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White Bicycles: Making Music in the 1960s

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“This is the best book about music I’ve read in years, and a gripping piece of social history.”—Brian Eno When Muddy Waters came to London at the start of the 1960s, a kid from Boston called Joe Boyd was his tour manager; when Dylan went electric at the Newport Festival, Joe Boyd was plugging in his guitar; when the summer of love got going, Joe Boyd was running UFO, the “This is the best book about music I’ve read in years, and a gripping piece of social history.”—Brian Eno When Muddy Waters came to London at the start of the 1960s, a kid from Boston called Joe Boyd was his tour manager; when Dylan went electric at the Newport Festival, Joe Boyd was plugging in his guitar; when the summer of love got going, Joe Boyd was running UFO, the coolest club in London; when a bunch of club regulars called Pink Floyd recorded their first single, Joe Boyd was the producer; when a young songwriter named Nick Drake wanted to give his demo tape to someone, he chose Joe Boyd. More than any previous sixties music autobiography, Joe Boyd’s White Bicycles offers the real story of what it was like to be there at the time. As well as the sixties heavy-hitters, this book also offers wonderfully vivid portraits of a whole host of other musicians: everyone from the great jazzman Coleman Hawkins to the folk diva Sandy Denny, Lonnie Johnson to Eric Clapton, Sister Rosetta Tharpe to Fairport Convention. Record and film producer Joe Boyd was born in Boston in 1942 and graduated from Harvard in 1964. He went on to produce Pink Floyd, Nick Drake, Fairport Convention, R.E.M., and many others. He produced the documentary Jimi Hendrix and the film Scandal. In 1980 he started Hannibal Records and ran it for twenty years. He lives in London.


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“This is the best book about music I’ve read in years, and a gripping piece of social history.”—Brian Eno When Muddy Waters came to London at the start of the 1960s, a kid from Boston called Joe Boyd was his tour manager; when Dylan went electric at the Newport Festival, Joe Boyd was plugging in his guitar; when the summer of love got going, Joe Boyd was running UFO, the “This is the best book about music I’ve read in years, and a gripping piece of social history.”—Brian Eno When Muddy Waters came to London at the start of the 1960s, a kid from Boston called Joe Boyd was his tour manager; when Dylan went electric at the Newport Festival, Joe Boyd was plugging in his guitar; when the summer of love got going, Joe Boyd was running UFO, the coolest club in London; when a bunch of club regulars called Pink Floyd recorded their first single, Joe Boyd was the producer; when a young songwriter named Nick Drake wanted to give his demo tape to someone, he chose Joe Boyd. More than any previous sixties music autobiography, Joe Boyd’s White Bicycles offers the real story of what it was like to be there at the time. As well as the sixties heavy-hitters, this book also offers wonderfully vivid portraits of a whole host of other musicians: everyone from the great jazzman Coleman Hawkins to the folk diva Sandy Denny, Lonnie Johnson to Eric Clapton, Sister Rosetta Tharpe to Fairport Convention. Record and film producer Joe Boyd was born in Boston in 1942 and graduated from Harvard in 1964. He went on to produce Pink Floyd, Nick Drake, Fairport Convention, R.E.M., and many others. He produced the documentary Jimi Hendrix and the film Scandal. In 1980 he started Hannibal Records and ran it for twenty years. He lives in London.

30 review for White Bicycles: Making Music in the 1960s

  1. 4 out of 5

    Paul Bryant

    What happened was that i wrote a review of White Bicycles for my friend Raymond's English folk magazine called Stirrings. And then Joe Boyd himself read my review and wrote to the mag with a reply... how cool was that? So here's my review followed by Joe's reply. ** Joe Boyd is a man it's hard not to resent. He's been tall, handsome and not obviously poor most of his life but, most particularly, during the 1960s, he developed an almost supernatural ability to be in the right place at the right What happened was that i wrote a review of White Bicycles for my friend Raymond's English folk magazine called Stirrings. And then Joe Boyd himself read my review and wrote to the mag with a reply... how cool was that? So here's my review followed by Joe's reply. ** Joe Boyd is a man it's hard not to resent. He's been tall, handsome and not obviously poor most of his life but, most particularly, during the 1960s, he developed an almost supernatural ability to be in the right place at the right time and then do the right thing while he was there. Like a countercultural Superman, he zap!s into Newport 1965 and arranges for Dylan to go electric with the members of a group Joe Boyd created; in 1966 kapoww! he's in London founding UFO, the white hot centre of the English underground, with John Hopkins; blamm! he's in Edinburgh discovering the ISB; shazam!! - he helps to create British folk rock with Fairport; kerrunch!!! he discovers Nick Drake and Vashti Bunyan. And so endlessly on. And now he writes about it all with effortless grace and humour. So here's a guy whose co-production of the brilliant album "Desertshore" by Nico in 1971 gets only a passing one-liner. It would be a great relief to find some kind of flaw in this paragon, but he was also blessed with perfect taste and produced most of my favourite albums. Too much, man. Too much. Ten things I didn't know before reading "White Bicycles" : 1. The Even Dozen Jug Band (1964) included Maria Muldaur, John Sebastian, Joshua Rifkin, Steve Katz, Stefan Grossman and David Grisman. Wow! 2. White people clap on the wrong beat. 3. In the 60s blues acts could tour successfully in Britain and Europe but no one was interested in the USA.. 4. Joe spent a fortnight in Brixton on a drugs possession charge (his time there sounds like an episode of Porridge) 5. Padstow, May Day 1965 was the high-water mark of the English traditional folk revival as 6. Around 9.30 on the night of 25 July 1965 was the moment 1960s youth exchanged idealism for hedonism as 7. The 1960s "peaked just before dawn on 1 July 1967 during a set by Tomorrow at the UFO Club in London" (Joe is nothing if not particular). 8. Michael Jackson's "Thriller" album on its own outsold the Beatles' entire catalogue 9. Joe and his pal Paul Rothchild put the Lovin' Spoonful together just like a folk-rock Monkees (a fact that's been airbrushed out of history) 10. Nick Drake was the greatest ever talent Joe produced. Now, this last statement is, like No. 8, not true, but Joe thinks it is. Note the following Boyd on Drake : there was something uniquely arresting in Nick’s composure. The music stayed within itself, not trying to attract the listener’s attention… His guitar technique was so clean it took a while to realise how complex it was… the heart of the music was mysteriously original. up close the power of his fingers was astonishing with each note ringing out loud… I had listened closely to Robin Williamson, John Martyn, Bert Jansch and John Renbourn. Half-struck strings and blurred hammerings-on were an accepted part of their sound; none could match Nick’s mastery of the instrument. After finishing one song he would retune the guitar and proceed to play something equally complex in a totally different chord shape. I had told him he was a genius and others had concurred. the sale of Witchseason included a provision that Nick’s lps must never be deleted, although I didn’t need at argue the point with Blackwell, he loved Nick too. It’s hard to disagree with Joe Boyd – he is the man after all – but imagining Nick Drake’s music to be in the same league as Richard Thompson or more especially Robin Williamson is just loopy. Modern advertisers, tv music finders and the younger generation seem to like Nick Drake a lot more than the Incredible String Band or RT but that don’t prove a thing except that “Time Has Told Me” is an awful lot more like elevator music than “The Mad Hatter’s Song” or “Genesis Hall”. Joe’s main band – the one he produced and managed longest in the 60s – was the Incredible String Band and he now seems to regard them with something approaching embarrassment. They get as many putdowns as Nick Drake gets praise, and since they were hugely greater talents one must ask why. It seems part of the answer is on page 186 : History has deemed the ISB terminally unhip, forever identified with an incense-drenched, tripped out folkiness And later, after they disastrously took up Scientology, soon the new compositions began to lose their wild melodic beauty… was this a natural decline after years of original output or was it Scientology? I resisted the thought that creativity might be linked to unhappiness or neurosis. Taking the first point, Joe seems not to have noticed the new psychedelic folk movement which has taken hold in the USA and consistently namechecks the ISB – for instance there’s Devendra Banhart, Joanna Newsom, Animal Collective, Wolf Parade, Sufjan Stevens, the Espers and Six Organs or Admittance. For these people the ISB are the very quintessence of hip. The second point is also telling : the ISB disappointed Joe badly (whereas Nick Drake didn’t live long enough) - firstly by joining a grisly cult, then by becoming happier people after having joined! That wasn’t the script Joe had in mind for them at all. Joe includes some fantastically sweeping generalisations on such topics as why the English hate their own folk music, why there wasn’t so much of a generation gap in Britain as there was in the USA, and why so many great 60s artists made terrible records in the 70s (in one word, cocaine). It’s all wonderfully contentious and you may wish to learn a few of these to start off a lively debate in your local. This book is never boring. *** Dear Stirrings Thanks for the review of White Bicycles and the words of praise. With so many plugs for my productions, I shouldn't complain about the odd brickbat here and there. But I would like to set the record straight on what seems like a some- what hurried reading by Paul Bryant. I never wrote, nor do I feel, that Nick Drake was the greatest talent I ever worked with. I do think he was as remarkable and wonderful a talent as Thompson or Williamson, however. Some people don't get him and Paul Bryant is clearly one of them, but let's not distort what I said in order to make a point. And while I plead guilty to airing my disappointment with the later years of the ISB, I spent huge chunks of prose recounting how stunning and exciting the music of their early years was – and remains today I was delighted that they became happier people as Scientologists (for a bit), but I don't think you'll find many fans who will argue that their later songs were the equal of their earlier efforts. My complaint that their music is not considered hip is directed at the folk-averse, not at Mike and Robin. When I wrote the book – and still, today- such cloth-eared people far out-numbered the fans of Devandra Banhardt etc. When Thriller had completed a year or two at the top of the charts, a Billboard article pointed out that it had outsold the Beatle catalogue. Since then, of course, the cd revolution has pushed the Fab Four way in front, but my comment was about sales of records at the time of their release and about the way the business changed from the '60s to the '80s, and I stand by it. As to the English hating their own folk music, it's great that it doesn't clear as many rooms as it once did, but a journalist for a national newspaper began his piece about dancing with a Morris team the other day with the assumption that almost every reader would find such an endeavor ludicrous and embarrassing White Bicycles is a look at the Sixties very much through my eyes. My nailing of dates and sweeping statements were not intended to be taken as historical or sociological truths, but are the thoughts that went through my head at the time, or soon thereafter. If I run into Paul Bryant in a pub, I'll buy him a drink and we can have that 'lively debate'. Best regards, Joe Boyd

  2. 4 out of 5

    David

    Joe Boyd writes from the rare perspective of someone who was not only there, but was also uniquely involved; how the 60’s began with playful optimism and came to a close with the wilting flowers of endless innovation. He spotted exciting new talent and nurtured it, toured with some of the greats, produced some landmark albums, watched protégés make unfortunate social – and in some cases, spritual – liaisons, and witnessed the acceleration of technology that would dilute the hidden soul inherent Joe Boyd writes from the rare perspective of someone who was not only there, but was also uniquely involved; how the 60’s began with playful optimism and came to a close with the wilting flowers of endless innovation. He spotted exciting new talent and nurtured it, toured with some of the greats, produced some landmark albums, watched protégés make unfortunate social – and in some cases, spritual – liaisons, and witnessed the acceleration of technology that would dilute the hidden soul inherent in earlier recordings. But he tells the story with unflinching honesty and tangible joy, as we get insights into the rapidly transforming lives of music legends, the truth about Pete Seeger and that axe when Dylan went electric at Newport, the kaleidoscopic firefly of the UFO club, the development of a new generation of folk music, and behind-the-scenes glimpses of the undeniable genius of Nick Drake. Through hippies turned scientologists, proto-Abba, and the unlikely success of duelling banjos . . . expect the unexpected.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Joseph

    It's a very clearheaded, sharply written and affectionate memoir of how several big moments in 1960s pop music happened almost by accident. The story of the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, where Dylan showed up with what to Folkies was an accursed electric guitar, should be turned into a movie. The accounts by author Joe Boyd, who wound up producing records in London, NYC and L.A., of working with forgotten blues legends in the early 1960s remind you how iffy the whole prospect of music and show biz It's a very clearheaded, sharply written and affectionate memoir of how several big moments in 1960s pop music happened almost by accident. The story of the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, where Dylan showed up with what to Folkies was an accursed electric guitar, should be turned into a movie. The accounts by author Joe Boyd, who wound up producing records in London, NYC and L.A., of working with forgotten blues legends in the early 1960s remind you how iffy the whole prospect of music and show biz as any kind of job was for Afro-American blues players and singers who outlived their temporary fame in the 1930s and 1940s, and then had to go back to minimum wage grunt work to stay alive. Fascinating stories abound about London during the Mod years, and the emotional and pharmaceutical dynamics of the Summer of Love in 1967. If 1960s music interests you, find this book. It's a quick read, full of keen insights about music as a business, then and now, and the U.S. social realities Rock and Roll reflected.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Tom

    slightly bland run through folk rock lynchpin's life. short on insight and revelation - only new titbit to me was the role of Dave Robinson (co-founder of Stiff Records) in UFO : he was managing the Irish band who became Eire Apparent and supported Hendrix on a US tour when they came to London for their first gig at a try-out at UFO. unusually for a music book, this didn't make me go and listen again to the records - which is the normal indication of a good music book

  5. 4 out of 5

    Patty

    Great, great memoir--tons of fascinating stories, a pile of laugh-out-loud moments, and I felt like Boyd kept himself out of the limelight for the most part as he told his tales. I just found out there is a compilation CD of the bands discussed in this book, which I'll probably pick up as I am unfamiliar with a good bit of this stuff--Fairport Convention, Incredible String Band, etc.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    After having read only the opening chapters I am so excited to find a book that UNDERSTANDS what lay behind the so-called sixties music phenomenon: the discovery of what black music had to say about the way we felt about living in a world ruled by the pathologically normal. And why we wanted to reclaim and transform that message.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Larry-bob Roberts

    I only wish Joe went on longer, and I hope that he writes another volume. When I went for a signing for the book I asked him about his experience producing the brilliant, crazed New Orleans piano player James Booker, which happened after the time-scope of the book - he obliged, but it would be nice to see him write about that in print.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jason Pace

    Great music read. Boyd traveled an interesting path from a Lomaxian obession with blues and other American artists, involvement in the Newport folkie shenanigans including Dylan's sacriligeous electrification, and eventually the British folk and psychedelic scene. He built a career that jumped from promoter to producer to record label guy, and touched some immeasurable classics (e.g., Pink Floyd, Fairport Convention, Sandy Denny, Richard Thompson, Nick Drake, The Incredible String Band). He Great music read. Boyd traveled an interesting path from a Lomaxian obession with blues and other American artists, involvement in the Newport folkie shenanigans including Dylan's sacriligeous electrification, and eventually the British folk and psychedelic scene. He built a career that jumped from promoter to producer to record label guy, and touched some immeasurable classics (e.g., Pink Floyd, Fairport Convention, Sandy Denny, Richard Thompson, Nick Drake, The Incredible String Band). He sounds like a guy who identified/created fertile scenes of threshold-pushing rock music, never indulging too much in the pharmaceutical mileu of the time, a keen fly-on-the-wall observer who collected a huge cache of great stories. His written voice is humble, grateful, and appealing; the stories flow out like a river, with a sort of cohesive disorganization that makes sense. Character studies of cantankerous jazz cats, conservative folk old guard, britfolk luminaries, London acid casualties, '60s counterculture stalwarts giving way eventually to cocaine or scientology and ruining everything. Really entertaining read, never feels perfunctory like a lotta rock books.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Paul Gleason

    I first found out about Joe Boyd when I bought R.E.M.'s Fables of the Reconstruction and discovered that he'd produced it. Little did I know that he either produced or worked with many of my heroes from the 1960s' underground scene in London. I have to thank R.E.M. for introducing me to Boyd and his work. Here's the countdown. Boyd's worked with Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd, The Move, Vashti Bunyan, The Incredible String Band, Fairport Convention, Richard Thompson, Linda Thompson, Sandy Denny, The I first found out about Joe Boyd when I bought R.E.M.'s Fables of the Reconstruction and discovered that he'd produced it. Little did I know that he either produced or worked with many of my heroes from the 1960s' underground scene in London. I have to thank R.E.M. for introducing me to Boyd and his work. Here's the countdown. Boyd's worked with Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd, The Move, Vashti Bunyan, The Incredible String Band, Fairport Convention, Richard Thompson, Linda Thompson, Sandy Denny, The Soft Machine, and, my personal favorite, Nick Drake. Boyd structures his book nicely so that you don't have to read it in order. This is a good thing. If you're in the mood for The Move, you can read the chapter about them. If you want to read about Syd and Roger Waters performing at the UFO, you can do so. If you want to skip ahead to Nick Drake's beautiful music and harrowing final days, you can do so. You'll learn a lot along the way. I applaud Boyd for writing about a scene that - let's face it - has never been very popular in America. Most Americans couldn't identify the musicians with whom he worked. This is a shame, but it's also a good thing. It means that a little bit of the London underground remains hidden, the domain of those who seek it out. It's no wonder that one of the key clubs was called Middle Earth. And just think what Pink Floyd could have become had Syd remained healthy and they didn't become the world's biggest blues-prog band. Listen to The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, Shazam, Just Another Diamond Day, The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter, Liege & Life, Unhalfbricking, Shoot Out the Lights, and anything by Denny and Drake. And I can't forget Robert Wyatt and The Soft Machine's first four albums. Do you know where The Soft Machine got their name?

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jarvo

    Joe Boyd was one of the great movers and shakers of sixties music. He discovered Nick Drake and produced his first two albums, and he also managed and produced both Fairport Convention and The Incredible String Band during their finest hours. This book is a great account of what he describes as the long 1960's - beginning roundabout 1957 and ending in 1974. Boyd's job was both to now people and to let other people know that he new people, and so names are dropped at a head spinning rate, but you Joe Boyd was one of the great movers and shakers of sixties music. He discovered Nick Drake and produced his first two albums, and he also managed and produced both Fairport Convention and The Incredible String Band during their finest hours. This book is a great account of what he describes as the long 1960's - beginning roundabout 1957 and ending in 1974. Boyd's job was both to now people and to let other people know that he new people, and so names are dropped at a head spinning rate, but you have the consolation that he was there and he really did meet all these people (Miles Davies, Muddy Waters, Coleman Hawkins, Duke Ellington and Theolonious Monk as well as all the figures from the rock and folk rock worlds). He is good at roots (folk, jazz and blues) as well as at rock which adds a lot more depth to his observations. In general this is a book about what it might have been like to be there and be one of the few people not stoned. It does offer some strong insights into music (eg why the best analogue recordings are better than digital ones). It singularly fails to explain Drake's genius, although he does how good a guitar player he was, which can be overlooked. It is probably best to say that he arrived without precedent and has proved impossible to imitate as evidenced by the countless number who try and fail. If you like this period and its music you need to read this book but if you don't it will leave you cold. (Incidentally this is one of Graham Crossley's favourite boos, not often you can say that).

  11. 5 out of 5

    J Simpson

    Joe Boyd was a renowned producer in the '60s, right in the midst of the British Folk Revival, producing Fairport Convention, Incredible String Band, Sandy Denny, and most notoriously Nick Drake (who never scored a hit during his lifetime). He also co-founded the UFO club, the epicenter of Freaky London, where Pink Floyd and numerous others got their start. He also had a long and storied career in the Jazz and Blues worlds, helping organize the Newport Folk Festival where Dylan went electric, Joe Boyd was a renowned producer in the '60s, right in the midst of the British Folk Revival, producing Fairport Convention, Incredible String Band, Sandy Denny, and most notoriously Nick Drake (who never scored a hit during his lifetime). He also co-founded the UFO club, the epicenter of Freaky London, where Pink Floyd and numerous others got their start. He also had a long and storied career in the Jazz and Blues worlds, helping organize the Newport Folk Festival where Dylan went electric, helped re-discover Rev. Gary Davis, and took that music overseas. Apart from his impressive career during an important musical era, the writing of this book is outstanding; conversational, lucid, moving. He tells personal anecdotes of many larger-than-life personalities. Also armed with his Producer's ears and experience, he sheds insight into the creative process and recording of many seminal albums. Hearing a first-hand, detailed account of Nick Drake performing 'Time Has Told Me' live with an orchestra, as well as the backstory of driving to some school friend of Nick's, to score the string arrangements, is worth its weight in plutonium. I cannot recommend this book enough, for anyone interested in late '60s music, production, or subcultural history.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Pete daPixie

    I really enjoyed reading Joe Boyd's 'White bicycles', a book I've intended to read for a while, since it was published in 2005 in fact! Boyd kept his head on straight and level to be in all the right places at all the right times. Consequently his memoir largely recounts the decade when musical and social revolutions came and went with rapidity, and only a sharp intuitive operator like J.B. could emerge with so much integrity and such a monumental back catalogue. It's no surprise then to find his I really enjoyed reading Joe Boyd's 'White bicycles', a book I've intended to read for a while, since it was published in 2005 in fact! Boyd kept his head on straight and level to be in all the right places at all the right times. Consequently his memoir largely recounts the decade when musical and social revolutions came and went with rapidity, and only a sharp intuitive operator like J.B. could emerge with so much integrity and such a monumental back catalogue. It's no surprise then to find his fingers on the mixing dials of so many recordings of the epoch. From early Pink Floyd and Eric Clapton, to the recordings of the Incredible String Band, Nick Drake, Fairport Convention, John Martyn and many more. Away from the recording studio he was at Newport in 65 to plug in the 'electric' Dylan. In London during the summer of love he ran his UFO club and hosted a glittering array of psychedelia from Floyd, The Move, Procol Harum to The Bonzo's. 'White bicycles' is not just a reminiscence of the counter culture of the swinging 60's. Boyd has written an insightful, thought provoking and funny social documentary.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Ed

    I found this book on this list by Pitchfork. It was also recommended by a friend. I found it a bit meandering at times and it does jump back and forth in time thought it is generally in chronological order. I did discover some new artists to explore, if nothing else it gave me a new appreciation for early Fairport Convention. I jumped Spotify and listened to some of Boyd's Fairport productions and it really is amazing music, especially Liege and Lief. I would recommend this to someone who is I found this book on this list by Pitchfork. It was also recommended by a friend. I found it a bit meandering at times and it does jump back and forth in time thought it is generally in chronological order. I did discover some new artists to explore, if nothing else it gave me a new appreciation for early Fairport Convention. I jumped Spotify and listened to some of Boyd's Fairport productions and it really is amazing music, especially Liege and Lief. I would recommend this to someone who is already pretty well versed in blues, jazz and late 60s English pop music. If you go in cold you will find a lot of names he drops to be just names. My jazz knowledge is minimal so a few times here I was resorting to Wikipedia just to see who the hell he was talking about. But, it can also be challenging in a good way. Once you get into this book and appreciate Boyd's music knowledge you will find yourself on Youtube or Spotify discovering a lot of really good music with a better appreciation for where it came from.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Marc Horton

    Though his name doesn't summon much brand recognition, Joe Boyd was at the center of any number of zeitgeists in the 1960's and 1970's, and is undoubtedly a man of great artistic taste: from tracking down forgotten old bluesmen to play house parties as a teenager, to stage managing Muddy Waters and Bob Dylan at the Newport Jazz/Folk Festivals, to hosting Pink Floyd at his UFO Club in the heart of Swinging Psychedelic London and producing their brilliant early singles, to discovering, managing Though his name doesn't summon much brand recognition, Joe Boyd was at the center of any number of zeitgeists in the 1960's and 1970's, and is undoubtedly a man of great artistic taste: from tracking down forgotten old bluesmen to play house parties as a teenager, to stage managing Muddy Waters and Bob Dylan at the Newport Jazz/Folk Festivals, to hosting Pink Floyd at his UFO Club in the heart of Swinging Psychedelic London and producing their brilliant early singles, to discovering, managing and producing English folkies Nick Drake, Fairport Convention and the Incredible String Band. A great read for fans of said artists, and a wealth of anecdotal asides that are entertaining and informative without being overly sensational, and his insights into the process of listening to, obsessing over, and making music are revelatory. Although it's usually beside the point with these types of books, it's not badly written, either. Consider it the well-mannered, contemplative flipside to Andrew Loog Oldham's "Stoned."

  15. 4 out of 5

    Silvio111

    I thought it was an excellent piece of writing. Joe Boyd has an endearing way of relating anecdotes of which he was a part without really getting in the way of the story. His ego never gets the better of him. He seems to have absorbed that modest British affect. My biggest question throughout the book was "Why is it called WHITE BICYCLES?" Joe Boyd never addresses this question. (He actually does this quite a bit: he does not take many pains to explain who certain characters in his story are, I thought it was an excellent piece of writing. Joe Boyd has an endearing way of relating anecdotes of which he was a part without really getting in the way of the story. His ego never gets the better of him. He seems to have absorbed that modest British affect. My biggest question throughout the book was "Why is it called WHITE BICYCLES?" Joe Boyd never addresses this question. (He actually does this quite a bit: he does not take many pains to explain who certain characters in his story are, probably assuming we are all intelligent enough to look them up ourselves! My only point of reference for the term "white bicycle" is that (at least in my part of the country) when a bicyclist dies in a traffic accident, his or her friends erect a memorial on the spot with a white-painted bicycle upon which people pin flowers and whatever else they feel is appropriate. Since so many of Boyd's favorite people in the 60s and 70s died, whether of drugs, suicide, or other reasons, perhaps this book his "white bicycle" to them. I highly recommend this book.

  16. 4 out of 5

    David Michael

    This is perhaps the first time I have finished a book and immediately wanted to start reading it all over again out of shear joy! Joe Boyd has lived an incredible and envious life. After finishing Harvard, he was a tour manager for blues and jazz legends, including Muddy Waters. Then moved to London he started the UFO club which gave birth to Syd-era Pink Floyd and the Soft Machine. He later produced the first two Nick Drake albums and Vashti Bunyan's amazing 'Just Another Diamond Day.' not to This is perhaps the first time I have finished a book and immediately wanted to start reading it all over again out of shear joy! Joe Boyd has lived an incredible and envious life. After finishing Harvard, he was a tour manager for blues and jazz legends, including Muddy Waters. Then moved to London he started the UFO club which gave birth to Syd-era Pink Floyd and the Soft Machine. He later produced the first two Nick Drake albums and Vashti Bunyan's amazing 'Just Another Diamond Day.' not to mention Incredible String Band, Fairport Convention, etc. More importantly though, Boyd is a charming writer and the book moves quite quickly and joyfully. Several times I almost missed my stop on the subway. Despite his fantastic life, he is always in awe of the musicians and life he is leading. I can't wait to read Todd P's memoirs!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Denis Farley

    This memento of Joe Boyd struck me as one of the best of the genre. I'm about to start another book of that era dealing with the Greenwich folk scene, called Positively 4th Street. Maybe it was because Joe actually ran a production company, a label, and other businesses associated with a creative art while simultaneously contributing creatively that lends the gravitas. Beginning with his intense curiosity with roots music, his student days at Harvard amidst the folk boom, or as some of those This memento of Joe Boyd struck me as one of the best of the genre. I'm about to start another book of that era dealing with the Greenwich folk scene, called Positively 4th Street. Maybe it was because Joe actually ran a production company, a label, and other businesses associated with a creative art while simultaneously contributing creatively that lends the gravitas. Beginning with his intense curiosity with roots music, his student days at Harvard amidst the folk boom, or as some of those within that artist community like to say, "the folk scare," the detail of his recollections coupled with insights and speculations thereof . . . adds a three dimensional perspective to the events of that time.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Rob

    Richard Thompson sure had some doofy hair once. I wish this book were twice as long, maybe with some Syd and Nico dirt, maybe with photos of Linda Peters attempting to bang Nick Drake. Remarkable for its non-hysterical tone, its clear eye, its lack of score-settling, with the millionth retelling of the Newport-Dylan-electric scene possibly the first to mention details like the fact that Dylan already did an acoustic set the day before, or Mel Lyman following Dylan with a ten-minute harmonica Richard Thompson sure had some doofy hair once. I wish this book were twice as long, maybe with some Syd and Nico dirt, maybe with photos of Linda Peters attempting to bang Nick Drake. Remarkable for its non-hysterical tone, its clear eye, its lack of score-settling, with the millionth retelling of the Newport-Dylan-electric scene possibly the first to mention details like the fact that Dylan already did an acoustic set the day before, or Mel Lyman following Dylan with a ten-minute harmonica solo. I also like his arguments on behalf of "Poor Boy." Boyd comes off as a question-answerer rather than a lemme-tell-you-one-more blowhard, which makes all the difference between a hangman's beautiful daughter and a hangman. .

  19. 4 out of 5

    Abby

    A fantastic memoir of making music in the 1960s. Boyd is a well-regarded music producer who worked on both sides of the Atlantic, producing such timeless classics as Nick Drake's "Five Leaves Left" and Fairport Convention's "Liege and Lief." Boyd's wry humor and thoughtful observations on the social, personal and political currents that shaped popular music in the 1960s are a welcome change from the typical bombast that characterizes far too many rock n'roll memoirs. I loved this book so much I A fantastic memoir of making music in the 1960s. Boyd is a well-regarded music producer who worked on both sides of the Atlantic, producing such timeless classics as Nick Drake's "Five Leaves Left" and Fairport Convention's "Liege and Lief." Boyd's wry humor and thoughtful observations on the social, personal and political currents that shaped popular music in the 1960s are a welcome change from the typical bombast that characterizes far too many rock n'roll memoirs. I loved this book so much I even wrote a post about it for Seattle Public Library's awesome blog, Shelf Talk (including related suggestions for listening & viewing). Check it out if you haven't already: http://shelftalk.spl.org/2008/07/09/r...

  20. 5 out of 5

    Lenaya

    I wish this book came with a soundtrack! Joe Boyd wanted to be in the music business and at times he was a great business man. But for the most part, Joe was just passionate about music and that was his reward and his burden. Never really becoming a suit, he was one of the first producers to really let the artist be the artist in the studio. He recounts the mythology around the 1965 Newport Festival, being integral to the underground with the UFO club, 14 hour technicolour dreams, london free I wish this book came with a soundtrack! Joe Boyd wanted to be in the music business and at times he was a great business man. But for the most part, Joe was just passionate about music and that was his reward and his burden. Never really becoming a suit, he was one of the first producers to really let the artist be the artist in the studio. He recounts the mythology around the 1965 Newport Festival, being integral to the underground with the UFO club, 14 hour technicolour dreams, london free school, and even admitting to letting some not so obscure bands slip through his fingers. You can see why he was more of a colleague to the Incredible String Band, Nick Drake, and early Pink Floyd because his sense of humor and cogent recollections are what really carry this book.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

    The producer of Nick Drake and The Incredible String Band gives an overview of his involvement with music in the 60's. Includes an interesting perspective on Dylan, English Folk Revival, and the transition from hashish and analog to cocaine and digital and how it destroyed the music industry (?!?) Great stuff but there's tons of names to remember in this book. I recommend it if you are interested in Nick Drake, John Martyn, Incredible String Band, Fairport Convention, Pink Floyd, and the The producer of Nick Drake and The Incredible String Band gives an overview of his involvement with music in the 60's. Includes an interesting perspective on Dylan, English Folk Revival, and the transition from hashish and analog to cocaine and digital and how it destroyed the music industry (?!?) Great stuff but there's tons of names to remember in this book. I recommend it if you are interested in Nick Drake, John Martyn, Incredible String Band, Fairport Convention, Pink Floyd, and the Clockwork Orange soundtrack to name a few.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Nigeyb

    Joe Boyd was a music promoter, record producer and a man at the heart of the 60s underground. He was co-founder of the UFO Club, the focal point of British psychedelia, alongside John Hopkins before getting involved with the rapidly-growing British folk scene, taking charge of acts such as the Incredible String Band, Fairport Convention and Nick Drake. This book tells his story and you get no flowery stuff, Joe just relates his amazing life and was obviously a music fan from his youngest days. Joe Boyd was a music promoter, record producer and a man at the heart of the 60s underground. He was co-founder of the UFO Club, the focal point of British psychedelia, alongside John Hopkins before getting involved with the rapidly-growing British folk scene, taking charge of acts such as the Incredible String Band, Fairport Convention and Nick Drake. This book tells his story and you get no flowery stuff, Joe just relates his amazing life and was obviously a music fan from his youngest days. Wonderful stuff.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    A friend recommended this book knowing that I was compelled by the music of Nick Drake and especially Richard Thompson of Fairport Convention, whom Boyd produced in the late 1960's. Not knowing much about Joe Boyd, it was thrilling to find out that he was involved with a lot of terrific folk/rock artists and events in that most musical of decades. His anecdotes were amusing and he clearly has an ear not just for great music, but a great story. The best musical biography I've read since Joe A friend recommended this book knowing that I was compelled by the music of Nick Drake and especially Richard Thompson of Fairport Convention, whom Boyd produced in the late 1960's. Not knowing much about Joe Boyd, it was thrilling to find out that he was involved with a lot of terrific folk/rock artists and events in that most musical of decades. His anecdotes were amusing and he clearly has an ear not just for great music, but a great story. The best musical biography I've read since Joe Jackson's (also an excellent writer, highly recommended).

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ken Southerland

    This is a fantastic account of the rock explosion of the 1960's. Joe Boyd is an amazing story teller and he just sucks you in. Its only low point is that its a little name-droppy. I had temporarily given this 5 stars because i saw him read from it on his book tour and he blew me away. He is such a presence you literally hang on every word from his mouth. And he is clearly an amazingly cool and down-to-earth guy. Highly recommended.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Leith

    Best rock n' roll book to grace my shelves in a LONG time. The ubiquitous Joe Boyd -- behind the scenes guy at the early Newport Folk Festivals, discoverer of Nick Drake, early producer of Pink Floyd, club boss of London's Underground in the 60s, label chief and producer for a buttload of great Richard Thompson LPs -- is blessed with a good memory and great taste in music. For background on the British folk scene of the 60s, this book is essential.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Scott Cupp

    If you are a fan of 60's blues and psychedelia this is the book for you. Joe Boyd was there for much of it and helped create a lot of it as a manager and producer. He was the stage manager when Bob Dylan went electric at Newport, he booked the early Pink Floyd, he recorded fol rocker Nick Drake, he knew Hendrix, the Beatles, the Stones, and everyone else. Fascinating read and history. Apparently there is also a companion CD to go along with it but the book went just fine without it.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Roger

    Joe Boyd is an American music producer who ended up in London at just the right time to become an important player in the '60s British music scene. He produced several of my favorite albums, including those by Fairport Convention, Richard Thompson, and R.E.M. His insider descriptions of working with these artists and many others are fascinating. Any student of rock music will appreciate this memoir.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    Fantastic book, starts out covering the folk boom and rediscovery of blues artists (similar to early P. Guralnick works), travelling with jazz greats, early folk rock rumblings in the US, doing sound at Newport 65, then moving to the UK, dealing with the folk scene there, then the psychedelic explosion and late 60s folk rock legends. You won't get much if you're looking the beat boom or garage rock, but for everything else it's a fantastic read, full of insight.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    A memoir from the guy who produced Pink Floyd's first single, discovered Nick Drake and Fairport Convention, stage-managed the Newport Folk Festival where Dylan went electric, and basically functioned as a Zelig-like character for every significant moment of pop culture for years. Often fascinating but curiously distant and impersonal - it's as if Boyd burned out on answering Nick Drake questions long ago.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Elgy

    Sometimes you feel he can't possibly have been at ALL those sessions and met ALL those musicians, from the folkies to the blues survivors to the Incredible String Band and beyond ... but he did, and has a photographic memory too, apparently. Amazing read. This is the second time I've read it because I was sure I'd missed things the first time.

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