There’s probably not too many of us who remember Thomas Dolby these days, but here he is back with his autobiography, published last year in the USA and now getting a belated UK release.
This is a book of two halves: the first part deals with his musical career, from his run of four solo albums up to his departure to the USA. Older readers will recall the first two albums, The Golden Age Of Wireless and The Flat Earth, were reasonably successful, spawning a few hit singles, the most memorable being She Blinded Me With Science and Hyperactive. His recording work was supplemented by playing as a session musician on albums by superficially unlikely bands such as Foreigner and Def Leppard, while also doing production work, Prefab Sprout being the most successful example. Unfortunately his next two albums were not as well received, and, after a brief return to the spotlight playing in Bowie’s band at Live Aid, he eventually made the decision to move to America, where he’d already been spending much of his time.
The book is subtitled ‘breaking the barriers between music and technology,’ and it’s this aspect of his career that is dealt with in part two of the book. This section covers his years as a new technology entrepreneur during the dotcom boom in Silicon Valley. Years were spent developing music applications for web pages, something that was still in its infancy, but success always seemed to elude him at the last hurdle – it often seems to have been a case of so near but so far. Eventually though he struck gold when Nokia adopted his software to create ring tones and musical applications for their handset, which at that time was the biggest seller in the world. Jackpot!
Having achieved this level of success, he returned to the UK and resumed his recording career, producing one further album in 2011, although disappointingly he doesn’t go into as much detail as I’d hoped regarding this much overlooked but very good set.
Coming from an academic family, it’s perhaps no surprise he has now found a career in academia himself, as Professor of Arts at Johns Hopkins University, as well as continuing his long term involvement with the TED conferences.
Length of Read:Medium
Might appeal to people who enjoyed…
His recording work, music autobiographies, developing new technology.
One thing you’ve learned
A very well written book – Dolby has a natural voice for story telling. Having said that, I enjoyed the first part rather more, as I found the latter half becomes rather bogged down with technical details about software. Definitely worth looking out for though.