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The Speed of Sound: Breaking the Barriers Between Music and Technology
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The Speed of Sound: Breaking the Barriers Between Music and Technology

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  332 ratings  ·  61 reviews
The remarkable story of rising to the top of the music charts, a second act as a tech pioneer, and the sustaining power of creativity and art.

Thomas Dolby's hit songs "She Blinded Me with Science" and "Hyperactive!" catapulted him to international fame in the early '80s. A pioneer of New Wave and Electronica, Thomas combined a love for invention with a passion for music, a
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Published December 27th 2016 by Audible Studios on Brilliance Audio
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Dec 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoirs, music, technology
This is such a fun book! The truth is, I had never even heard of Thomas Dolby before I picked up this book. In fact, I had mistaken him for electrical engineer Ray Dolby, who developed the noise suppression system. (As a matter of fact, this becomes an interesting development in their lives, when Ray Dolby sued Thomas Dolby to change his name!)

Thomas Dolby has had several interesting careers in music and technology. First, he was a keyboard player, specializing in playing synthesizers. He compos
Dec 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I heard Thomas Dolby interviewed about The Speed of Sound: Breaking the Barriers Between Music and Technology: A Memoir on an episode of the Word podcast and was intrigued.

It's a splendid read. As far as I knew Thomas Dolby was a short-lived synth-orientated 80s pop star who had disappeared without trace after a few hits. It turns out he has a very interesting story to relate. His early years of struggle are fascinating, his pop career has some great stories attached to it, however it is his lat
Alaina Sloo
Nov 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book, especially the audiobook narrated by Dolby himself. Speed of Sound is one of those wonderful biographies that simultaneously tells one man's story and along the way builds a palpable picture for readers of day-to-day life in a historical period: in this case in the music business and the Silicon Valley of the 1980s thru the early 2000s. Absolutely worth a read, whether you're a Thomas Dolby fan or you're just interested in the history of music and technology. I recommend the a ...more
Rob Adey
Mar 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Got to love a rock memoir where a typical story has the star stop his drug-filled tour bus at a payphone to try and send Michael Jackson some demos using an acoustically coupled modem. And a memoir partly based on notes written in the secret word processor of a Fairlight synth.
Mar 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not much of a biography or autobiography reader, but I've been a fan of Mr. Dolby's since buying THE GOLDEN AGE OF WIRELESS as a young man so when I saw that this book existed I knew I was going to have to give it a read.

Who would be interested in this book? Well, obviously, fans of Thomas Dolby of course, and I'd also add to that fans of 80's British synthpop in general. Those with an interest in the backdoor machinations of the music industry as well. Those with an interest in the early ye
Nov 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I surprised myself with how quickly I tore through this and how much I enjoyed it. In his autobiography, Thomas Dolby recounts his rise as an unlikely 80's pop star and his later work an a technical audio pioneer in Silicon Valley. The book is divided into halves that cover these two different life directions. For me the most interesting part was reading about some of the details behind songs I love, such as hearing how Dolby worked with Eddie Van Halen to record a guitar solo for his song East ...more
Avolyn Fisher
Oct 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
Thomas Dolby was a bit before my time, given that I was born in 1990 and he had moved over to silicon valley by the time I reached memorable childhood age. I've been a fan of music my entire life, and vividly remember the early days of music file sharing and listening to songs before my time. I also remember the days after MTV and VH1 and abandoned playing music videos but there were upper cable channels like VH1 Classic that played videos nonstop. To this day, Talking Heads - Once in a Lifetime ...more
Aug 08, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first half of this book is a ton of fun for anyone growing up in the 70s and 80s, as Dolby tells one funny and insightful story after another about the music industry, synth pop, his expertise, and especially, favorite stars (Bowie, Duran Duran, George Clinton, Foreigner, Joni Mitchell). The second half is more of a wired magazine-like piece about his role in the development of ringtones, and it isn't especially fun, but interesting to get his sense of tech personalities (Andressen, Jim Clar ...more
Aug 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really enjoyed Dolby's memoir. I had no idea how he had become a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and ended up with such a huge place in the market he eventually found -- recommended reading for those with music/software/hardware interests for sure.
Sep 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Anyone who knows my choices in books, knows that I rarely read non-fiction or memoirs. This book was a gift from my friend Tami for my birthday (Thank you!). I could not put this down, in fact read it in two days. What a journey Thomas Dolby had through the music industry and Silicon Valley. This is a story of resilience, failure, success and happiness. I thoroughly enjoyed the references to the bands from the 80s, the chance meetings with Michael Jackson and the interactions with tech titans.
Nov 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book! Thomas Dolby has always been a favorite of mine, through his first album and "Blinded me with Science" to his later more introspective songs like "The Flat Earth" and "I Love you Goodbye". It was great to listen to his origins, his successes and failures, the ups and downs of the Internet bubble as well as insight into his personal life with his family and friends. We learn about his many friends in the industry, playing with David Bowie and George Clinton among others. Listen ...more
Jan 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There's a lot more to Thomas Dolby than his synth-pop hit "She Blinded Me With Science". This fascinating autobiography is a great look behind the scenes of the music industry, Silicon Valley, and ultimately the drive of a creative person to make art and the danger of not doing so. I've been a fan of Thomas Dolby since hearing "Science" more than 30 years ago, but never more so than after reading this book.
Mario Cardoso
Jan 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you like music, technology, synthesizers and anything in between this one is a must-read. Thomas go in deep details on how he recorded his albums, got his deals with recording companies and opened his startup in the Silicon Valley.
Andy Taylor
A introspective and detailed memoir made even more intimate by Thomas Dolby's narration. This book takes the reader through Dolby's early beginnings as a London teen in the late 70s enthralled by the underground music scene, through his rise in the early 80s as a musical innovator and pop star, and into the 90s and early 2000s as he becomes involved in the Dotcom boom trying to bring music and sound to the internet and mobile devices. Dolby weaves honest introspection and entertaining anecdotes ...more
Wayne McCoy
May 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
'The Speed of Sound: Breaking the Barriers Between Music and Technology' by Thomas Dolby was a well written autobiography.

The book is broken into two parts. In the first part, Thomas Dolby recounts his music career. From the early days of scrounging and building electronic keyboards, to stints in backup bands. He discusses his hits and misses, and the lessons learned along the way from the music industry.

In the second part, Mr. Dolby turns his back on the music industry and ends up in the world
Feb 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Full disclosure - I've loved Thomas Dolby's music since the eighties (I had "Dissidents" running through my head the entire time I was reading this. That said, I really enjoyed this book - it's written in a very light way, in a voice that sounds about what you would expect if he were telling you these stories over a meal and some drinks.

The book is split into two halves - his music industry says and his in Silicon Valley as a tech entrepreneur. I enjoyed both, but found the tech portion more gr
Rod Butler
May 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating look at the life of Thomas Dolby detailing his early struggles and eventual success in the music business, and finally his despondency with the corruption within the business itself. The progress through his 'electronic time' designing sound for computers and telephones was a milestone in his life and the effects of his work are felt daily by all of us who use a phone or computer. However, It seems as though he never found true happiness until he settled down with his family to mak ...more
Jun 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018, non-fiction
Another pick on a whim, my only knowledge of Thomas Dolby was his wacky hits She Blinded Me With Science and Hyperactive!
But this book is way more than a romp through his hits, it’s a fascinating story of the record industry, hi tech start ups and mobile phone developments.
I didn’t know what to expect from the book, but it’s written with warmth, humour and self deprecation.
I learned a lot from it, and I ended up rationing myself, not wanting to tear through it abruptly.
There are so many interest
Duffy Laudick
Aug 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thomas Dolby has always been know for that guy who sung about being blinded by science, but he is so much more. He did not fade away, he just changed careers and you won't believe the things he accomplished as a creator of a high-tech company in Silicon Valley in the 90's and who has always kept abreast of the latest technologies, especially when it came to audio. I have even more respect for this man, not only as a musician, but as an inventor and entrepreneur.

If you are looking for stories of
Dec 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
you seldom encounter people who excel as a sportsman, who are emotional in balance and at the same time are whit as a whip. Thomas Dolby i believe scores 2 out of 3. Learning, by trying and falling or running into a wall, he describes how the choices he makes or had to make are almost forced upon him, if he wanted to stay true to his way of life. I think that most of his readers can only dream of living such a life @ maybe a third of the speed of life of thomas dolby. But then again, such is the ...more
Apr 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What an excellent book! It's not just another music biography as that part of Dolby's life is mostly about the horrors of the music industry (along with many funny stories starring Michael Jackson, Magnus Pike and many others). The latter half of the book focuses on the mid-90s technology start-up craze and what happens in that business, similar in parts to the music era all over again. Then we deal with the idea that the people of that new thing called the internet will not be interested in pay ...more
Neal Alexander
Apr 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Memoir of a musician, producer and Silicon Valley techie. Self-deprecating - although reading between the lines he’s a very determined guy - and humorous without being mean-spirited. On visiting Michael Jackson’s house, Jackson says “Let’s sit”, which for Dolby means an ottoman, while Jackson climbs up onto an oversize jewelled throne. But he’s also impressed by Jackson’s work ethic and advice he got from him. It was a surprise to read that he produced Prefab Sprout records, including Steve McQu ...more
Mark Wasiel
Jun 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting book with a lot of interesting stories about Music Industry (1st half) and tech boom in the second. As a long time fan though, I can't say I wasn't just slightly disappointed that it didn't go more into the details of his Producing sessions with Prefap Sprout and it skipped a few other artists that he worked with. And how did he and Trevor Horn become friends? Probably doing this would have made the book too long for the regular reader but as a fan, I would have like to known mo ...more
Richard Kenny
Aug 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A book of two halves. Both of which are fascinating. In the first half he is Dolby the pop star full of top notch anecdotes featuring Bowie and Michael Jackson. In the second half he is Dolby the tech entrepreneur with tales of the early days of Silicon Valley. He is always entertaining and full of insights into the music business and tech industry. Highly recommend even if you only have a passing knowledge of his music.
Jul 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love a lot of the stuff I read. If I don't then I simply quit reading it san move on. But this belongs in my short list of favorite music bios (my fav genre) with My Cross to Bear, Red, Chronicles 1 and Goeff Emerick's book about recording the Beatles. The name escapes me at the moment.... I should add that I am a fan of Dolby and was familiar with his work. But plenty of folks who didn't know Dolby from Adam have enjoyed this autobiography.
Mar 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What an awesome book! As a big Thomas Dolby fan from way back, I really enjoyed reading this memoir and glimpse into his life. Dolby writes with an ease and clarity that makes it easy to feel like he is simply conversing with you, sharing his stories. His path has been a fascinating one, leading from pop stardom through dot-com entrepreneur to tech visionary. To music fans and tech geeks anywhere, this book is highly recommended.
Mark Huhnke
If you liked Dolby before this book, you’ll enjoy Thomas’ approachable cadence and his war stories on the crazy eighties. I still think he has a genius talent in soundsmithing and the use of synthesizers amongst other sound sources. I figured he was a nice guy - but, being a keyboard player, I had hoped he would talk more on his mechanics on building sounds in its context of arranging songs. Still an enjoyable read.
Entertaining and interesting to hear about Dolby's experiences moving from the music industry to the tech industry. It's really about how a musician or artist maintains relevancy in society as they age, and they realize a need to change gears in order to stay afloat. Many musicians and celebrities expand to other businesses, finding that the music or movie industry is not worth their total focus anymore.
Jul 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is far more than an 80s pop star memoir. It is a rare look inside the changes that took place in music, web, and mobile phone technology from the 1980s to the early 2010s. An interesting read for those of, shall we say, my demographic.

PRO TIP: Listen to the audio book, read by the author.
Aug 05, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
2 autobiographies for the price of one: First, Thomas Dolby, electro-new wave synth pioneer navigates the treacherous waters of the music industry in the 1980's. Second, Thomas Dolby, Silicon Valley tech entrepreneur navigates the even more treacherous waters of the bubble in the 1990's. You'll never listen to ringtones the same way again.
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