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Last Updated: Saturday, 3 June 2006, 07:36 GMT 08:36 UK
Making the sound of the '60s
Joe Boyd
Joe Boyd said the 1960s was the "golden age" of music
The man who plugged in Bob Dylan's guitar at the 1965 Newport festival - and went on to produce landmark releases by Pink Floyd and Nick Drake - has written a book about his life.

Joe Boyd, an American who first travelled to England in 1964, was one of the pivotal figures of the 1960s rock scene.

As well as producing Pink Floyd's first single and Nick Drake's first album, he ran the famous UFO club in London. His recollections of the period are contained in his book White Bicycles.

He told BBC World Service's The Beat programme he hoped that era would be remembered as the "golden age" of music.

"It was a great time - there was a fluidity about things," he said. "Things weren't very nailed down then."

Pivotal moment

Boyd was initially famous for his work with British folk groups such as The Incredible String Band and Fairport Convention.

But he was also instrumental in one of the most controversial moments in folk music history - when, as production manager of the event, he plugged in Bob Dylan's guitar at the 1965 folk festival on Rhode Island.

Pink Floyd
The appeal of Pink Floyd was that it was something that I couldn't quite figure out
Joe Boyd
The moment "Dylan went electric" is still regarded as a turning point in music history - although many in the crowd at the time disapproved and greeted it with booing.

Boyd recalled first meeting Dylan in early 1963 at a party where the singer was playing guitar on a bed.

"There was something about it that was so confident and so authoritative, I just sat down," Boyd said.

"There he was, sitting on the bed, singing A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall. I just couldn't believe it. It just hit me.

"I was reeling from the impact of it - it was so amazing.

"It was really one of my most memorable music experiences. I never doubted him after that."

Toward the end of the decade, Boyd began to work more with psychedelic rock acts, producing Pink Floyd's debut single Arnold Layne.

He said he was first attracted to the sound because he struggled to understand it at first.

"The appeal for me was that it was something that I couldn't quite figure out," he said.

"Then, hearing the Floyd and hearing the echoes of the blues band that they had once been, I could relate to it more."

World music move

Meanwhile, Fairport Convention's bassist Ashley Hutchings had discovered cult folk musician Nick Drake.

Boyd went on to produce Drake's first two albums, Five Leaves Left and Bryter Layter and both are regarded as classics.

Bob Dylan in 1965
Boyd was literally instrumental in Dylan going electric
Boyd also set up London's UFO club, at which many of the most influential bands of the '60s played.

He went on to make REM's third album Fables of the Reconstruction and was executive producer on the 1988 film Scandal about the Profumo affair.

He then moved on to set up his own label, Hannibal Records, which put out world music.

"I always loved world music - I used to get stoned and listen to the Mystere de Voix Bulgare Choir in the 1960s, all my friends did," Boyd said.

"One thing I discovered at Hannibal was that if you're releasing a record by the greatest folk singer in Hungary, in some ways that's a lot easier than saying 'this is a great singer-songwriter singing in English and strumming a guitar'.

"Because the week you release that, there's 180 other singer-songwriters with guitars singing in English also being released, also saying their guy is the best.

"But there's nobody else releasing the greatest singer from Hungary.

"So as a practical matter, running the greatest independent record label, I discovered that it was actually more realistic to be in the world music business than the contemporary music business."


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