Thomas Dolby – the Speed of Sound

Paddy & Dolby
STOP PRESS: read the Thomas Dolby interview in two parts, here, and here.

I’ve just spent an absorbing couple of hours working on transcribing a conversation I had with Thomas Dolby in early June, which I’ll be writing up properly to go up in late September, just prior to the publication of his memoir “The Speed of Sound” (Macmillan/Flatiron) which is to be released on October 11th. Thomas told me he was working on an audiobook version too.

The pre-publicity for the book has now started, and there are some reviews already here and there if you hunt around.

I must say that it was a real treat to revisit the encounter. It turns out you can cover a lot of ground in 80 minutes or so, and my God has he done a lot in his allotted span so far.

As an early taster, here’s what he has to say about the genesis of the book and why he wrote it.

“Over the years I used to keep a diary on and off,  and at various different times I had a Filofax, a Palm Pilot, an Apple Newton, a Blackberry; something I’d just keep notes on.

“I was going through old drawers a couple of years ago and found a box of old Filofaxes and things, and it was just really interesting going through them and reading my notes.  And what was amazing about them to me was that I wasn’t seeing the big picture at the time. So if was writing about Live Aid, or working with Stevie Wonder, or my first ever meeting with Prefab Sprout, there was no context around it, it was just my immediate notes, my feelings about that moment.

“And I thought that as a historical chronicle it was interesting, because I’ve been through a lot. I’ve met a lot of amazing people, I’ve been lucky enough to have been in the right place at the right time on several occasions. But if someone in 2016 wrote a book about the Eighties, Nineties and Noughties, a book about the music business and Silicon Valley, about the Internet boom and so on, it would be with a 2016 perspective. With an editorial overview.

“And that would be less compelling somehow because we all have the benefit of hindsight. It would be less compelling than the immediate thoughts and feelings of someone who was actually there at the time.

“And because of my enthusiasm, my over-enthusiasm for all these different things, and the fact that I sort of bungled through and made some questionable choices, that would actually make these memoirs more compelling reading than a book written by some sort of 2016 guru.”

If that doesn’t whet your appetite, well, I’ll have another go shortly. That was, after all, about 3 minutes out of the 80 and there is a great deal more where that comes from, including a large payload of Sprout.

For the rest of us, there’s an Amazon pre-order link over to the right somewhere. In a world where you can’t get much change out of four hundred quid for a Floyd box set, twenty quid for the inside track on the UK music scene in one of the most innovative and exciting parts of its history is a total bargain.


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