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Roadrunner: Radio On, Road Movies and the A4

Author: Nick Gilbert
SKU: 9798215905647

Roadrunner is a book about a film about a road. The film in question, Radio On, was made in 1979, and remains almost the only authentic British road movie. From marginal post-punk beginnings, it has grown into a cult, due in no small part to its soundtrack (Bowie, Kraftwerk, Dury, Devo) its echoes of J.G. Ballard and New German Cinema, and its bleak West-Country-in-winter setting.


Roadrunner is a book about a film about a road. The film in question, Radio On, was made in 1979, the year Margaret Thatcher came to power in the UK, and from its initial marginal status (“a genre of one, a cul-de-sac in British film history”) it has become an oft-cited cult movie, due in no small part to its celebrated soundtrack (Bowie, Kraftwerk, Ian Dury, Devo etc) and its echoes of J.G Ballard and New German Cinema. Much of Radio On takes places on the road, and the road in this case is the A4 between London and Bristol. So the subject of the book is also that road, its history, its cultural and psycho-geographical associations, a large part of which is connected to the film. But Roadrunner is about much more than one film or one road: it’s about all road movies (American, British, French, German etc) and all roads. It’s about car culture and its free-loading cousin, hitch-hiking. It’s about Britain’s cultural relationship with Germany, as expressed through film and popular music. It’s about modernity versus antiquity. It’s about 180 pages long. Ultimately, it’s about the interconnectedness of everything: J.G. Ballard and Hawkwind, Banksy and Bowie, Nick Drake and Werner Herzog, Nagisa Oshima and the Wurzels. By combining an accessible approach to film criticism with a fan’s enthusiasm, a social perspective with droll humour, Roadrunner can be said to exist, like its subject, in a genre of one.

About Nick Gilbert

I was born in Bristol in 1964. I have been, at various times, a film student (Polytechnic of Central London, Bristol University and National Film School) actor, DJ, journalist, book reviewer, assistant editor on countless documentaries for the BBC and Channel 4 and, since the turn of the millennium, a lecturer and teacher of English to Speakers of Other Languages in London (Morley College and Westminster University).

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Nick Gilbert


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