Wasn’t sure there was going to be a blog this weekend.
I’ve been an admirer of Thomas Dolby for many years; as a former keyboard player I was powerless to resist the appeal of his gadgetry. He is the ultimate geek muso, which of course is why he was in so much demand as a session musician in the 80’s, and indeed the royalties he earned from the sumptuous synthesiser intro to Foreigner’s Waiting For a Girl Like You provided Dolby with the resources to begin his solo recording career.
Those unfamiliar with his albums may associate him with quirky dance numbers such as She Blinded Me With Science or Hyperactive but there is a far more sensitive side to his output too; and his fourth album Astronauts and Heretics has some great examples. True he is no Joni Mitchell (though he did co-produce her album Dog Eat Dog) but songs like I Love You Goodbye still have a poignancy to them.
After a spell away from recording during which time he established a technology company that put ringtones into most of the planet’s mobile phones, he has in the last few years returned to the UK and rediscovered his creativity, though in a typically Dolby steampunk way, creating a renewable energy powered recording studio in a converted 1930’s lifeboat at the bottom of his garden!
He has been in the news recently for two reasons; one the death of Ray Dolby, the noise reduction system pioneer led to a few media interviews with the man who borrowed his name, and secondly because he is about to embark on tour with a very different project; The Invisible Lighthouse which is touring not concert halls, but art house cinemas. The tour features a film made by Dolby about the lighthouse that he watched from his bedroom window as a child, its mysterious location on a military testing range, and it’s eventual decommissioning. What makes it different is that the film is accompanied by live narration and soundtrack performance by Dolby who interacts with his work on-screen. Should be fascinating when it gets to Newcastle in a week or so.
With many ear worms in his repertoire (at least as far as my ears are concerned) it was inevitable that one or two would get stuck in my head this week; the aforementioned I Love You Goodbye amongst them, but it was the lazy melancholia of To the Lifeboats that eventually took hold.
The superstitious sailors of old
Refused to learn to swim
But there’s no need to drown these days
Cause we’ve got lifeboats.
Where are the lifeboats?
There are no lifeboats.
There are no fucking lifeboats…
And so it proved, for when I went to South Shields to photograph the grade II listed vessel responsible for saving over 1000 lives during its sixty years of service it (The Tyne) was gone.
Sent for restoration.
I was left with a void.
Now I don’t actually own Dolby’s third album, but I had a stroke of luck when this vehicle turned it up. Dolby describes Aliens Ate My Buick as being too brash for many of his fan’s tastes. Hmmmmmm.