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Customer reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
White Bicycles: Making Music in the 1960s
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on 4 March 2017
What a great book, especially if you lived through the sixties and recall the headlines of the time. This gives you true insight into those great days, and the lowdown of some of the music and musicians whose music has stood the test of time.
Joe Boyd was in the right place at the right time, and manages to capture some wonderful moments, with a good turn of phrase.
He recorded the first Pink Floyd single, before losing the band to some smart operators, was with Dylan at Newport, opened UFO with Hoppy Hopkins, and did his best to promote Nick Drake, which was no easy task, as you discover in this book, why he was so hard to promote !
I would love to meet Joe, but as it's most unlikely, this must be the next best thing.
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on 30 January 2017
If you are interested in Dylan Goes Electric, the rise of British Folk-Rock, Nick Drake, and many other aspects of popular music in the last 50 years - this man was there! And he writes very well.
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on 2 June 2017
very quick delivery, well packaged & as described. excellent service, thank you - highly recommended.
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on 26 May 2017
Great book, good price and speedy delivery.
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on 19 May 2006
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. His descriptions of road trips make the blues musicians involved nearly jump off the page; the same goes for his inside accounts of the Newport Jazz and Folk Festivals. And I got a clearer idea of the UFO club than I've ever gleaned from anything else written about it.

Boyd leaves out some things; I was surprised and disappointed that he doesn't once mention Anthea Joseph, who was a close co-worker during the Witchseason years. But he gives wonderfully affectionate pictures of Nick Drake, Sandy Denny, engineer John Wood, and many others. He talks about the recording techniques used decades ago, in terms even I could understand. Only a few times does he get the least bit preachy; unlike some other memoirs written by people fondly remembering the 60's, Boyd sticks pretty much to facts, and to his impressions at the time instead of later ruminations.

White Bicycles is an evocative book, great for a straight-through read, and then for dipping into again and again for reference and enjoyment. Highly recommended!
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on 6 December 2006
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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on 1 October 2007
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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on 3 December 2014
Brilliant! Knew nothing of Joe Boyd prior to the book, other than he produced both Syd Barrett and Nick Drake! He is a far better writer than you would expect given that he has been an incredibly busy man. He is an Anglophile who understands the British nuances, and indeed his comparisons of American and British (musical) culture are revealing. Essential reading if you have any interest in history of the 60's/70's music scene.

Joe Boyd's style is very concise and informative, there is a huge amount of information in the book and he doesn't dwell on any of it really, e.g. he goes to Sweden and meets with a music publisher, they agree that they will swap clients for their respective territories, in Sweden the publisher will get the songs of Fairport Convention and in Europe and America Joe Boyd will get the songs from a folk singing duo Benny and Bjorn, he gets the contract sorted but is too busy and doesn't get round to signing it! Recounting this maybe takes a page or so and then it's on to the next interesting story.
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on 7 March 2007
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". Several books have been written by some of the protagonists of the London hippy scene of the mid/late 60's - e.g. Richard Neville (him again) now wealthy back in Oz, Mick Farren describing The Social Deviants (and Pink Fairies) and International Times, 'Lost In the Woods' a biography of Syd Barrett and the rise of Pink Floyd, 'Out-Bloody-Rageous' the Soft Machine biography. Now here Anglo-American record producer Joe Boyd, has come up with a most readable gem of an autobiography, concentrating largely on the period 1964 to 1971. The book's title 'White Bicycles'refers to the white bicycles frequently seen then in the Netherlands, (which were for anybody to use - echoing the intended freedom to 'share each other's goods, plough each other's earth', and the related hippy ethos), and of course the hit by one of the first bands he managed, Tomorrow.

Boyd relates how he fell into the music business, discovering a long forgotten blues singer was happy to do a gig at a Harvard Uni student hall for 25 dollars as long as he got a ride to the show. Boyd had a whip round taking a dollar each from everybody who attended, and so was able to give the musician a 75 dollars bonus. Then the summer jobs working for record labels. Or acting as goffer at the Newport Jazz & Folk Festival in 1965, when he claims rock came about i.e. when Dylan brought his electric folk band on stage with Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper in that line-up, so shocking the folk purists, such as Pete Seeger, that they walked out of the Festival. Then road managing elderly blues singers around Europe. The love affair with the UK after Boyd talked himself into a scouting job for talent with Elektra Records, for example claiming how close he was to grabbing Floyd for the label. Seaprately discovering Sandy Denny and Fairport Convention, and then getting Denny into the band. Being stunned by Nick Drake's demos and then being more stunned that nobody bought Nick Drake's records when first released - although when John Cale asked Boyd who was new, on hearing a work-in-progress tapes for '5 Leaves Left', Cale went straight round to Drake's digs, sorted out a couple of tunes, then they recorded these together the following Monday. And then the rise and fall of the Incredible String Band.

What works here for me is Boyd's style of writing, with its constant shift of time and location between neighbouring chapters. This provides a powerful echo for me of the 60's: strong memories but not necessarily in true chronological order and so much there that it wasn't possible to concentrate on all at the same time. One page you are in Boston mid 60's, the next negiotating with Island Records' Chris Blackwell, selling the rights to the recording licenses of Witch Season signings in 1970. The casual decision to start UFO in London's Tottenham Court Road, the bands that appeared there, the drugs sold too which Boyd turned a blind eye until the Met forced the club's closure.

A good book which I strongly recommend to all to give some insight into the original London underground scene, which in part lead to progressive music/rock and the somewhat amateur wheeler dealing associated with it. Also an excellent companion to the 'Forever Changing: Golden Age Of Elektra Records, 1963-73' CD box set.
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on 10 March 2008
I found the first few chapters a bit of a grind, but once you get past Joe Boyds early years to when he takes his first tentative steps in the music business, the book becomes an informative and entertaning read. Joe Boyd is remembered mostly as the guy behind the Witchseason label, and his production and management links with a variety of performers most notably Nick Drake, Sandy Denny and Fairport Convention. He was the person who launched the famous UFO club in London and organised a number of festivals. Yet, he missed a the chance of working with some bigger names - although he did produce Arnold Layne for Pink Floyd. Certainly an insight into how the behind the scenes cogs and wheels turn in the music industry and how being in the right place at the right time, let alone having the right connections counts for everything
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