Joe Boyd's name popped up on many of the records I loved in the 1960s and '70s. I remember seeing him listed on an Incredible String Band album, and then later on an early Pink Floyd album; then Nick Drake, Fairport Convention, John Martyn, Shirley Collins. In the days when it was hard to get information, I wondered, "Who is this guy?"
Boyd was an American living in London beginning in the mid-'60s. He also managed UFO, a nightclub where Pink Floyd performed early on. He's a man with an impeccable ear for unusual talent, and he's lived a life that feels magical. You can read about those early days in one of the best music books I've ever read, White Bicycles: Making Music in the 1960s. Boyd has taken this book on the road with the help of singer-songwriter Robyn Hitchcock. Hitchcock's music — with The Soft Boys or solo — is filled with wit, eccentricity and a surreal sense that isn't too far from the heart those early days of Pink Floyd with Syd Barrett.
So it's only fitting that the two of them decided to take Boyd's memoirs of the '60s on tour. Boyd tells stories and Hitchcock animates the tales with songs from the day, intermingled with some inspired originals.
In this Tiny Desk Concert — as much a reading as a concert — Boyd tells tales about Barrett, one of the 1960s' first casualties, and of Nick Drake, the shy genius of new British folk at the turn of the decade. In the end, you'll get a brief slice of Joe Boyd's early encounters, a life in music that only began there and continued long after. If you want some good summer music reading, be sure to soak up this taste of White Bicycles.
- "I Saw Nick Drake"
Michael Katzif (cameras); edited by Bob Boilen; audio by Kevin Wait; photo by Adele Hampton/NPR