Thomas Dolby

Thomas Dolby (born Oct. 14, 1958) is an English keyboardist, songwriter, producer, and arranger who first appeared on the 1979 album English Garden by Bruce Woolley and The Camera Club. After working for two years as a session musician (Foreigner, Jane Kennaway, Joan Armatrading, the Thompson Twins), Lene Lovich charted with his song “New Toy.”

Dolby launched his solo career with the 1981 electro-pop single “Urges,” followed by the hits “Europa and the Pirate Twins,” “Radio Silence,” “Airwaves,” and the 1982 album The Golden Age of Wireless. Aided by rotation on a then-fledgling MTV, he charted stateside with “She Blinded Me With Science,” an evergreen of the Second British Invasion.

His 1984 album, The Flat Earth, spawned the hits “Hyperactive!” and “I Scare Myself.” He performed at the 1985 Grammy Awards in a medley with fellow keyboard stars Howard Jones, Stevie Wonder, and Herbie Hancock. After recording a pair of soundtracks (Howard the Duck, Gothic), he branched into salsa and swing music on his 1988 third album Aliens Ate My Buick.

Dolby was born Thomas Morgan Robertson on October 14, 1958, in London to Greek art professor and archaeologist Martin Robertson (1911–2004) and Theodosia Cecil (née Spring Rice, 1921–1984). His older brother, Stephen Robertson (b. 1946), became an award-winning computer scientist.

As a tween, Thomas sang in a choir and learned to sightread. He first played guitar, then piano, inspired by jazz players like Thelonious Monk, Bill Evans, and Dave Brubeck. When affordable synthesizers hit the market during the mid-’70s, he turned his attention to electronic music. As he played around with keyboards and tapes, his friends nicknamed him Dolby after the namesake noise-reduction process of Dolby Laboratories.

By the time New Wave took hold in Britain, Dolby identified as an “arty jazz-rocker” and gravitated to bands like Talking Heads.[1] In late 1978, he almost replaced keyboardist Barry Andrews in XTC. Soon after, Buggles co-founder Bruce Woolley recruited Dolby for the Camera Club. In 1979, they released the album English Garden on Epic (UK) and Columbia (US). It spawned multiple singles, including “Video Killed the Radio Star,” issued concurrently with the Buggles’ international hit version.

In 1980, Dolby joined the post-punk/dub band Local Heroes SW9, which released the album Drip Dry Zone on Oval Music. That project also involved musician Tom Bailey of the just-emerging Thompson Twins. (Dolby would play on the Twins’ 1982 second album Set.)


  • The Golden Age of Wireless (1982)
  • The Flat Earth (1984)
  • Howard the Duck (OST, 1986 • Thomas Dolby / John Barry)
  • Gothic (OST, 1987)
  • Aliens Ate My Buick (1988)




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