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White Bicycles: Making Music in the 1960s Paperback – April 1, 2007
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover," illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Learn more
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As a memoir of the enchanted Sixties, White Bicycles is among the elite. It isn't just that Boyd was among the era's movers and shakers, he has a rare recall of events ('I never got too stoned,' he confesses) and a fluid, engaging style. The book bristles with evocative anecdotes... Exhilarating * Observer Music Monthly * This engaging and readable book is an important addition to the history of its time...terrific...pleasantly gossipy -- Hanif Kureishi * New Statesman * Boyd writes in a dry, assured style about remarkable times, and he achieves the goal of any music book: to make the reader want to check out the music he writes about -- Will Hodgkinson * Guardian Guide * One of the most lucid and insightful music autobiographies I've read -- Michel Faber * Guardian * Reading Boyd's cracking account of the Sixties, you wonder if his life since hasn't been one long disappointment... It's a colourful story, beautifully told...You are left relieved that such a central figure wrote this exceptional memoir -- Mark Ellen * Observer * A vivid eye-witness account...pulses with the mad enthusiasms of its period and its author -- Robert Sandall * Sunday Times * An unashamed celebration of Boyd's pivotal role in the Sixties * The Times * Boyd is one of that select group of rock luminaries, like John Peel, or the American producer Rick Rubin, who didn't have to pick up a guitar to shape the evolution of entire genres of music.And this book is the perfect literary echo of a lifetime's subtle facilitation... Boyd's pages abound with astute observations and fascinating personal detail...a transport of delight * Independent on Sunday * [A] riveting memoir * Time Out * A wise, thoughtful and engrossing account, White Bicycles is one of the best 1960's essays of recent years * Scotsman * A rock memoir that shuns the usual 60s cliches... while providing insightful character studies of Brit-folk's future stars... refreshing and cleverly observed * Uncut * Compulsive quirky detail, rare sanity and razor sharp recall... puts it in the same bracket as Simon Napier Bell's Black Vinyl White Powder or Julian Cope's Head On.A delight * The List * Among the musical anecdotes are thoughtful observations on the era... Boyd remains a true believer, for whom it was a joy to have been alive in that permissive dawn.At 40 years' distance, his prose still conveys the hues of the sunrise with startling vividness -- Nigel Williamson * The Times * If there's such a thing as living a perfectly timed life, then Joe Boyd has managed it... impossible to put down * Q Magazine * Packed full of funny, telling anecdotes and wry, insightful observation, it takes us on a fantastic musical adventure * fRoots * What a wonderful book! I was so engrossed I missed my train station. A gripping piece of social history and the best book about music I've read in years * Brian Eno * Boyd's account far exceeds the breadth of most rose-tinted ruminations...detailed and lucid... A wise, thoughtful and engrossing account, White Bicycles is one of the best 1960s essays of recent years * Scotsman * [A] bittersweet and thoroughly entertaining memoir... There's a story behind those insights, and Boyd tells it with the kind of tender precision that raises White Bicycles far above the ordinary rock bio and into the realm of valuable cultural commentary * Boston Globe * Most music industry memoirs that aspire to "Zelig" like levels of synchronicity read like "Forrest Gump," with narrators witnessing or facilitating one crucial moment after the next, until the whole enterprise makes your teeth ache like a box of chocolates.The simple brilliance of "White Bicycles" is that its author never overstates his own importance or exaggerates his failings, and still ends up telling an irresistible tale * New York Times Book Review * Boyd's wit and candor are rare enough, but what truly makes his writing stand out are his insights into an era when rock'n'roll still seemed exciting and strange: in a single phrase he can pin down the difference between destitute British folk musicians and their American counterparts * New York Times Book Review *
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This book is excellent, insightful, beautifully written, touching at times, evocative and just all around GREAT. Here's why (i don't believe in prosaic reviews where the reviewer tries to impress you with their alleged writing ability)
1. It's very well written. Boyd is a writer, able to collect and focus his thoughts, express them clearly, add enough detail to make it interesting but not so much that it's boring or tangential
2. You could, if you wanted, read any chapter by itself. They all work as stand alone chapters/essays on a particular artist or topic (Dylan at Newport, Nick Drake, The Incredible String Band, etc).
3.This guy was everywhere and did or saw or participated in so much stuff it's just amazing - touring england with black american bluesmen, stage manager at Newport the year Dylan 'went electric', recalling the early days of Elektra, Island and other labels, starting London's premier underground club (the UFO) where Pink Floyd, Soft Machine and many others got their start, discovering the incredible string band, nick drake, fairport convention and others. the list goes on and on and on.
4. As mentioned, unlike people who speculate about the 60s, Boyd was THERE, literally making history or observing it being made
5. he has a keen eye for social and cultural observation and not only tells you what went on but provides interesting points of view about how it effected music, recording, culture, etc.
So skip the crappy tell all books and start here. No excuse to NOT read this if you fancy yourself a 60s music fan
The story of the sixties is also the story of how music broke free from the bonds of Tin Pan Alley, transcending the purely entertainment media for the masses into a sociology and histiography all of it's own. The music of the sixties yearned for earlier years and lifetimes when music reflected harshness, and suffering, of lost love and other emotions, traditions of bygones and also music passed down through generations and from different cultures. At the same time the music of the past transformed the present. What would the Grateful Dead have been like if the mainstays of the band had not searched into the past and brought it into the light of day? Where would we be without the music and development of Bob Dyland.
Boyd can be credited with discovering the hidden talents of British artists who came to be known and loved in Britain and the world over. having been fortunate enough to see Fairport Convention (in many incarnations) John Martyn, the Incredible String band, Robin Williamson and others besides, it is interesting to see another facet of these people who happen to perform for their livliehood. The stories that filled the pages of the New Musical Express, Melody Maker and others besides take on a different perspective in the light of Boyd's expose.
Yet, to be fair, the author details some of their exploits but he does not assassinate their characters. Clearly these were people who he loved and lost yet who carved niches in his heart. This is not a work of triumphalism but a sad refrain reflecting many of the songs the artists wrote and performed. I could hardly put this book down but it has a degree of authenticity unmatched by many of the ghosted accounts of others. It reminds me a lot of Geoff Doherty's book, A Promoters Tale: Rock at the Sharp Endin that regard.
Whether Brian Eno's resounding endorsement of the book is accurate or not is debateable, but for myself, I must admit, it has resonated deeply within me and I unreservedly recommend it to anyone interested in the music of the time.
Just about everything that has happened since then has subtracted from that feeling.
Thanks Joe for writing about those times and how we got from there to here.
I agree with the reviewer who rates this as one of the top books out there about the Sixties.
You really had to be there.