Saturday, 26 June 2010

Joe Boyd - White Bicycles - Making Music in the Sixties

I just finished reading an excellent book last week.. Joe Boyd - Making Music in the Sixties.. It was odd as a music book in that I'm not really into most of the music he's writing about but he manages to write in such a natural, modest way that you just get pulled in to his stories.. there's no ego getting in the way.

He managed to be around so many key events of the 60's, the 1965 Newport Folk Fetsival where Dylan 'went electric', he ran the legendary UFO club in London in 1966-67 and briefly managed Pink Floyd, he was at Woodstock with the Incredible String Band but at the same time was never really successfull with any of them.. He seemed to have a knack for avoiding fame and fortune (he even 'discovered' Abba when they were a minor Swedish pop act but never signed and returned the contract they offered him!) but more than made up for it by the sheer wealth of experiances he's had.

I found a couple of cool clips from the UFO club on YouTube...

Soft Machine at the UFO club, doing a musical poem protesting at the jailing of John 'Hoppy' Hopkins, one of the organisers on the scene, after a drugs bust.:

More UFO footage with Pink Floyd (from German documetary)

There are a few times in the book where he describes details of recording methods, microphone placements and ways to manage accoustics in whatever sort of rooms he was recording that were fascinating... All pre-digital recording obviously so it was a lot more hands on then.

The first part of the book describes how he got into the music business by tracking down old retired blues singers and getting them to do college gigs.  Got me thinking, these days the equivilant of him finding old blues artists would be me tracking down some old ex-hippy in Ladbroke Grove who used to play in some obscure folk rock / prog group who released a couple of albums on Vertigo in 69/70 and then vanished... doesn't really appeal to me! (Funnily enough though, Joe Boyd did more or less do that.. there was a concert at the Barbican last year with bands from his old production company Witchseason..)

Anyway, it's a great read about some sides of the sixties that aren't often mentioned in histories of the period.

(Just ordered a nice stack of music books from Amazon so more reviews coming up.. hopefully better written than this one.. gotta get into practice.)

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