Totally Tubular Festival’s Thomas Dolby

Jul 2, 2024, 5:15 PM | Updated: Jul 3, 2024, 11:16 am

Thomas Dolby is set to perform at the Totally Tubular Festival, presented by KOSI 101.1, on Saturday, July 6, as the musical artist frequently associated with the new wave movement of the ’80s, but his ambitions and skills have pulled him down various, and sometimes unexpected, paths throughout his life.

Dolby, born in London, England, in 1958, made his music aspirations apparent as early as age 10 when he joined a choir. He never had a formal music education, although he learned how to sightread early on. He dabbled in guitar and piano, but was especially taken with synthesizers once electric instruments gained popularity in the ’70s

Initially pursuing a different path, Dolby, born Thomas Morgan Robertson, went to college and studied meteorology, but was sidetracked by his interest in music equipment. This led him to start building synthesizers, which earned him the nickname “Dolby,” later used as his stage name in reference to Dolby Laboratories, the audio reduction company (when Dolby gained some fame, Dolby Laboratories took issue with the use of the name, but, in a legal battle, it was determined that the company had no right to restrict the artist from using the name).

In 1982, Dolby released his first single, “She Blinded Me with Science,” which found success in North America, as it peaked at number five on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US, but wasn’t met with the same enthusiasm in Dolby’s own UK, and barely scraped the top 50, peaking at number 49 on the UK Singles Chart. The song title went along with his image, as mentioned on his Spotify, he “promoted himself as a kind of mad scientist, an egghead who had successfully harnessed the power of synthesizers and samplers.”

He released his first album in the same year, “The Golden Age of Wireless,” but put out five different iterations of the album with various layouts, formats and songs. The album peaked at number 13 on the Billboard album chart.

Shortly thereafter, in 1983, Dolby’s music curiosities and ambitions led him to start a studio-bound project — Dolby’s Cube — where the idea was to release dance-oriented music. The project produced songs ” Get Out of My Mix,” (1983), “May the Cube Be with You,” (1985) and the soundtrack for the “Howard the Duck” film released in 1986.

The “She Blinded Me with Science” singer was able to make a larger splash in his home country with a single off of his second LP, “Hyperactive!,” which climbed its way up to the 17th spot in the charts in the UK, and the album itself, “The Flat Earth,” peaked at number 14 in the country. The album was more so influenced by jazz, funk and R&B than his previous work. “Hyperactive!” remains Dolby’s highest-charting single in the UK from his career.

His subsequent album, “Aliens Ate My Buick” (1988), didn’t have the same luck or commercial success, which Dolby himself blames on the different musical direction the LP took, which was largely dance-oriented.

The Dolby’s Cube founder’s other hobbies began to draw him away from making his own music. He went on to release just two more studio albums, “Astronauts & Heretics” in 1992, and “A Map of the Floating City” almost 20 years later in 2011. The former featured a laundry list of industry greats such as Bob Weir, Jerry Garcia and Eddie Van Halen.

Dolby’s contributions to music other than his own releases are numerous and star-studded: he included the synthesizer on Foreigner’s 1981 release, “4,” worked as the session keyboard player on Def Leppard’s “Pyromania” album in 1983 (acting under the alias Booker T. Boffin), was a band member of David Bowie’s during his Live Aid performance and helped to produce Joni Mitchell’s “Dog Eat Dog” 1985 album.

Anything but a one-trick pony, the Englishman has added to his resumé and composed 13 scores for video games and films, founded an interactive audio company, Beatnik, acted as musical director for the TED Conference and taught as a professor at Johns Hopkins University.

Dolby will be performing at Fiddler’s Green as a part of the Totally Tubular Festival, along with Tom Bailey, Modern English, Men Without Hats, The Tubes, Bow Wow Wow, Eddie Munoz and DJ Slave1.

KOSI Presents: Totally Tubular Festival at Fiddler’s Green Amphitheatre



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Totally Tubular Festival’s Thomas Dolby