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 '80s. 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 overshadowed the joy of performing, Thomas found 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 nightclub. 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 breakout 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 start-up that turns up the volume on the digital music revolution. His company barely survives the dot-com 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 Soundis the story of an extraordinary man living an extraordinary life, a single-handed quest to make peace between art and the digital world.
"He rose during the advent of the British New Wave. But what was he, exactly? A singer-songwriter? Performance artist? Programmer? Engineer, poet, actor, inventor? And if we couldn't be sure, how possibly could he? This is the engaging, emotional, funny and surprising tale of Thomas Dolby - a brilliant multi-hyphenate on his journey of discovery and self-discovery." (JJ Abrams, director, writer, producer)
"Musician Thomas Dolby debuts with an absorbing account of his pioneering work merging digital music with film, technology, and science. In this story-filled memoir, Dolby draws deeply on his experiences as a synthesized music guru and early internet geek, offering wonderful scenes involving such notables as Michael Jackson, Joni Mitchell, David Bowie, Steve Jobs, and George Lucas. His innovative accomplishments, rendered in fascinating detail here, are legendary. This stellar book will appeal to readers interested in modern technology's startling effects on music and popular culture." (Kirkus)
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- Neil S. Bruce