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SXSW Reviews

Sheet Music

Reviewed by Jay Trachtenberg, March 16, 2007, Music

White Bicycles: Making Music in the 1960s

by Joe Boyd

Serpent's Tail/Consortium, 274 pp., $18

Producer Joe Boyd had an uncanny knack for being present "when the mode of music changes [and] the walls of the city shake." He worked for impresario George Wein at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival when Bob Dylan plugged in and changed the sound of popular music forever. A year later, he opened the UFO club in London, booking a then-unknown Pink Floyd as house band. His experience with the Incredible String Band at Woodstock, on the other hand, was disastrous. In this fascinating memoir, Boyd recounts a decade of his exploits during one of pop music's most fertile periods: the mid-Sixties through mid-Seventies. There's accounts of road-managing Muddy Waters, the Rev. Gary Davis, and jazzman Coleman Hawkins on European tours; recording a pre-Cream Eric Clapton; working on the soundtracks of Deliverance and A Clockwork Orange; and the tribulations of producing a documentary film on Jimi Hendrix. While based mainly in London during this time, he provides lengthy and vivid passages on the professional and personal lives of Nick Drake, Sandy Denny, and Fairport Convention. Equally rich are his relationships with promoters, engineers, band managers, and the like. In hindsight he's able to appreciate the shaking of the city walls, but he also mourns the rich musical traditions that inevitably got left behind. (Joe Boyd's SXSW interview is Friday, March 16, 2pm at the Austin Convention Center.)

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