Sunday, 24 February 2013

Desert Island Discs 46 Flat Earth by Thomas Dolby

46 Flat Earth by Thomas Dolby 1984

The worst thing on Thomas Dolby's second lp is the track he had written for Michael Jackson who rejected it

It sticks out like a sore thumb slapped too hard on bass guitar.

I'm not sure what the buying policy was for my local Boots but whoever was responsible obviously had high hopes for this lp as they had bought loads. As a result it featured in their bargain bin for years afterwards.

I always though Thomas Dolby had done himself no good with the boffin like image he seemed to cultivate, having Magnus Pike on an early single certainly hadn't helped (Ive read that Dr Magnus Pike seemed to be a bit miffed that in the states he was better known for his appearance on She Blinded me with Science ,  the worst thing on his debut lp , than his scientific disciplines)

What I love about this lp is its sense of texture and layers. Be it the Russian dialogue and clicking typewriters in Dissidents , the sounds of insects in Mulu or the creaking ropes in Flat Earth.

Behind all that texture song structures that seem to go back to a much earlier age . Most obviously in the almost straight playing of I Scare Myself

 but listen to the verses below and imagine them played only on a piano in a 1940's bar 

The lp has two of my favourite pieces of music , first up here is a live version of the title track , that misses the gorgeous "hold me, believe me" harmonies and the sense of sound layered on sound of the lp version but it worth a listen still the same

Second up is screen kiss , where he builds a short story around an actress he used to know

Screen Kiss - Thomas Dolby

With a thousand miles of real estate to choose from
You begin to know the value of your freedom

Both of these songs I would have been happy if they had meandered on for another 15 mins or so. In fact the lp always finished with a sense that it has ended too soon . The fact that the last track is Hyperactive always makes me feel like I've been shaken awake from a dream

You can get a recent re release of Flat Earth here with some extra tracks including the fantastic Field Work that he recorded with Ryuichi Sakamoto


  1. Early Dolby mad scientist schtick a little too quirky for me; but I really love the songs from Map Of The Floating City you highlighted and made me aware of here, as well as my earlier pick Astronauts & Heretics. Where would Prefab Sprout have been without him? A talented fellow, wish he'd do more...


    - I can here the jeering from here... Sir Bob is an easy target to have a piss on, and most of his musical output is crap, but not this one. Rupert Hine produced a mad fusion of Irish/Cajun/folk/pop music paired with Bob's wry, often humorous lyrics for an album that's a marvellous listen start to finish...

    The videos are a hoot. Try not to smile...

    Great Song Of Indifference:
    Love Or Something Else:
    A Gospel Song:
    No Small Wonder:

  2. Bob rehearsed in the studio next to us at this time; sorry to report that the band were loud and truly awful... Will check this out with respect to you TT.
    Amazed that I haven't checked this Dolby out given my love of 'Steve McQueen'...

  3. "I can here the jeering from here"... Too much sun, or is there really alcohol in Budweiser?
    Trev: Sir Bob had what appears to be a pretty good band: Paul Carrack, Kevin Godley, Dave Stewart, Pete Briquette, etc. Having a bad day, or maybe Rupert Hine is really, really, really good at polishing turds. The first couple of cuts are a bit loud and rowdy, but settles into a poetic "gentle & soporific" groove with Voyager 2, Small Wonder, Happiness, Rose ...

  4. This one so nearly made my list Tim - it is a great record (as is his latest 2 solo lps both you feel recorded with a couldn't give a fuck attitude) - two of the tracks Anon mentions no small wonder and Voyager 2 are both gorgeous.
    I'd tread carefully Trev - it some aspects haven't dated that well but The Flat Earth and Screen Kiss are both gorgeous ad echo some of the more layered stuff on Steve McQ

  5. Love this album , but his debut just shaded it for me.
    # 46 needs no introduction, Danny Wilson - Meet Danny Wilson.
    Tim - I'm struggling to remember anything from Bob since his Boom Town Rat days so off for a listen

  6. Hi phgil

    I've got the same lp a bit higher. TD's debut lost out on the strength of she blinded me with science which kind of irritates me. Submarines and cloudburst though are stunning and I think the closest to songs on Flat earth

  7. Yeah, 'I really don't like 'She blinded me..',but I have the original debut without that track. It was stuck on the re-release after it became a hit.


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