Author: Joe Boyd

Quotations


Chaos and Mediocrity

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Is this one legacy of the sixties? That after flinging open the doors to a world previously known only at the margins of society, the pioneers would move on, leaving the masses to add drugs to the myriad forces pulling our society towards chaos and mediocrity?

From the book White Bicycles: Making Music in the 1960s

— 2006


Counter-Culture's own values and aesthetics decayed

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Beneath the surface, the progressive sixties hid all manner of unpleasantness: sexism, reaction, racism and factionalism. It wasn't surprising, really. The idea that drugs, sex and music could transform the world was always a pretty naïve dream. As the counter-culture's effect on the mainstream grew, its own values and aesthetics decayed. The political setbacks of the coming years grabbed the headlines while the dilution of ideals happened more quietly, but nonetheless vividly for those who noticed.

From the book White Bicycles: Making Music in the 1960s

— 2006


History as Postmodern Collage

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Sitting in Princeteon listening to old records, we became obsessed with the past. We tried to pierce the veil of time and grasp what it sounded, felt, looked and smelled like. In Harvard Square and London I met many with similar preoccupations; they didn't seem unusual at all. When old blues singers began to reappear, it delivered a rush of excitement and adrenalin. Meeting and traveling with Gary Davis and Lonnie Johnson – even Coleman Hawkins – armoured me against a host of disappointments.

History today seems more like a postmodern collage; we are surrounded by two-dimensional representations of our heritage. Access via Amazon.com or iPod to all those boxed sets of old blues singers – or Nick Drake, for that matter – doesn't equate with the sense of discovery and connection we experienced.

From the book White Bicycles: Making Music in the 1960s

— 2006


Little I recognized as music

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Thirty years after Brighton, I walked sadly away from the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Fair. It was everything my twenty-one-year-old self might have dreamed of: 75,000 people packed into the Fairgrounds, with NPR-subscriber bags holding expertly marked programmes. America's black musical heritage was on parade across two long weekends and eight stages. But the audience was almost entirely white. The performers had learned their lessons, dropping any modernizations or slick showbiz gestures and recreating the old-time styles the sophisticated audiences craved. On one level, it demonstrated respect for a deep culture and a rejection of shallow novelty. But removed from the soil in which it grew the music felt lifeless, like actors portraying characters who happened to be their younger selves. In two days wandering from stage to stage, I heard little I recognized as music.

From the book White Bicycles: Making Music in the 1960s

— 2006


Never Knew Cocaine to Improve Anything

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I listened in the studio control room as musicians' modes of consciousness-alteration proceeded from grass, hash and acid to heroin and cocaine by the 1970s. All but the latter could, on occasion, provide benefits, at least to the music. I never knew cocaine to improve anything…. I suspect that the surge in cocaine's popularity explains – at least in part – why so many great sixties artists made such bad records in the following decade.

From the book White Bicycles: Making Music in the 1960s

— 2006


Records we made together in the sixties

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These days most engineers confronted with a displeasing sound reach for the knobs on the console and tweak the high, mid or low frequencies. When that process is inflicted on more and more tracks of a multi-channel recording the sound passes through dozens of transistors, resulting in a narrower, more confined sound. With the added limitations of digital sound, you end up with a bright and shiny, thin and two-dimensional recording. To my ears anyway.

When John [Wood] heard a sound he didn't like, he would lift his bulky frame off the chair and lumber down the stairs, muttering all the way. I began to be able to predict whether he was going to try a different microphone, reposition the existing one or shift the offending musician to another part of the studio. When I listen to records we made together in the sixties, I can still hear the air in the studio and the full dimension of the sounds the musicians created for us. I can hear the depth of Nick Drake's breath as well as his voice, the grit in the crude strings of Robin Williamson's gimbri and Dave Mattacks' drum technique spread out warmly in aural Technicolor across the stereo spectrum.

From the book White Bicycles: Making Music in the 1960s

— 2006


Sixties Surpluses of Money and Time

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The atmosphere in which music flourished then had a lot to do with economics. It was a time of unprecedented prosperity. People are supposedly wealthier now, yet most feel they haven't enough money and time is at an even greater premium…. In the sixties, we had surpluses of both money and time.

Friends of mine lived comfortably in Greenwich Village, Harvard Square, Bayswater, Santa Monica and on the Left Bank and were, by current standards, broke. Yet they survived easily on occasional coffee-house gigs or part-time work. Today, urbanites must feverishly maximize their economic potential just to maintain a small flat in Hoboken, Somerville, Hackney, Korea Town or Belleville. The economy of the sixties cut us a lot of slack, leaving time to travel, take drugs, write songs and rethink the universe.

From the book White Bicycles: Making Music in the 1960s

— 2006

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