Thursday, October 20, 2016

Science! and Other Stories

The Speed of Sound: Breaking the Barriers Between Music and Technology: A Memoir – Thomas Dolby (Flatiron Books)

Imagine a long narrow nightclub that on a good night might comfortably hold 450 people. Now imagine the fire marshal is looking the other way and pack an additional 400 people like sardines into that same night club and that is my “personal” interaction with Thomas Dolby, hit maker. Granted I was lucky enough to be one somebody’s list and was able to lock down a spot while Dolby was doing sound check before the doors opened, so the experience was better than most folks.

It is from that perspective that I approached Dolby’s very self-confessional autobiography, The Speed of Sound: Breaking the Barriers Between Music and Technology: A Memoir. Dolby’s story really is pretty amazing as he careens from place to place, essentially building a career literally piece by piece or in his case chip by chip. His is a very personal rendering of his story, which may sound absurd, because it is his story; but Dolby doesn’t hold back or gloss over the nicks and scrapes he has encountered along the way.

Having spent time in and around the music industry early in my career, I always chuckle when people assume that because you had hits, record sales, and successful tours that you were automatically a millionaire and worry free. It doesn’t take Dolby long to dispel that myth and to see how his interactions with “the Business” sowed the seeds of his discontent and eventual departure from the music industry.

The Speed of Sound, is a great evolutionary story, as Dolby, like a cat, has had nine lives transitioning from fledgling musician, to hitmaker/video star, to scoring movies and becoming a tech guru. Dolby marches through the highs and the lows; the celebrations and the retreats with an evenhandedness that is rare among celebrities who always like to put their best face/foot forward.

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