Friday, 22 January 2010

god like genius - Thoms Dolby

When you think of Thomas Dolby most people will probably think of an annoying mad professor persona releasing 2 annoying synth pop songs one featuring Dr Magnus Pyke (one of those voices from your childhood) "She Blinded me with Science" and one that was written for Michael Jackson who turned it down "Hyperactive".

Some people on the other hand will remember that he produced Prefab Sprout's 2 best lps "Steve McQueen" and "Jordon the Comeback"

If genius is a small step from madness then I think Thomas Dolby fits the bill. The madness side is when he thinks he is George Clinton and decides he's "got the funk". The third lp "Aliens Ate My Buick" is the biggest offender.

However, the genius bit is that he can produce the most beautiful atmospheric music going. My first memory of Thomas Dolby is singing "Windpower" whilst twirling a lighted flexible tube above his head. This was on Wogan's chat song and to say Wogan was a tad perplexed is an understatement.

The first track posted is from the same lp as "Windpower" and i first heard it on Annie Nightingale's sunday night request show and it was this that made me think that there must be mor eto explore beyond "Science"

The second track is the title track from the second lp "The Flat Earth" and I think the best thing he has done. The song gradually builds layer upon layer, including what sounds like a sample of rigging from a sailing ship. The backing vocals fit perfectly

The third track is "Fieldwork" and according the the sleeve notes

I had met Ryuchi Sakamoto when his wife sang on Radio Silence a few years earlier. He had recorded the backing track with Steve Jansen, the drummer from the band Japan,. iIcame up with the melody and some lyrics whilst sitting in a car wash in Shepherd's Bush. I sent a rough mix and he loved it. We lived thousands of miles apart but arranged to meet halfway to record the vocal. On the arranged date we each checked into the New York Hilton. But we were under assumed names, and quickly realised we had no way of contacting each other"

This isn't the first time that Thomas Dolby has had problems with Sakamoto. From the sleeve notes to the track "Radio Silence"

"she bought her husband along, whom i mistakenly thought she introduced as "luigi". I referred to him several times by that name until i heard him play piano then put two and two together"

He is in the process of recording his first new material for ages (in his recording studio which is a converted lifeboat! - see below). I really recommend his blog which you can find here it is a fascinating read both in terms of touring/recording but also in terms of his new technology, entertainment and design.

You can buy Thomas Dolby's lps ("The Golden age of Wireless" and "The Flat Earth" are the ones to get and they have just been reissued with extra tacks on and great sleeve notes from Dolby) here

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