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White Bicycles: Making Music in the 1960s Paperback – 4 May 2006

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Serpent's Tail (4 May 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1852429100
  • ISBN-13: 978-1852429102
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 2 x 21.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 669,461 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


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 clichés... 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)

About the Author

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, REM and many others. He produced the documentary 'Jimi Hendrix' and the film 'Scandal'. In 1980 he started Hannibal Records and ran it for 20 years. Boyd lives in London where he writes for the Guardian and Independent. His next book is about World Music.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 28 people found the following review helpful By R. J. Heath on 7 Mar. 2007
Format: Paperback
I've long thought the statement, 'If you remember the 60's you couldn't been there', to be a nonsense.

As a weekend hippy who got high on very good music, cheap Canadian Clubs and ginger (and no stronger chemicals), I remember the times pretty well. This meant having the ability to slip into the action at weekends and then do a day job to pay for the records, the gigs..... and then through the drag of the working week, eventually slip into next weekend's action. It was improved most Wednesday evenings by making the trip to Tolworth's Toby Jug off the A3, to see the likes of Timebox (soon to become Patto, and with Ollie Hassell doing a Keith Moon destruction job on his vibraphone), Fleetwood Mac (a half crown for this, and 'Albatross' had just left the No. 1 singles spot), King Crimson (first UK tour - but this was a terrible venue for the band), Led Zeppelin (1st tour and the audience only warming to them in the second hour of playing), Edgar Broughton Band (audience only just in double figures, but still a great show), a classic line-up with Jeff Beck (Nicky Hopkins, Ron Wood, Tony Newman and Rod Stewart), or the Groundhogs backing John Lee Hooker. Then get rather disillusioned about the hippy ethos at the end of Traffic's Oz Benefit concert at Central Middlesex Poly one summer's evening, when I discovered I'd been sit on the floor (of that canteen, which Traffic welcome us to), immediately in front of Oz-man-in-chief Richard Neville. I stood up and accidently trod on his cloak; he mouthed f*** off' retrieving a portable cassette recorder concealed there, on which it seemed he was making a bootleg recording - of a band who were doing him a huge favour.

This is not the first book to describe this period of radical musical change and social "revolution".
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77 of 79 people found the following review helpful By S. Holland on 19 May 2006
Format: Paperback
I'd feared Joe Boyd's White Bicycles would be lightweight--not sure why, except that so many books are, nowadays--and thought I might only be interested in the section about the Witchseason artists and their time period (a favorite of mine). To my delight, Boyd's accounts of earlier adventures in the States and the UK, and of the many musicians he worked with then, are just as fascinating. He writes well, and his knack for remembering and expressing detail makes all the people he encountered seem very real, and gives depth to the book.

As reviewers elsewhere have pointed out, this isn't an autobiography of Boyd himself, but a memoir of his role in a specific timeline. There isn't much reference to his childhood, or to personal relationships; those aren't what Boyd is concerned with. For instance, of all the photos of musicians and moguls in the book, only two snapshots include him. You might expect him to be egotistical, considering the influential career he's had, but he really doesn't sound that way. While he does come across as quite confident--and if he hadn't been, he wouldn't have been able to work with so many people in so many different situations--he doesn't cast himself as the central figure. He portrays himself simply as one of the players in an amazing part of musical history, and gives the impression of trying to be fair as he looks back on everything. A few times I found myself reading between the lines, as he talked about a person or situation with which I was already familiar, and I suspected he was being careful not to say what he really thought. But this was obviously in deference to the feelings of others, not from a desire to lie or be secretive.

Throughout the book, you're impressed by the fact that no one else has had quite Boyd's point of view.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By J. R. P. Wigman on 6 Dec. 2006
Format: Paperback
Written by a man who has produced so many classic albums and who has encouraged and brought to the limelight many artists I love, I simply had to get this book. And it certainly delivers. Many, many interesting facts, dates, anecdotes about as many artists are crammed into the pages, so it makes for avid reading, especially if you're a music fan interested in the music in the past century (for we can not only read about obvious artists and groups like Fairport Convention and the Incredible String Band, but about jazz artists like Duke Ellington and Sonny Rollins as well).

The downside of this book for me is the fact that it stays on the surface too much. Both the artists as indeed the writer himself stay a bit distant, so that I didn't feel as involved as I wanted to. It might well be that Joe Boyd just wants to keep it factual and concise, but I think that he could have written a better book had he chosen to go a little deeper into (some of) the artists whose records he has produced.

Nevertheless, this is a fine book and you'll love all he has to write. Like I said, for me not buying and reading it immediately was not an option.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Nixon McVicar on 1 Oct. 2007
Format: Paperback
I had, since reading Fred Goodman's extraordinary "Mansion on the Hill" in 2004, wondered if an equally well written counterpart would appear which would map the development of music of the sixties and early seventies in the UK rather than the US... reading Boyd's memoir I was delighted and moved to find such an erudite and bewilderingly knowledgable book. It is razor sharp in analysis of the constantly evolving nexus between the artists, producers, management and audience, which easily equals Goodman's tome, subtitled "Dylan, Young, Geffen, Springsteen, and the Head-on Collision of Rock and Commerce". It is also heartbreakingly on the money when it comes to the industrialisation of the (counter)culture which proceded almost as soon as artists could establish themselves outside the confines of Tin Pan Alley. A brief period in the development of music which can be readily seen as a golden era, accounted for with great humility and wit. A must buy for any serious music fan.
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