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In music and tech, such an instinctive perfectionist, thoughtful and perceptive. This is a story of creativity fights commercial greed, and how technology leads us forwards in ways we can never predict. I grew up with Thomas' music, my vinyl of Flat Earth and Prefab Sprout's Steve McQueen sit in a cupboard in England, worn thin. I play the guitar, engineer, mix other folks' music, fix arrangements, every day, striving for... maybe I caught this bug the moment I heard the opening bars of "Bonny". The book is an inspiration for anyone who writes or loves music, or indeed works in tech innovation, so thank-you Thomas, your boat studio sounds waaaaay cool x
This is possibly the best music autobiography I've ever read. Even if you're not a fan of Dolby's music it's a fair bet you've heard his signature other-worldly, sweeping synths on such tracks as Foreigner's 'Waiting for a girl like you' or Bowie's Live Aid 1985 set.
I'll admit I have a bad habit of skimming the opening chapters of a biography, eager to get to the meat of the story, I don't much care where they went to school or what their pet dog was called. No such problem here as Dolby kicks off with his first 'proper' job in a band, playing for the much-underrated Bruce Woolley and The Camera Club in the early 1980s. This led to a tour with Lene Lovich, which led to a meeting with Foreigner, and away he goes.
But this is no tale of rags-to-riches pop superstardom; far from it. With each success comes a corresponding challenge that leaves Dolby thinking that Fate is out to get him. On the eve of starting a 30-date USA tour to support the excellent "Aliens Ate My Buick" album, his record company (EMI) call to say they're not sure how to pigeon-hole his sound and this is affecting their marketing efforts. Consequently, rather than put some actual effort into solving the situation, they're withdrawing support (and backing) for the tour.
In the mid 1990s Dolby just gives up on the music industry. He's sold millions of albums and yet is still struggling to get by, and so Part Two of the book tells the tale of his venture into the world of high-tech business, and what a roller-coaster that turns out to be.
I've been a fan of Dolby's work since the 80s, and found parts of the story would cause me to visit Spotify to relisten to his music, only now with a far better understanding of what the songs are about.
Dolby narrates clearly and very engagingly throughout, and comes across as a very decent, honest man, swimming against the tides of corporate America.
A highly recommended peek into the worlds of the American music industry and Silicon Valley.
And you are going to love the Stevie Wonder story...
Like the old lifeboat he works in, Dolby's career has been tossed around in the storm that was the first dot com boom. Does it come right? A very atypical rock autobiography. No boring tales of bachanalia here. Unless you are interested in a personal history of music and tech in the 80's and 90's it might not be for you. His homes keep collapsing. He reads very well.
This is without doubt, the best audiobook I have ever heard. Full of amazing stories about the music and tech industry, Thomas' poetic narration showcases his skill as a story teller. This 10 hour listen had me gripped the whole way through. I would rate this a 20 out of 10. Do it
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