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Home arrow Reviews arrow Books arrow "White Bicycles: Making Music in the 1960s" - Joe Boyd
"White Bicycles: Making Music in the 1960s" - Joe Boyd Print E-mail
Written by Matt   
Thursday, 18 January 2007

Published by Serpent's Tail, 2006

white bicyclesWhilst there are bookshelves groaning with countless pages, talking about music, it is rare that someone so intimately involved with so many key bands and events gives their view. Joe Boyd, in his "White Bicycles: Making Music in the 1960s" has done just that, in an absorbing, thought-provoking, and entertaining look at his wide-ranging career.

Pink Floyd fans will know him best for being producer of the band just after they turned professional. He, along with John "Hoppy" Hopkins also co-founded the legendary UFO club in its initial home of the Blarney Club, run by the unflappable Irishman Joe Gannon. However, readers of "White Bicycles" will see that this is just a small aspect of Boyd's life in music.

In 1964, Boyd got his first proper job in music, bringing Muddy Waters to Britain. One year later he was stage manager at Newport when Bob Dylan went electric, and his first session as producer was Eric Clapton's original version of Crossroads.

However, some of the most interesting passages pre-date even these events. The start of the book concentrates on his very early days, obsessed with blues and jazz, putting together shows for his favourite musicians - many of which were amazed at the interest in them, and very happy for the work (and money) that these concerts brought them.

The general shift in music and culture in the mid 1960s resulted in the "rise" of the underground, and Boyd was heavily involved.

Meeting Hoppy in 1964, the seeds were clearly sown. The London Free School was set up, and it wasn't long before Pink Floyd were regulars there. Boyd brings the whole period to vivid life, giving intimate detail of the places, the people, and the bands, and even gives a huge amount of insight as to how Pink Floyd eventually were signed by EMI.

He illustrates well the rollercoaster ride of the Floyd in 1967, with Syd's rapid decline self-evident. In the midst of this there is fascinating detail of UFO, and some great comments from Gannon, who's relaxed attitude helped make the venue a success with the 'freaks' (Boyd: "We preferred the term to 'hippies'").

joe boyd 2006As the musical landscape changed, so did Boyd's focus. He played a pivotal role in the rise of folk rock in England, championing the causes of the likes of the Incredible String Band, Fairport Convention, and Sandy Denny in particular, and the rise and fall of these performers is covered in detail.

He also discovered, produced and managed Nick Drake's short and troubled career, and Boyd's sadness at how events unfolded is clear to read.

Indeed, the whole book is infused with a deep feeling of regret for the loss of the ideals and creativity of the 1960s, with big business taking over, with the drug-induced deaths of key players, and a general shift in attitudes. Also the change in recording studios, equipment and techniques is highlit as changing the face and "sound" of recorded music, for the worse.

Joe Boyd is to be applauded for writing such a vibrant book, full of incredibly sharp memories - debunking the 60s myth: "I was there, and I do remember." An intelligent book which keeps you riveted to the page, and historically important as a means to understanding how and why music changed over the years.

This book, a true essential for the Floydian bookshelves, can be ordered with a discount through the following special links: Amazon US/International, Canada, UK/Europe, France, or Germany.

There is also a companion album, containing 23 tracks from the various acts that Boyd has produced, including Pink Floyd's Arnold Layne. It can be ordered through the following: Amazon US/International, Canada, UK/Europe, France, or Germany.

Any item bought through these links at Amazon (not just Floyd items) helps with the running costs of the site, and we really appreciate it.

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