It’s nearing the end of February 19, 2016, and on this date in 1983, Londoner Thomas Dolby debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 at No. 77 with his American debut single, “She Blinded Me With Science.” He had actually graced the Hot 100 before, but in a supporting role.
In 1981, the then-Tom Dolby provided keyboards to one of the biggest songs of all time NOT to hit No. 1 on the Hot 100 – Foreigner’s “Waiting For A Girl Like You” (from FOREIGNER 4; it spent 10 weeks at No. 2). He also contributed keyboards to the 1983 albums by Def Leppard (PYROMANIA) and Malcolm McLaren (DUCK ROCK, featuring the wonderful “Buffalo Gals.”)
“She Blinded Me With Science” was the biggest global pop single success for Thomas Dolby, and here in the U.S., it spent a month at No. 5 in May/June 1983. “Science” was one of several songs not originally on the album, THE GOLDEN AGE OF WIRELESS. It was added later on. I actually discovered the extended mix on a fantastic EP that I still own to this day – BLINDED BY SCIENCE, from 1982.
BLINDED BY SCIENCE was comprised of 5 extended mixes of songs featured on THE GOLDEN AGE OF WIRELESS: “One Of My Submarines” (my second-favorite Thomas Dolby song), “Windpower,” “Airwaves” and “Flying North.” It is this EP that started my love of Thomas’ music.
That love continued with Thomas Dolby’s 1984 album, THE FLAT EARTH. The album contained the singles “Dissidents” and the Dan Hicks composition, “I Scare Myself.” It also featured guest spots from Bruce Woolley of The Buggles, Lionel Richie and Robyn Hitchcock, and contained what would become my favorite Thomas Dolby song – “Hyperactive!”
If you have listened to the song before (or just listening to it for the first time with the link to the altered video below), you might notice a hint of Michael Jackson in there. No, Michael’s not involved with the song, although it wasn’t without trying. Thomas Dolby met Michael Jackson in 1982, and actually wrote the song with Michael in mind and sent him a demo of the song, but Michael never got back to him about it. So, Thomas eventually recorded it himself.
“Hyperactive!” was not a big hit in the U.S., spending a week at No. 62 on the Hot 100 in late March 1984. And while it wasn’t well-received stateside, it turned out to be his biggest hit in his U.K. homeland, reaching No. 17. (An interesting note – “She Blinded Me With Science” was a big hit here in America, while it didn’t even crack the U.K. Top 40; funny how it works out like that sometimes…)
Thomas Dolby kept on recording after “Hyperactive!” and THE FLAT EARTH, including the real fun ALIENS ATE MY BUICK from 1987 (featuring one of THE best album covers ever!), plus 2 other studio albums and 2 live albums. Thomas (and a couple of musicians who worked with him on THE FLAT EARTH) also supported David Bowie’s makeshift band at Live Aid in 1985, with truly amazing keyboard work on “Heroes.” David Bowie called him “the very brilliant Thomas Dolby.” How incredibly true. I’ve known this for a long time.
Over the years, Thomas has worked with and/or contributed his producing and musical talents to awards shows and albums from the likes of Robyn Hitchcock, Thompson Twins, George Clinton, Belinda Carlisle, Jerry Garcia, Andy Partridge, Prefab Sprout, Joan Armatrading, Little Richard, M, Ofra Haza, Howard Jones, Peter Gabriel and he played keyboards at Roger Waters’ all-star 1990 Berlin concert of Pink Floyd’s THE WALL.
What’s the artist formerly known as Tom Dolby up to now? Well, he is, appropriately enough, the Homewood Professor of the Arts at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. I’m hoping at some point he’ll be “hyperactive!” about going back into the studio to make some new music, but I’m betting he’s quite hyperactive, er, content where he is…