If you’re at all interested in the music of the 1960s, and the sounds coming out of Great Britain in particular, then you may be familiar with the name Joe Boyd. This American-born record producer played a hand in supporting, and some might even say shaping, the revolutionary sounds that came from across the pond during the ’60s and ’70s. He started out producing blues artists in the states during his time at Harvard and eventually found his way to England, where such acts were starting to influence the sound of British music. And he jumped head-first into the music scene. Although he worked with incredible blues and jazz acts like Muddy Waters and Coleman Hawkins early in his career, he may be best known for his involvement with movements like folk rock and psychedelic sounds, not to mention bands like Pink Floyd and ISB and artists like Nick Drake. And he would later go on to collaborate with film directors like Stanley Kubrick and even start his own production company, Hannibal Records. If that sounds pretty incredible to you, then perhaps you’ll want to pick up his recently released memoir, ‘White Bicycles: Making Music in the 1960s’.
We should probably start by noting that there are two small issues listeners may notice as they follow this tale through that highways and byways of the swinging ’60 music scene in London. First, Boyd doesn’t spend much time in the studio in his memoir. However, when you consider that a lot of what was happening in music at the time revolved around live performances, clubs, and festivals you’ll agree that the venues he chooses to revisit are both compelling and appropriate. And the glimpses he does offer into the recording studio are richly detailed, as is the entire memoir.
The second problem, for some listeners, is that at some points the narrative starts to feel more like a travelogue than a deeply personal journey. Perhaps Boyd is trying to maintain a sort of professional distance or maybe it has something to do with the wealth of names, dates, locations, and details he crams in, but the truth is that music lovers shouldn’t miss the personal touch thanks to rapid pacing, interesting content, and the life of a fascinating fixture on the ’60s British music scene.
Peripheral fans of this revolutionary era in rock will no doubt enjoy sections concerning widely popular bands and artists like Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan, and Eric Clapton. But those who have a soft spot in their hearts for less noted musicians of the era will appreciate the focus on underrated artists like Nick Drake, whose contributions were only fully realized after his death by overdose at the age of 26. While ‘White Bicycles’ follows the course of Boyd’s career, it also offers a journey through a turbulent time when music became the voice of a generation crying out for change. If you’re more interested in the musical stylings of Justin Bieber or One Direction, this may not be the audio book for you. But if the folk and psychedelic rock of the ’60s are more your speed, you should definitely pick up Joe Boyd’s memoir and transport yourself to a time when music was changing the world.