The Golden Age of Wireless is Thomas Dolby’s debut album, released in 1982. The album includes Dolby’s breakout hit, “She Blinded Me with Science”, as well as my favorite song of his, “Europa and the Pirate Twins”.
The album’s overall theme is radio and the modern world. Both themes factor into many, if not most of the songs on the album.
At the time of the album’s release in the US, the tone of the album which was described as being cinematic, emotional, and even moody, was a departure from most of the early 80’s synth-pop records. There were many to follow that soared in that vein of sound, but in a lot of ways, The Golden Age of Wireless was one of the first.
The Golden Age of Wireless by Thomas Dolby
The Golden Age of Wireless was released 5 different times, all of which were on both vinyl and cassette. CD was only from the 3rd and 5th releases. Every time the album was re-released the song order was changed, often replacing album mixes with extended or radio/single mixes. Sometimes songs were removed completely.
“Radio Silence” was a completely different song in the early US releases than what later appeared on versions of the album. And, with the first US version, the instrumental “The Wreck of the Fairchild”, was removed, and 2 other songs were put in its place, “Urges” and “Leipzig”.
Capitol Records, in the US, changed the album cover art, too. In the UK the album had a “comic book” type cover. Capitol switched it out with a picture of Dolby on stage instead.
After “She Blinded Me with Science” was released as a single, and took MTV by storm with its corresponding music video, Capitol pulled the album and made more changes. They removed “Urges” and “Leipzig”, and put in its place an extended version of “She Blinded Me with Science”, along with its “B-Side”, “Submarines”. And, they switched back the album cover art to the original UK “comic book” style.
In 2009, a remastered “Collector’s Edition” of The Golden Age of Wireless was released. It includes bonus tracks, extra liner notes, and a DVD of the Live Wireless music video.
My copy of the album, from the early 80’s, has the “comic book” cover art, as well as the extended version of “She Blinded Me with Science”. At the time I didn’t know there were other versions. I picked it up at the Record Trading Company, a favorite Orange County record store when I was a teenager, after hearing “Europa and the Pirate Twins” on the radio. I’d known “She Blinded Me with Science”. You couldn’t turn on MTV without seeing the video. And, I liked the song. But, it was love at first listen with “Europa and the Pirate Twins”, and I had to have it, and hear more.
I met Thomas Dolby in the late 80’s (1988, I think). He was rather shy, very polite and humble. We talked about books actually. I’m going to have to find the one picture I have with him one of these days.
This is one of those early 80’s albums that I have grown to love more as the years have gone by. Though I always, always loved “Europa and the Pirate Twins”, much of the album faded into the background when I played it. And then, when mixtapes were my big thing, I often skipped all of the other songs completely, except for “Europa” and “Radio Silence”, the two songs I would throw on mixtapes often.
My Top 5 Songs from Thomas Dolby’s The Golden Age of Wireless
1. “Europa and the Pirate Twins”
“We’ll be the Pirate Twins again,
oh, my country,
I’ll stand beside you in the rain,
2. “Radio Silence”
“She’s caught up in traffic.
And, I’m on her radio.”
“So she flicks on the TV,
takes in a movie.
But, all those memories,
won’t erase the empty feeling from in her heart.”
“Through the airwaves.
People never read the airwaves.
Do we only feed the airwaves?
I really should have seen through the airwaves.”
5. “She Blinded Me with Science”
“It’s poetry in motion,
and now she’s making love to me.
The spheres’re in commotion,
the elements in harmony.”
We hope you enjoyed this week’s Quintessential Album choice, Thomas Dolby, The Golden Age of Wireless. Feel free to share your thoughts – we would love to read them.