Vintage Keyboard Instruments

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Herbie Hancock
Joe Zawinul
Bernie Worrell
Brian Eno
Peter Gabriel
Keith Emerson
Chick Corea
Sly Stone
John Medeski
Liam Howlett
Stevie Wonder
Thomas Dolby
Steve Winwood

Electronic Music Guide

Synthesizer Resources

Thomas Dolby

Great Electronic Keyboard Players

Thomas Dolby

Though he never had many hits, Thomas Dolby became one of the most recognizable figures of the synth-pop movement of early-'80s new wave. Largely, this was due to his skillful marketing. Dolby promoted himself as a kind of mad scientist, an egghead that had successfully harnassed the power of synthesizers and samplers, using them to make catchy pop and light electro-funk. Before he launched a solo career, Dolby had worked as a studio musician, technician, and songwriter; his most notable work as a songwriter was "New Toy," which he wrote for Lene Lovich, and Whodini's "Magic's Wand." In 1981, he launched a solo career, which resulted in a number of minor hits and two big hits -- "She Blinded Me with Science" (1982) and "Hyperactive" (1984). Following "Hyperactive," his career faded away, as he began producing more frequently, as well as exploring new synthesizer and computer technology. Dolby continued to record into the '90s, but by that time, he was strictly a cult act.

Dolby's interest in music arose through his interest in computers, electronics and synthesizers. The son of a British archeologist, Thomas Dolby (b. Thomas Morgan Robertson, October 14, 1958) originally attended college to study meteorology, but he was soon side-tracked by electronics, specifically musical equipment. He began building his own synthesizers when he was 18 years old. Around the same time, he began to learn how to play guitar and piano, as well as how to program computers. Eventually, his schoolmates gave him the nickname of "Dolby," which was the name for a noise-reduction technology for audiotapes; he would eventually take the nickname as a stage name.

In his late teens, Dolby was hired as a touring sound engineer for a variety of post-punk bands, including the Fall, the Passions and the Members; on these dates, he would use a PA system he had built himself. In 1979, he formed the arty post-punk band Camera Club with Bruce Woolley, Trevor Horn, Geoff Downes and Matthew Seligman. Within a year, he had left the group and joined Lene Lovich's backing band. Dolby gave Lovich his song "New Toy," which became a British hit in 1981. That same year, he released his first solo single, "Urges," on the English independent label Armageddon. By the fall, he had signed with Parlophone and released "Europa and the Pirate Twins," which nearly cracked the UK Top 40.

Dolby started playing synthesizer on sessions for other artists in 1982. That year, he appeared on Foreigner's 4, Def Leppard's Pyromania and Joan Armatrading's Walk Under Ladders. Also in 1982, he wrote and produced "Magic's Wand" for Whodini; the single became one of the first million-selling rap singles. Even with all of these achievements, 1982 was most noteworthy for the release of Dolby's first solo album, The Golden Age of Wireless, in the summer of 1982; the record reached number 13 in England, while it was virtually forgotten in America. "Windpower," the first single from the record, became his first Top 40 UK hit in the late summer.

In January of 1983, Dolby released an EP, Blinded by Science, which included a catchy number called "She Blinded Me with Science" that featured a cameo vocal appearance by the notorious British eccentric Magnus Pike, who also appeared in the song's promotional video. Blinded by Science was a minor hit in England, but the EP and the single became major American hit in 1983, thanks to MTV's heavy airplay of the "She Blinded Me with Science" video. Eventually, the song reached number five on the US charts and it was included on a resequenced and reissued version of The Golden Age of Wireless, which peaked at number 13 in America.

The Flat Earth, Dolby's second album, appeared in early 1984 and was supported by the single "Hyperactive." The single became his biggest UK hit, peaking at number 17. Though The Flat Earth reached number 35 on the US charts, Dolby's momentum was already beginning to slow -- none of the singles released from the album cracked the American Top 40. Nevertheless, Dolby was in demand as a collaborator and he worked with Herbie Hancock, Howard Jones, Stevie Wonder, George Clinton, and Dusty Springfield. During 1985, he produced Clinton's Some of My Best Jokes Are Friends, Prefab Sprout's Steve McQueen (Two Wheels Good in the US), and Joni Mitchell's Dog Eat Dog, as well as supporting David Bowie at Live Aid. Also in 1985, he began composing film scores, starting with Fever Pitch. In 1986, he composed the scores for Gothic and Howard the Duck, to which he credited himself as Dolby's Cube. That credit led to a lawsuit from the Dolby Labs, who eventually prohibited the musician from using the name "Dolby" in conjunction with any other name than "Thomas."

Aliens Ate My Buick, Dolby's long-delayed third album, appeared in 1988 to poor reviews and weak sales, even though the single "Airhead" became a minor British hit. That same year, Dolby married actress Kathleen Beller. For the rest of the late '80s and early '90s, Dolby continued to score films, producing and he began building his own computer equipment. His fourth album, Astronauts & Heretics, was released in 1992 on his new label, Giant. Despite the presence of guest stars like Eddie Van Halen, Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir and Ofra Haza, the album was a flop. The following year, Dolby founded the computer software company Headspace, which released The Virtual String Quartet as its first program. For the rest of the '90s, Headspace occupied most of Dolby's time and energy. In 1994, he released The Gate to the Mind's Eye, a soundtrack to the videotape Mind's Eye. Also that year, Capitol released the greatest-hits collection, Retrospectacle.--
Bio Courtesy of

Vist the official Thomas Dolby web site

The Golden Age of Wireless
If you're reading this, you probably know that "The Golden Age Of Wireless" was an amazing moment in the budding synthesizer new wave explosion. As anyone into the instrument could have told you at the time, Thomas Dolby was not just an incredible synth player, he had an amazing sense of keyboard construction and compositional skills. His credits before his solo career included Lena Lovich, Bruce Woolley and The Camera Club and (gasp) Foreigner! (Those are his keyboard washes that grace their classic "Foreigner 4" and the hit "Waiting For a Girl Like You.") So it wasn't like Dolby's debut came without a pedigree.
But the original "The Golden Age Of Wireless" album came with completely different cover art, different running order, a much better mix of "Radio Silence" and two other songs, "Urges" and "Leipzig." It wasn't until after an EP release of five songs for "She Blinded Me With Science" became a hit did the CD/Album as we know it come into existence. Even then, the versions of "Science" and "One Of Our Submarines" added to "Golden Age" are different, shortened edits. To this day, I am fascinated by both versions of the album and CD, and I keep wondering why, in this age when everything is being remastered, remixed and re-issued, this classic album hasn't been mined for the deluxe treatment? -- Tim Brough
The Flat Earth
Thomas Dolby's follow up to "the golden age of wireless" take a turn to the jazzier side of the musician leaving his pure pop roots behind. Dolby only graces us with only 7 cuts here but their all top-notch songs. Walking a wire between slow piano-bar crooners and lite jazz all the songs are complete and satisfying with Dolby playing it low key on most of the cuts. The most memorable track here is a re-working of Dan Hick's classic "I scare myself" delivered here with a more smoothed-out soulful sound than Hick's edgy opus. An album than came out of left field when it was released in the mid-eighties it earned a place in my permanent rotation and has stayed there ever since. A top ten album of the 80's in my book of lists.-- scott roges
Check out this podcast of Thomas Dolby live. "She Blinded me Science"

If you are a Thomas Dolby fan then perhaps you will enjoy one of my CDs as well.

Innocent Bystander is my alter ego of hardcore funky electronica. Released in 2000, this CD was featured prominently in MTV Road Rules.

The music infuses elements of Drum-n-Bass, Techno, Reggae, and Funk all with a unifying B-3 organ throughout. Innocent Bystander transcends the space time continuum from 70's funk to the new millennium by perfectly melding the computerized sounds of the new electronica with the raw human feel of old school soul and funk.
It's as if Sly Stone and Jimmy Smith were genetically combined with the Chemical Brothers and Fat Boy Slim! There is even a cover of Sly Stone's "Sing A Simple Song". The result is music for your mind and your ass. It's Medeski, Martin, and Wood on a futuristic tour around Jupiter.

The Satellite Orchestra is the latest project from Los Angeles keyboardist Rodney Lee. The music is a cinematic journey into soulful live electronica with Lee navigating from a Fender Rhodes electric piano. The CD was released in Sept. 2006 and features Rico Belled on bass, Allen Lightner on percussion, Dino Soldo on bass clarinet and flutes, Dave Karasony on Drums, and vocalists Jody Watley, Jeff Robinson, and Wade3.
The Satellite Orchestra is like a chance meeting of Massive Attack, Zero-7, and Herbie Hancock.

" I have always believed that an album is a trip..not just music to wash the dishes to, but a place to go.. a journey to take.. an album goes to a place in your soul that maybe you forgot was there...or maybe you never discovered.. The Satellite Orchestra is such an's music you feel...make sure to bring your headphones." -DJ Jedi

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