way his face lights up when asked for his opinion of the band's new video – "It would take me an hour to have that conversation" – writing a book about Radiohead blissfully blurred the line between work and play for this 23 year-old Western alumni.

"It was a combination of being a music fan, a Radiohead fan and an actual [author]," Hale says. "There were three things going on there and I just basically had all this information fall into my lap. I could say I'm lucky, but then again if you went to someone who isn't the Radiohead fan I am, they wouldn't have had this stuff at their fingertips to begin with."

Originally, due to his extensive collection of albums and bootlegs, Hale was only supposed to provide the discography for the book. However, ECW Press eventually brought the project back to him looking for an author. Ironically, Hale's admiration for Radiohead almost led to his refusal of the offer.

"The publisher gave me a call and I was ready to turn him down just because I didn't think I could really write a book," he laughs. "When you become a serious fan of a band, you almost wonder if they would take it as a disrespect that you wrote a book about them."

Friends and family eventually convinced Hale to pen the book about the group whom he totes as "the band who did not make something for the mainstream, but made the mainstream fall in love with them."

His initial apprehension works in favour of the book, lending it a certain objectivity. The biography obviously looks at the lives and personalities of the band members, but it does not make the same sweeping generalizations about them that pollutes so much of Radiohead's media coverage.

"The book opens with one of their guitarist's quote about not discussing their personal lives because so many journalists would interview [lead singer Thom Yorke] and say 'so tell us about your fucked up life,'" enthuses Hale who tries to distance himself and his work from these limiting assumptions. "Being the fan that I am, I just wanted to give the band complete respect – to tell people the story of Radiohead from the perspective I was able to obtain from interviews that I and others had done with them."

From A Great Height is not only respectful, but comprehensive. One of Hale's most significant sources was sHack, who played with Yorke in a college band. He provided Hale with plenty of obscure information and rare pictures. These, along with the extensive discography at the end of the book, will undoubtedly satiate even the most ravenous Radiohead fan.

Hale distinguishes these fans as a different breed from most music-enthusiasts, mainly because he considers Radiohead to be a unique collective. He specifically drew on examples from pop bands of late.

"They make these catchy singles, you listen to them on the radio, maybe you buy the album, but that's it. With Radiohead, people follow them around, they buy bootlegs, they read all the articles," he continues.

The prospect of such a knowledgeable fan base would be enough to deter almost any biographer but Hale's hard work and research ensures there will be something of interest for any fan who reads the book.

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Copyright The Gazette 1999