'Thomas Dolby - The Speed of Sound: A Memoir'
(Hardback / Flatiron Books / 288 Pages / $27.99)
Description: Thomas Dolby's 'The Speed of Sound: Breaking the Barriers Between Music and Technology: A Memoir' is the remarkable story of rising to the top of the music charts, a second act as a tech pioneer, and the sustaining power of creativity and art therein.
Verdict: So, here's how this went down: I saw Thomas Dolby had mentioned his new memoir, 'The Speed of Sound: Breaking the Barriers Between Music and Technology' on Twitter several times, and so asked him if he could kindly send me a copy to review. Being a HUGE fan of the man himself, and having met him before, knowing he was also very articulate, very intelligent, I knew it was bound to be a solid read. Well, the book arrived via Flatiron soon thereafter and I began reading it soon thereafter.
Extraordinary! Trust me, that one noun sums up this book rather perfectly! It opens with a Prologue that details Dolby's association, friendship with the King of Pop, Michael Jackson back in 1984. Containing elements of both joy and heartbreak, it is a precursor to an incredible memoir to come. The first chapter sets it all up for us. Dolby as a young boy, floating through the various visages of the local music scene, working in Mr. Grigson's fruit and veg shop, and his growth within the confines of the cultural revolution happening in the mid to late seventies.
In the chapters thereafter, we learn more about the young Dolby and what his heart truly desired as he started to earn money, and focus in more on what he needed instrument wise to really start to take his love for music to the next level. Little known facts to me, a so-called (as I'm now thinking) "fan" of Dolby's work, begin to pour out in just the second chapter. Such as he not only found a band to tour the US with (after an unsuccessful UK tour), but whilst opening up for Lene Lovitz, he actually wrote her a song ('New Toy'), that she subsequently loved (after the tour was brought to an abrupt close due to her illness), and recorded!
Or how about this gem. The and that he was in touring the US was called Bruce Woolley and the Camera Club, and it was Woolley who co-wrote (along with both Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes) the massive #1 hit around the world, 'Video Killed The Radio Star'. But, here's the gem factor of that tidbit, for Wolley and his Camera Club actually recorded their own version of the song and released it at the very same time as the Buggles (Horn and Downe's quickly-created group) did! Theirs reached #1 whilst Woolley's and company never even made it into the Top 100!
Moving on and even more gorgeous tidbits of musical Dolby history are brought to the fore. Like after spending some time in Paris, busking in the subways, after a call from Mutt Lange, he flew to the US to work on Foreigner's upcoming 4 album. Subsequently, his keyboard work on that album, especially where he completely reworked the original, lackluster intro to 'Waiting For A Girl Like You' and made it his experimental own, is now part of music history! Dolby was also the mad genius behind the keyboard styling of Whodini's 'Magic's Wand', of which the track went on to be the first rap 12" single to sell a million copies!
As the book further unfolds, Dolby's honesty is never in question, but his remarkable ability to recall every sight, sound and smell from the late seventies to modern day is beyond incredible. I mean, some days I can't remember what I had to breakfast, let alone what I was thinking back when I was 19 years-old! But Dolby seemingly recalls it all, and in grand detail, each and every memory, each tale, each progression on his career path carefully laid out in almost too perfect recollections. Maybe there's some rose tinted glasses between the lines here, maybe not. Regardless, for as he talks frankly about his on-off relationship over those nubile-within-the-business years with the alluring Siobhan Barron, you feel everything he says about her is something you yourself have been through, that every little thought he has about her are ones you have pondered about a woman in your life at one point or another also.
Back on musical track, and Dolby reveals that his next big technical advancement was buying a 30,000 GBP Fairlight CMI so that he could begin to add so much more musical depth to his future recordings.
'The Speed of Sound: Breaking the Barriers Between Music and Technology: A Memoir' Book Purchase Link
Official Flatiron Books Website