Joe Boyd -- White Bicycles: Making Music in the 1960s
The joke used to be that if you remembered the 1960s you weren't there. That's based on the assumption that those there were too busy enjoying the uninhibited decade and its creative Pop music, presumably while imbibing the hallucinogen of their choice, to remember a thing
. But we're starting to see some excellent memoirs by those who were in the thick of the era's music scene and remember everything
about it. Bob Dylan's Chronicles: Volume One
was the first, and now comes Joe Boyd's White Bicycles: Making Music in the 1960s.
Neither a star nor a famously flamboyant record executive, Boyd is a consummate behind-the-scenes person. His musical involvement began as a Blues/Jazz-loving Harvard student in the early 1960s. He remembers, for instance, first hearing Bob Dylan play impromptu at a Cambridge party during a 1963 spring blizzard. Boyd later worked the soundboard at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, and his account of what happened when Dylan went electric is thorough and insider-ish. He moved to England, met Pink Floyd at a London Free School benefit and produced the Psychedelic band's first single. He also started the Witchseason production company and discovered such eccentric, quintessentially British Folk/Rock artists as Incredible String Band, Fairport Convention and Nick Drake. This period is where the heart of the book is -- Boyd's writing about the late Drake's dreamy, wistful nature is elegiac, pained even. The title refers to the way 1960s-era Amsterdam radicals left white bicycles around town for people to ride. Later one of Boyd's favorite British bands, Tomorrow, made "My White Bicycle" its theme. Like Boyd himself, the title is obscure but represents the spirit of the time. (Steven Rosen) Grade: B