Since September 2010, this blog has recorded the journey of this middle-aged man as I attempt to listen to all the music in my CD collection. CDs revisited in their entirety from start to finish - no skipping tracks, no shuffle. CDs only - no vinyl, no tapes, no downloads. And just as CD technology (and the album format itself) becomes obsolete. I'm no music critic, just a music junkie with too much time on my hands.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Thomas Dolby - The Golden Age of Wireless (1982)

Note: this release was originally purchased as an LP, later replaced by a CD, later replaced by the 2009 Collector's Edition which includes 10 bonus tracks and a DVD.

A fantastic album - way ahead of its time.  Musician magazine supposedly called the album "the best damned synth-pop record ever, period," although I can't confirm that was ever written anywhere. [Update 4/10/2016: the actual quote, attributed to "Freff" a.k.a. Connor Cochran, appears below]

Musician, December 1982, p. 90

Even rock-oriented Rolling Stone magazine called the album "one of the most impressive debuts" of the year. Even so, the album didn't even make that magazine's list of the top 100 albums of the decade. (C'mon, guys, there's a PiL album on that list ferchrissakes).  This album was released many times in the early '80s with varying tracks, sequencing, and album artwork.  I don't feel like recapping that for you, but if you're interested, there's always wikipedia.  What sets Dolby apart from other early synthpop pioneers is his musicianship.  He's a better keyboard player than most and seems to have quickly developed a working knowledge of harmony and theory. And Dolby's pop songwriting skills aren't to be overlooked, either. The 2009 remastering was overseen by Dolby himself and the package includes good liner notes in which Dolby gives us an interesting song-by-song breakdown.

She Blinded Me With Science update: the ubiquitous, catchy single appears on both the CD and DVD here, which are the eighth and ninth times that particular song has appeared on this blog.  It's also on Retrospectacle, Ultimate New Wave Party 1998, Just Can't Get Enough: New Wave Hits of the '80s, Vol. 8, 12 x 12 Original Remixes, 80's Hits Stripped, and twice on The Sole Inhabitant.  And I don't think we're done yet.

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #13
Peak on Billboard's R&B albums chart: #45
Peak on Cash Box album chart: #13

Tracks/bonus tracks:  It's going to be hard to pick favorites here, but here goes - Flying North, Europa And The Pirate Twins, Airwaves, Radio Silence (both versions), and Urges.  I know I'm in the minority of Dolby fans when I say this, but never liked One Of Our Submarines.  That's a shame because, on my LP, that song was the next to last track, so I would just pick up the needle at that point. This meant I always missed the final track, Cloudburst At Shingle Street, which is a good cut I would have enjoyed if I'd had any patience.  For the most part, the demos included are interesting, but not really worth multiple listenings.

DVD:  This was originally released on VHS in 1983 with the title "Live Wireless," recorded at the Riverside Theatre Studios, London.

It's a good concert video, but it's still just a concert video.  There's also a weak attempt at an overarching narrative that features Dolby himself as a projectionist at the theatre where the concert is taking place.  Those scenes are shot in artsy black-and-white, natch.  Dolby is backed by a 3-piece band and some prerecorded tracks. Lene Lovich makes an appearance to sing New Toy.  Fortunately, there's not a lot of chatter between songs.  I remember renting the VHS copy of "Live Wireless" at Galaxy Video Rental on Avenue F when I was in high school.  This began a love-hate relationship with long form concert videos that continues to this day.  I'm glad I've got the opportunity to see this again, but I'm unsure if I'll ever watch it again.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD:  For a good 18 months after its release, this album was played often not only at home, but also in the Markmobile. I was Dolby fan from the get-go, but that enthusiasm only lasted until his follow-up, 1984's The Flat Earth, which only had two good songs (Hyperactive and The White City) so it has never been replaced with a CD.  He would then go on to score the forgettable movies Howard The Duck and Toys before coming back strong with Aliens Ate My Buick.

Of course, the sound clip of Magnus Pike saying "SCIENCE!" throughout She Blinded Me With Science is imitated fairly frequently around our house.  Example:
Me: Do you have any tests tomorrow?
Son:  Yeah, in science.
Me (with index finger thrust skyward): SCIENCE!
Finally, my friend Scott and I each purchased copies of the LP when we were in high school.  However, they were different releases with different songs.  Most notably, we each owned a different version of the song Radio Silence (he had the "guitar version," I didn't), so we would needlessly argue about which was the better version.  I actually prefer the guitar version, mainly because of the spoken lyric about 3 minutes in: "Trytothinkofnothing. Trytothinkofnothing. Trytothinkofnothing..."

Previously revisited for the blog:
The Sole Inhabitant (2008)
12 x 12 Original Remixes (1999)
Retrospectacle: The Best Of (1994)
Aliens Ate My Buick (1988)

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