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The Speed of Sound: Breaking the Barriers Between Music and Technology: A Memoir

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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. Thomas Dolby’s hit songs “She Blinded Me with Science” and “Hyperactive!” catapulted him to international fame in the early 80’s. A pioneer of New Wave and Electronica, Thomas combined a love for invention with a passion for music, a 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. Thomas Dolby’s hit songs “She Blinded Me with Science” and “Hyperactive!” catapulted him to international fame in the early 80’s. A pioneer of New Wave and Electronica, Thomas combined a love for invention with a passion for music, and the result was a new sound that defined an era of revolutionary music. But as record company politics overshadow the joy of performing, Thomas finds a surprising second act. Starting out in a rat-infested London bedsit, a teenage Thomas Dolby stacks boxes by day at the grocery and tinkers with a homemade synthesizer at night while catching the Police at a local dive bar, swinging by the pub to see the unknown Elvis Costello and starting the weekend with a Clash show at a small night club. London on the eve of the 1980s is a hotbed for music and culture, and a new sound is beginning to take shape, merging technology with the musical energy of punk rock. Thomas plays keyboards in other bands’ shows, and with a bit of luck finds his own style, quickly establishing himself on the scene and recording break out hits that take radio, MTV and dance clubs by storm. The world is now his oyster, and sold out arenas, world tours, even a friendship with Michael Jackson become the fabric of his life. But as the record industry flounders and disillusionment sets in, Thomas turns his attention to Hollywood. Scoring films and computer games eventually leads him to Silicon Valley and a software startup that turns up the volume on the digital music revolution. His company barely survives the dotcom bubble but finally even the mavericks at Apple, Microsoft, Netscape and Nokia see the light. By 2005, two-thirds of the world’s mobile phones embed his Beatnik software. Life at the zenith of a tech empire proves to be just as full of big personalities, battling egos and roller-coaster success as his days spent at the top of the charts. THE SPEED OF SOUND is the story of an extraordinary man living an extraordinary life, a single-handed quest to make peace between art and the digital world.


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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. Thomas Dolby’s hit songs “She Blinded Me with Science” and “Hyperactive!” catapulted him to international fame in the early 80’s. A pioneer of New Wave and Electronica, Thomas combined a love for invention with a passion for music, a 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. Thomas Dolby’s hit songs “She Blinded Me with Science” and “Hyperactive!” catapulted him to international fame in the early 80’s. A pioneer of New Wave and Electronica, Thomas combined a love for invention with a passion for music, and the result was a new sound that defined an era of revolutionary music. But as record company politics overshadow the joy of performing, Thomas finds a surprising second act. Starting out in a rat-infested London bedsit, a teenage Thomas Dolby stacks boxes by day at the grocery and tinkers with a homemade synthesizer at night while catching the Police at a local dive bar, swinging by the pub to see the unknown Elvis Costello and starting the weekend with a Clash show at a small night club. London on the eve of the 1980s is a hotbed for music and culture, and a new sound is beginning to take shape, merging technology with the musical energy of punk rock. Thomas plays keyboards in other bands’ shows, and with a bit of luck finds his own style, quickly establishing himself on the scene and recording break out hits that take radio, MTV and dance clubs by storm. The world is now his oyster, and sold out arenas, world tours, even a friendship with Michael Jackson become the fabric of his life. But as the record industry flounders and disillusionment sets in, Thomas turns his attention to Hollywood. Scoring films and computer games eventually leads him to Silicon Valley and a software startup that turns up the volume on the digital music revolution. His company barely survives the dotcom bubble but finally even the mavericks at Apple, Microsoft, Netscape and Nokia see the light. By 2005, two-thirds of the world’s mobile phones embed his Beatnik software. Life at the zenith of a tech empire proves to be just as full of big personalities, battling egos and roller-coaster success as his days spent at the top of the charts. THE SPEED OF SOUND is the story of an extraordinary man living an extraordinary life, a single-handed quest to make peace between art and the digital world.

30 review for The Speed of Sound: Breaking the Barriers Between Music and Technology: A Memoir

  1. 4 out of 5

    David

    This is such a fun book! The truth is, I had never even heard of Thomas Dolby before I picked up this book. In fact, I had mistaken him for electrical engineer Ray Dolby, who developed the noise suppression system. (As a matter of fact, this becomes an interesting development in their lives, when Ray Dolby sued Thomas Dolby to change his name!) Thomas Dolby has had several interesting careers in music and technology. First, he was a keyboard player, specializing in playing synthesizers. He compos This is such a fun book! The truth is, I had never even heard of Thomas Dolby before I picked up this book. In fact, I had mistaken him for electrical engineer Ray Dolby, who developed the noise suppression system. (As a matter of fact, this becomes an interesting development in their lives, when Ray Dolby sued Thomas Dolby to change his name!) Thomas Dolby has had several interesting careers in music and technology. First, he was a keyboard player, specializing in playing synthesizers. He composed eclectic rock music, and played with a number of English rock bands. He eventually had a chance to perform his own music, and produced some excellent albums and rock music videos. He became a music producer/engineer, helping to engineer the sound and songs of a number of rock bands. Then Thomas Dolby went to Silicon Valley, where he founded a company that would eventually become successful. As I understand it, his company developed a software synthesizer using the Java language, that would become the ringtone generator in most of the world's cell phones. And, presently, Dolby is a professor of music and film at Johns Hopkins University. Throughout the book, Dolby comes out sounding like a sincere, dedicated, human being. He cares strongly for other people, and is deeply offended by the corruption in which the music and film industries are mired. Dolby is a good storyteller, and his stories are worth reading.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Nigeyb

    I heard Thomas Dolby interviewed about The Speed of Sound: Breaking the Barriers Between Music and Technology: A Memoir on an episode of the Word podcast and was intrigued. It's a splendid read. As far as I knew Thomas Dolby was a short-lived synth-orientated 80s pop star who had disappeared without trace after a few hits. It turns out he has a very interesting story to relate. His early years of struggle are fascinating, his pop career has some great stories attached to it, however it is his lat I heard Thomas Dolby interviewed about The Speed of Sound: Breaking the Barriers Between Music and Technology: A Memoir on an episode of the Word podcast and was intrigued. It's a splendid read. As far as I knew Thomas Dolby was a short-lived synth-orientated 80s pop star who had disappeared without trace after a few hits. It turns out he has a very interesting story to relate. His early years of struggle are fascinating, his pop career has some great stories attached to it, however it is his later career as a Silicon Valley digital pioneer that is possibly most interesting. Along the way he shares stories about Prefab Sprout, Michael Jackson, George Clinton, George Lucas, Whodini, Lene Lovich, Andy Partridge, Joni Mitchell, Quincy Jones, David Bowie, Stevie Wonder, along with record company politics, the dot com boom, scoring films, creating ringtones with Nokia, being TED's musical director, and plenty more. Overall Thomas Dolby comes across as a decent, thoughtful and pleasant human being who has learned some valuable life lessons across the course of an interesting life. Recommended 4/5 The Speed of Sound: Breaking the Barriers Between Music and Technology: A Memoir by Thomas Dolby

  3. 4 out of 5

    Alaina Sloo

    I loved this book, especially the audiobook narrated by Dolby himself. Speed of Sound is one of those wonderful biographies that simultaneously tells one man's story and along the way builds a palpable picture for readers of day-to-day life in a historical period: in this case in the music business and the Silicon Valley of the 1980s thru the early 2000s. Absolutely worth a read, whether you're a Thomas Dolby fan or you're just interested in the history of music and technology. I recommend the a I loved this book, especially the audiobook narrated by Dolby himself. Speed of Sound is one of those wonderful biographies that simultaneously tells one man's story and along the way builds a palpable picture for readers of day-to-day life in a historical period: in this case in the music business and the Silicon Valley of the 1980s thru the early 2000s. Absolutely worth a read, whether you're a Thomas Dolby fan or you're just interested in the history of music and technology. I recommend the audiobook because Dolby is, not surprisingly, a wonderful narrator of his own story.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Rob Adey

    Got to love a rock memoir where a typical story has the star stop his drug-filled tour bus at a payphone to try and send Michael Jackson some demos using an acoustically coupled modem. And a memoir partly based on notes written in the secret word processor of a Fairlight synth.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Shawn

    I'm not much of a biography or autobiography reader, but I've been a fan of Mr. Dolby's since buying THE GOLDEN AGE OF WIRELESS as a young man so when I saw that this book existed I knew I was going to have to give it a read. Who would be interested in this book? Well, obviously, fans of Thomas Dolby of course, and I'd also add to that fans of 80's British synthpop in general. Those with an interest in the backdoor machinations of the music industry as well. Those with an interest in the early ye I'm not much of a biography or autobiography reader, but I've been a fan of Mr. Dolby's since buying THE GOLDEN AGE OF WIRELESS as a young man so when I saw that this book existed I knew I was going to have to give it a read. Who would be interested in this book? Well, obviously, fans of Thomas Dolby of course, and I'd also add to that fans of 80's British synthpop in general. Those with an interest in the backdoor machinations of the music industry as well. Those with an interest in the early years of Silicon Valley start-ups, internet tech, and the bust of the dot.com bubble will also find much of interest here from its personal, insider perspective. This book is interesting for a number of reasons. It's rare that a "one hit wonder" musician (although that's purely an American bias - Dolby had a number of other charting songs in the U.K. & Europe) has such an involved background in music production, synth tech and audio engineering at the time of his "charting career", so while there's the requisite background details (family life, school, friends. etc.) the book doesn't dwell on them to pad out the length of a memoir by an artistic individual who only had one hit. As it turns out, due to his enthusiasm, tech and music skills, Thomas Dolby had quite a career behind the scenes, working with/for or interacting with a wide array of talents (Prefab Sprout, Michael Jackson, George Clinton, George Lucas, Whodini, Lene Lovich, Andy Partridge, Joni Mitchell, Quincy Jones, David Bowie, Stevie Wonder, etc.) and accrued a lot of friendships and contacts in the music world. So that's the first part of the book - held together by the rise and fall of Thomas Dolby, "Musician Boy Scientist". And for fans of his music this is an interesting read, especially the parts where he delves into the rather seamy/dubious underbelly of the music business (if you've always considered THE FLAT EARTH a solid second album and wondered why it tanked, or why "Hyperactive" from that album, climbing the charts, suddenly dropped out of sight like a stone, well Dolby does a good job laying out the reasons here - involving investigations of payola leading to labels abruptly severing ties with a network of radio insiders, who then retaliated, and EMI/Capitol's decision to play hardball with MTV over video production costs, I fight which they lost). So you go from "Dolby as (seemingly) overnight sensation" to "Dolby as fading star/behind the scene tech boffin" pretty smoothly, with some nice snapshots along the way: Michael Jackson as "kind but driven" superstar, an unfruitful collaboration with Joni Mitchell, David Bowie as frightened flyer, being sued by Dolby Labs (because seemingly a noise-reduction process could be confused with a pop music album!) the overcomplicated production of HOWARD THE DUCK and how Dolby's car at that time is now ensconced at Skywalker Ranch, beaten and destroyed for metallic sound effects recordings, after he abandoned it there. From there, we move onto his burgeoning audio tech company Beatnik which ends up being a passion and a frustration for the man as it maneuvers the thorny, high-stakes world of internet start-ups and wealthy, impulsive investors. This part is interesting for non-musical reasons, as its never so tech-heavy that you can't follow the basic thread, and the whole time sounds endlessly frustrating and random. But that randomness pays off as Beatnik, succeeding and floundering again and again, eventually accidentally creates the backdoor by which huge profits are made for the man. If you've ever wanted to know who to blame for the early, tinny ringtones on cellphones - as well as for the breakthrough by which you could automatically download new and old hit songs as your ringtones - well, blame and praise Thomas Dolby, boy-scientist musician. And peppered throughout are charming and interesting anecdotes - fishing with George Clinton, backstage with Bootsy Collins, a run-in with Don Henley's stalker lookalike. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Thomas Dolby strikes me as a passionate, artistic guy who also has the kind of upright moral and aesthetic instincts that may have doomed him in a long-term music career. He is also charming and humorous about laying out his failings, culpability in his own problems, or just relating anecdotes that reflect on himself as a fallible human being. All in all a pleasant read. Now if only the Mael Brothers would write one....

  6. 5 out of 5

    Shawn

    I surprised myself with how quickly I tore through this and how much I enjoyed it. In his autobiography, Thomas Dolby recounts his rise as an unlikely 80's pop star and his later work an a technical audio pioneer in Silicon Valley. The book is divided into halves that cover these two different life directions. For me the most interesting part was reading about some of the details behind songs I love, such as hearing how Dolby worked with Eddie Van Halen to record a guitar solo for his song Ea I surprised myself with how quickly I tore through this and how much I enjoyed it. In his autobiography, Thomas Dolby recounts his rise as an unlikely 80's pop star and his later work an a technical audio pioneer in Silicon Valley. The book is divided into halves that cover these two different life directions. For me the most interesting part was reading about some of the details behind songs I love, such as hearing how Dolby worked with Eddie Van Halen to record a guitar solo for his song Eastern Bloc . I liked hearing of Dolby's interaction with Michael Jackson and other famous musicians, including members of The Grateful Dead, Joni Mitchell, and David Bowie. The second half of the book is also quite interesting in detailing Dolby's 2nd career as the founder of a Silicon Valley startup. His company ultimately produced the audio software that landed in millions of Nokia phones (a few years before the iPhone came out) to power the ubiquitous ringtone themes we all know. His own company's IPO never materialized as the stock market crashed a few months before the planned IPO date, so Dolby didn't walk away as a multi-millionaire like so many other dot-com startups of the day. The memoir recounts several of these "close-but-no-cigar" moments where Dolby could have really hit it big, both in the music world and the business world, if circumstances had been a little different. Despite perhaps not achieving mega-stardom or riches he did have many huge successes, and many would say he did hit it big. I liked how the bio revealed the author's disillusionment with the music industry and later with the business world, but also showed how he ultimately came to terms with his true passion as an audio tinkerer. I liked that Dolby married and remained married as a father of three. I liked little details, such as when he hiked the trails above the Griffith Observatory in L.A. at night to reflect and sort out his feelings (trails I have also hiked on my own). (Aside: A few years ago I decided to submit some songs to a local radio station's "Perfect Playlist," where the DJ would select someone's list and play a set of 5 songs. Eastern Bloc was the first of the songs in the set I submitted, and I detailed my reasons along with a personal story--which I had a strong hunch would get it selected. And sure enough within a couple of days my list was picked and played, but in a disappointment to me the DJ decided to substitute Europa and the Pirate Twins instead because he said he didn't have Eastern Bloc, which is billed as sequel to the earlier and more radio-played Europa and the Pirate Twins. Astronauts and Heretics is the album that includes this song and many excellent others--one of my favorite albums of all time. Alas, it was a U.S. bomb, so it seems relatively no one has heard it, and that was one of the main reasons I wanted to hear it played on the radio. I assume maybe it was due to the label on which it was released or to the poor U.S. air play that the radio station didn't have access to it, but it meant my "perfect playlist" was not so perfect after all.) Here's a short video of the author describing his book: http://www.baltimoresun.com/entertain...

  7. 5 out of 5

    Avolyn Fisher

    Thomas Dolby was a bit before my time, given that I was born in 1990 and he had moved over to silicon valley by the time I reached memorable childhood age. I've been a fan of music my entire life, and vividly remember the early days of music file sharing and listening to songs before my time. I also remember the days after MTV and VH1 and abandoned playing music videos but there were upper cable channels like VH1 Classic that played videos nonstop. To this day, Talking Heads - Once in a Lifetime Thomas Dolby was a bit before my time, given that I was born in 1990 and he had moved over to silicon valley by the time I reached memorable childhood age. I've been a fan of music my entire life, and vividly remember the early days of music file sharing and listening to songs before my time. I also remember the days after MTV and VH1 and abandoned playing music videos but there were upper cable channels like VH1 Classic that played videos nonstop. To this day, Talking Heads - Once in a Lifetime is one of my favorite songs, in a similar vain and era as Thomas Dolby's earlier work. Without much of the memories tied to the era of his early days I am sure my experience in reading his story was missing a certain icing on the cake but I enjoyed it nonetheless and have tremendous respect for the career Thomas has crafted for himself across music and the tech industry. His story is nothing short of inspiring for each one of us who constantly battles between doing work that will pay the bills and doing work that will fulfill the deepest parts of our soul and allow us the truest expression of our souls.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Peter

    The first half of this book is a ton of fun for anyone growing up in the 70s and 80s, as Dolby tells one funny and insightful story after another about the music industry, synth pop, his expertise, and especially, favorite stars (Bowie, Duran Duran, George Clinton, Foreigner, Joni Mitchell). The second half is more of a wired magazine-like piece about his role in the development of ringtones, and it isn't especially fun, but interesting to get his sense of tech personalities (Andressen, Jim Clar The first half of this book is a ton of fun for anyone growing up in the 70s and 80s, as Dolby tells one funny and insightful story after another about the music industry, synth pop, his expertise, and especially, favorite stars (Bowie, Duran Duran, George Clinton, Foreigner, Joni Mitchell). The second half is more of a wired magazine-like piece about his role in the development of ringtones, and it isn't especially fun, but interesting to get his sense of tech personalities (Andressen, Jim Clark), key companies, tech conferences and the rise of S. Valley. Dolby's music and personality always seemed kind of constructed to me, and the book does, too. But it is definitely worth reading for the music personality insights. Bowie in a helicopter!

  9. 5 out of 5

    John

    Really enjoyed Dolby's memoir. I had no idea how he had become a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and ended up with such a huge place in the market he eventually found -- recommended reading for those with music/software/hardware interests for sure.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Danelle

    Anyone who knows my choices in books, knows that I rarely read non-fiction or memoirs. This book was a gift from my friend Tami for my birthday (Thank you!). I could not put this down, in fact read it in two days. What a journey Thomas Dolby had through the music industry and Silicon Valley. This is a story of resilience, failure, success and happiness. I thoroughly enjoyed the references to the bands from the 80s, the chance meetings with Michael Jackson and the interactions with tech titans. G Anyone who knows my choices in books, knows that I rarely read non-fiction or memoirs. This book was a gift from my friend Tami for my birthday (Thank you!). I could not put this down, in fact read it in two days. What a journey Thomas Dolby had through the music industry and Silicon Valley. This is a story of resilience, failure, success and happiness. I thoroughly enjoyed the references to the bands from the 80s, the chance meetings with Michael Jackson and the interactions with tech titans. Great read.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Duffy Laudick

    Thomas Dolby has always been know for that guy who sung about being blinded by science, but he is so much more. He did not fade away, he just changed careers and you won't believe the things he accomplished as a creator of a high-tech company in Silicon Valley in the 90's and who has always kept abreast of the latest technologies, especially when it came to audio. I have even more respect for this man, not only as a musician, but as an inventor and entrepreneur. If you are looking for stories of Thomas Dolby has always been know for that guy who sung about being blinded by science, but he is so much more. He did not fade away, he just changed careers and you won't believe the things he accomplished as a creator of a high-tech company in Silicon Valley in the 90's and who has always kept abreast of the latest technologies, especially when it came to audio. I have even more respect for this man, not only as a musician, but as an inventor and entrepreneur. If you are looking for stories of sin and sleaze, then this is not the book for you. But if you love knowing what went on the inside of the music business and the tech business through the eyes of someone who was there, this book is the one for you.

  12. 4 out of 5

    John

    I loved this book! Thomas Dolby has always been a favorite of mine, through his first album and "Blinded me with Science" to his later more introspective songs like "The Flat Earth" and "I Love you Goodbye". It was great to listen to his origins, his successes and failures, the ups and downs of the Internet bubble as well as insight into his personal life with his family and friends. We learn about his many friends in the industry, playing with David Bowie and George Clinton among others. Listen I loved this book! Thomas Dolby has always been a favorite of mine, through his first album and "Blinded me with Science" to his later more introspective songs like "The Flat Earth" and "I Love you Goodbye". It was great to listen to his origins, his successes and failures, the ups and downs of the Internet bubble as well as insight into his personal life with his family and friends. We learn about his many friends in the industry, playing with David Bowie and George Clinton among others. Listening to this book, with his narrating, was a joy and you even get to hear one of his new songs at the end and I really liked it (gotta check out Spotify and play it some more). Excellent book.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Djo2

    There's a lot more to Thomas Dolby than his synth-pop hit "She Blinded Me With Science". This fascinating autobiography is a great look behind the scenes of the music industry, Silicon Valley, and ultimately the drive of a creative person to make art and the danger of not doing so. I've been a fan of Thomas Dolby since hearing "Science" more than 30 years ago, but never more so than after reading this book.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Mario Cardoso

    If you like music, technology, synthesizers and anything in between this one is a must-read. Thomas go in deep details on how he recorded his albums, got his deals with recording companies and opened his startup in the Silicon Valley.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Andy Taylor

    A introspective and detailed memoir made even more intimate by Thomas Dolby's narration. This book takes the reader through Dolby's early beginnings as a London teen in the late 70s enthralled by the underground music scene, through his rise in the early 80s as a musical innovator and pop star, and into the 90s and early 2000s as he becomes involved in the Dotcom boom trying to bring music and sound to the internet and mobile devices. Dolby weaves honest introspection and entertaining anecdotes A introspective and detailed memoir made even more intimate by Thomas Dolby's narration. This book takes the reader through Dolby's early beginnings as a London teen in the late 70s enthralled by the underground music scene, through his rise in the early 80s as a musical innovator and pop star, and into the 90s and early 2000s as he becomes involved in the Dotcom boom trying to bring music and sound to the internet and mobile devices. Dolby weaves honest introspection and entertaining anecdotes together with rich details of his personal life that makes the listener feel like they are sitting across the table from him as he recounts his life. On a personal note, Dolby's first two albums came at pivotal point in my life as a teen and I've always had an affinity for him and his music although, like many, I lost sight of him largely after he left the music scene in the early 90s. Catching up via this memoir was like catching up with an old friend and I am grateful for the opportunity. I'd recommend this book to anyone curious about Dolby, the synth music scene, technology or pop music history. You won't regret spending the time reading/listening to this autobiography.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Wayne McCoy

    'The Speed of Sound: Breaking the Barriers Between Music and Technology' by Thomas Dolby was a well written autobiography. The book is broken into two parts. In the first part, Thomas Dolby recounts his music career. From the early days of scrounging and building electronic keyboards, to stints in backup bands. He discusses his hits and misses, and the lessons learned along the way from the music industry. In the second part, Mr. Dolby turns his back on the music industry and ends up in the world 'The Speed of Sound: Breaking the Barriers Between Music and Technology' by Thomas Dolby was a well written autobiography. The book is broken into two parts. In the first part, Thomas Dolby recounts his music career. From the early days of scrounging and building electronic keyboards, to stints in backup bands. He discusses his hits and misses, and the lessons learned along the way from the music industry. In the second part, Mr. Dolby turns his back on the music industry and ends up in the world of internet startups in the 1990s. He recounts the trials and travails of Beatnik, the company he founded. He talks about the venture capitalists, the attempt at an IPO and the related stress. It's told in such a gracious style. It felt like sitting down over dinner and hearing stories from a friend. Mr. Dolby is self-effacing, willing to discuss the missteps as well as the successes. It was fun to read and be reminded of the early days of the World Wide Web, a time of great creativity.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    Full disclosure - I've loved Thomas Dolby's music since the eighties (I had "Dissidents" running through my head the entire time I was reading this. That said, I really enjoyed this book - it's written in a very light way, in a voice that sounds about what you would expect if he were telling you these stories over a meal and some drinks. The book is split into two halves - his music industry says and his in Silicon Valley as a tech entrepreneur. I enjoyed both, but found the tech portion more gr Full disclosure - I've loved Thomas Dolby's music since the eighties (I had "Dissidents" running through my head the entire time I was reading this. That said, I really enjoyed this book - it's written in a very light way, in a voice that sounds about what you would expect if he were telling you these stories over a meal and some drinks. The book is split into two halves - his music industry says and his in Silicon Valley as a tech entrepreneur. I enjoyed both, but found the tech portion more gripping - perhaps because I too lived through something similar in the Telecom boom (albeit at a lower level). I also enjoyed this section because I knew less about it than his musical days. I recommend this highly to any fan of Thomas Dolby - but also to anyone who wants insight into the music industry of the eighties or the tech industry of the nineties (with some crossover - as the technology and music industry overlap a bit).

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kris

    This book was bought for me because my husband had heard great things about it and knew that I liked his music. In fact I might be one of the only people who've listened to 3 or more of his albums! The preface and opening chapters were fantastic! I zipped through them and couldn't wait to pick up the book next. I feel that the 2nd half was not as interesting to me because it deals more with his tech start up, business failings and some bad choices. I was still able to go through it but it certai This book was bought for me because my husband had heard great things about it and knew that I liked his music. In fact I might be one of the only people who've listened to 3 or more of his albums! The preface and opening chapters were fantastic! I zipped through them and couldn't wait to pick up the book next. I feel that the 2nd half was not as interesting to me because it deals more with his tech start up, business failings and some bad choices. I was still able to go through it but it certainly didn't hold as much interest to me as the 1st part of the book. The 1st part would have definitely been a 5 but the 2nd half trailed hence the rating of 4 stars. What really delighted me about this is that Thomas truly seems like an English gentleman. He always kept a civility and self deprecating way about him that was refreshing in this day and age. Seems like a great chap. I wish him best in his future endeavors.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Rod Butler

    A fascinating look at the life of Thomas Dolby detailing his early struggles and eventual success in the music business, and finally his despondency with the corruption within the business itself. The progress through his 'electronic time' designing sound for computers and telephones was a milestone in his life and the effects of his work are felt daily by all of us who use a phone or computer. However, It seems as though he never found true happiness until he settled down with his family to mak A fascinating look at the life of Thomas Dolby detailing his early struggles and eventual success in the music business, and finally his despondency with the corruption within the business itself. The progress through his 'electronic time' designing sound for computers and telephones was a milestone in his life and the effects of his work are felt daily by all of us who use a phone or computer. However, It seems as though he never found true happiness until he settled down with his family to make music once again without the pressures of the music business in his life. Finally designing a successful computer game seemed to happen almost by accident but nevertheless it became a worldwide 'hit'. I don't bother with computer games and I am not into electronic music but found this read inspiring and enjoyable. I certainly recommend it.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Joris

    you seldom encounter people who excel as a sportsman, who are emotional in balance and at the same time are whit as a whip. Thomas Dolby i believe scores 2 out of 3. Learning, by trying and falling or running into a wall, he describes how the choices he makes or had to make are almost forced upon him, if he wanted to stay true to his way of life. I think that most of his readers can only dream of living such a life @ maybe a third of the speed of life of thomas dolby. But then again, such is the you seldom encounter people who excel as a sportsman, who are emotional in balance and at the same time are whit as a whip. Thomas Dolby i believe scores 2 out of 3. Learning, by trying and falling or running into a wall, he describes how the choices he makes or had to make are almost forced upon him, if he wanted to stay true to his way of life. I think that most of his readers can only dream of living such a life @ maybe a third of the speed of life of thomas dolby. But then again, such is the nature of sound ; once started, there is no turning back, no way in between, no cutting corners. Always ahead, forward to death. pageturner, <1 week reading + get some insight in both corporate music bizz (mob) and VC wanderings (bulldozers)

  21. 5 out of 5

    Mancman

    Another pick on a whim, my only knowledge of Thomas Dolby was his wacky hits She Blinded Me With Science and Hyperactive! But this book is way more than a romp through his hits, it’s a fascinating story of the record industry, hi tech start ups and mobile phone developments. I didn’t know what to expect from the book, but it’s written with warmth, humour and self deprecation. I learned a lot from it, and I ended up rationing myself, not wanting to tear through it abruptly. There are so many interest Another pick on a whim, my only knowledge of Thomas Dolby was his wacky hits She Blinded Me With Science and Hyperactive! But this book is way more than a romp through his hits, it’s a fascinating story of the record industry, hi tech start ups and mobile phone developments. I didn’t know what to expect from the book, but it’s written with warmth, humour and self deprecation. I learned a lot from it, and I ended up rationing myself, not wanting to tear through it abruptly. There are so many interesting moments and asides. Find it hard to believe that on the inside back page there are casual lists of things he’s been involved with that get no mention in the main body of the text. Wonderful book, beautifully written, that I believe would interest virtually anyone.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    What an excellent book! It's not just another music biography as that part of Dolby's life is mostly about the horrors of the music industry (along with many funny stories starring Michael Jackson, Magnus Pike and many others). The latter half of the book focuses on the mid-90s technology start-up craze and what happens in that business, similar in parts to the music era all over again. Then we deal with the idea that the people of that new thing called the internet will not be interested in pay What an excellent book! It's not just another music biography as that part of Dolby's life is mostly about the horrors of the music industry (along with many funny stories starring Michael Jackson, Magnus Pike and many others). The latter half of the book focuses on the mid-90s technology start-up craze and what happens in that business, similar in parts to the music era all over again. Then we deal with the idea that the people of that new thing called the internet will not be interested in paying for music (Dolby disagrees), followed by how crappy ringtones are basically fine (they're not, and get vastly improved). Great stuff, highly recommended.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Neal Alexander

    Memoir of a musician, producer and Silicon Valley techie. Self-deprecating - although reading between the lines he’s a very determined guy - and humorous without being mean-spirited. On visiting Michael Jackson’s house, Jackson says “Let’s sit”, which for Dolby means an ottoman, while Jackson climbs up onto an oversize jewelled throne. But he’s also impressed by Jackson’s work ethic and advice he got from him. It was a surprise to read that he produced Prefab Sprout records, including Steve McQu Memoir of a musician, producer and Silicon Valley techie. Self-deprecating - although reading between the lines he’s a very determined guy - and humorous without being mean-spirited. On visiting Michael Jackson’s house, Jackson says “Let’s sit”, which for Dolby means an ottoman, while Jackson climbs up onto an oversize jewelled throne. But he’s also impressed by Jackson’s work ethic and advice he got from him. It was a surprise to read that he produced Prefab Sprout records, including Steve McQueen, and the description of the McAloon family is fascinating. Of course I enjoyed the description of the early 80s London music scene but there are also memorable stories of Microsoft paranoia among tech startups, and hunting jokes that Finnish Nokia employees tell in saunas.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Rich Nistuk

    I really enjoyed this book, it does start a bit monotonically; this happened, then this happened, then this happened... But, even so, the stories that Dolby tells are fascinating! The context provided to his early career caused me to re-listen to his songs that I loved while I was in high school. The storytelling really picks up as Dolby documents his other careers as a producer, tech entrepreneur, Ted Talk music director... And his life events, meeting his wife and raising his family. The ending I really enjoyed this book, it does start a bit monotonically; this happened, then this happened, then this happened... But, even so, the stories that Dolby tells are fascinating! The context provided to his early career caused me to re-listen to his songs that I loved while I was in high school. The storytelling really picks up as Dolby documents his other careers as a producer, tech entrepreneur, Ted Talk music director... And his life events, meeting his wife and raising his family. The ending was a fantastic picture of "living the good life" of a truly artistic human being. It made me think about what I want to do next... Read the book.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Mark Wasiel

    Very interesting book with a lot of interesting stories about Music Industry (1st half) and tech boom in the second. As a long time fan though, I can't say I wasn't just slightly disappointed that it didn't go more into the details of his Producing sessions with Prefap Sprout and it skipped a few other artists that he worked with. And how did he and Trevor Horn become friends? Probably doing this would have made the book too long for the regular reader but as a fan, I would have like to known mo Very interesting book with a lot of interesting stories about Music Industry (1st half) and tech boom in the second. As a long time fan though, I can't say I wasn't just slightly disappointed that it didn't go more into the details of his Producing sessions with Prefap Sprout and it skipped a few other artists that he worked with. And how did he and Trevor Horn become friends? Probably doing this would have made the book too long for the regular reader but as a fan, I would have like to known more about that. Perhaps a follow up is in order? :)

  26. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    I love a lot of the stuff I read. If I don't then I simply quit reading it san move on. But this belongs in my short list of favorite music bios (my fav genre) with My Cross to Bear, Red, Chronicles 1 and Goeff Emerick's book about recording the Beatles. The name escapes me at the moment.... I should add that I am a fan of Dolby and was familiar with his work. But plenty of folks who didn't know Dolby from Adam have enjoyed this autobiography.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Richard Kenny

    A book of two halves. Both of which are fascinating. In the first half he is Dolby the pop star full of top notch anecdotes featuring Bowie and Michael Jackson. In the second half he is Dolby the tech entrepreneur with tales of the early days of Silicon Valley. He is always entertaining and full of insights into the music business and tech industry. Highly recommend even if you only have a passing knowledge of his music.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Brent

    What an awesome book! As a big Thomas Dolby fan from way back, I really enjoyed reading this memoir and glimpse into his life. Dolby writes with an ease and clarity that makes it easy to feel like he is simply conversing with you, sharing his stories. His path has been a fascinating one, leading from pop stardom through dot-com entrepreneur to tech visionary. To music fans and tech geeks anywhere, this book is highly recommended.

  29. 4 out of 5

    CarolineH

    Entertaining and interesting to hear about Dolby's experiences moving from the music industry to the tech industry. It's really about how a musician or artist maintains relevancy in society as they age, and they realize a need to change gears in order to stay afloat. Many musicians and celebrities expand to other businesses, finding that the music or movie industry is not worth their total focus anymore.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Mark Huhnke

    If you liked Dolby before this book, you’ll enjoy Thomas’ approachable cadence and his war stories on the crazy eighties. I still think he has a genius talent in soundsmithing and the use of synthesizers amongst other sound sources. I figured he was a nice guy - but, being a keyboard player, I had hoped he would talk more on his mechanics on building sounds in its context of arranging songs. Still an enjoyable read.

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