EDitorial ± 10-Mar-2003

Noise Reduction

Over the past few years I've been accused more than once of being stuck in the 1980s. I'd deny it if it wasn't true, but then anyone's teenage years are incredibly formative (Concise Oxford: "having a profound influence on a person's development"), surely. Locations, films, dress sense (!) and, last but by no means least, music, all play a big part.

So, Sunday early evening, throwing together some chilli (definitive '80s meal?), and, playing on the stereo, my favourite record, ever. Originally released in 1982, here's the title:

Lettering from the cover of The Golden Age Of Wireless

And here's who recorded it:

Cool name

Any the wiser? In the early '80s, watching telly after school, possibly Magpie, I remember seeing this eccentric looking bloke demonstrating his new Fairlight synthesizer. Included was a short clip from a video to promote his new single, a catchy little number called She Blinded Me With Science, with a cameo appearance by Dr Magnus Pyke (ask your dad).

Around that time Channel 4 started. Each week they'd show a long-ish video by a band of the moment - there was ABC's Mantrap, an Ultravox concert film, plus Live Wireless by Thomas Dolby, that quirky chap with the synths. There was footage of him with his backing band, and occasional cutaways to a backstage smoking projectionist, also played by Mr Dolby. It was oddly compelling. Plus he had that look: white suit, neat hair, little specs.

Thomas Dolby pictured on the cover of The Golden Age...

When I finally got hold of his debut LP, The Golden Age Of Wireless, I was totally hooked. Top tunes, weird noises, unconventional lyrics. Closing track was called "Cloudburst At Shingle Street", the name of a tiny place up on the desolate Suffolk coast. Little 'sis, also a fan, later found out that Thomas Dolby owned a house there, though he's been based in the US for years now.

Other good reasons to love him:

  • follow-up album, The Flat Earth, was also great
  • born in Cairo, a cool fact
  • he produced Prefab Sprout's fab Steve McQueen album
  • when Davie Bowie did Live Aid, Mr Dolby played keyboards
  • he was visited by Adam & Joe, who are obviously big fans

Two last things:

  1. I spent some time working in Glasgow in the early '90s; on my drive to Stansted I'd always listen to Flying North, especially for the lyric "down comes the landing gear, up goes a useless prayer"
  2. managed, through ebay, to get a copy of that long-deleted Live Wireless VHS tape about 18 months ago - worth every penny

Be seeing you!