Thomas Dolby

"Love Is a Loaded Pistol"

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0:17

I've been playing TED for nearly a decade, and I've very rarely played any new songs of my own. And that was largely because there weren't any.

0:29

(Laughter)

0:31

So I've been busy with a couple of projects, and one of them was this: The Nutmeg. A 1930s ship's lifeboat, which I've been restoring in the garden of my beach house in England. And, so now, when the polar ice caps melt, my recording studio will rise up like an ark, and I'll float off into the drowned world like a character from a J.G. Ballard novel. During the day, the Nutmeg collects energy from solar panels on the roof of the wheelhouse, and from a 450 watt turbine up the mast. So that when it gets dark, I've got plenty of power. And I can light up the Nutmeg like a beacon. And so I go in there until the early hours of the morning, and I work on new songs. I'd like to play to you guys, if you're willing to be the first audience to hear it.

1:25

(Applause)

1:31

It's about Billie Holiday. And it appears that, some night in 1947 she left her physical space and was missing all night, until she reappeared in the morning. But I know where she was. She was with me on my lifeboat. And she was hot.

1:56

(Music)

2:23

♫ Billie crept softly ♫

2:26

♫ into my waking arms ♫

2:30

♫ warm like a sip of sour mash ♫

2:36

♫ Strange fruit for ♫

2:39

♫ a sweet hunk of trash ♫

2:47

♫ Panic at the stage door ♫

2:50

♫ of Carnegie Hall ♫

2:54

♫ "Famous Jazz Singer Gone AWOL" ♫

3:01

♫ Must have left the building ♫

3:05

♫ body and soul ♫

3:12

♫ On a creaky ♫

3:15

♫ piano stool tonight ♫

3:18

♫ as the moon is my ♫

3:20

♫ only witness ♫

3:25

♫ She was breathing ♫

3:28

♫ in my ear ♫

3:31

♫ "This time it's love" ♫

3:38

♫ But love is a loaded pistol ♫

3:42

♫ By daybreak she's gone ♫

3:46

♫ Over the frozen river, home ♫

3:52

♫ Me and Johnny Walker ♫

3:55

♫ See in the new age ♫

3:58

♫ alone ♫

4:04

♫ Stay with me ♫

4:07

♫ again tonight ♫

4:10

♫ Billie, time, ♫

4:12

♫ time is a wily trickster ♫

4:17

♫ Still an echo ♫

4:20

♫ in my heart says, ♫

4:23

♫ "This time it's love" ♫

4:36

(Applause)

To write his first studio album in decades, "A Map of the Floating City," Thomas Dolby has been working in the inspirational setting of a restored lifeboat. At TED2010 he premieres a gorgeous, evocative song from that album — about one night with a legend. He's backed by members of the modern string quartet Ethel.

About the speakers
Thomas Dolby · Electronic music pioneer

Thomas Dolby has spent his career at the intersection of music and technology. He was an early star on MTV, then moved to Silicon Valley, then went back on the road with his album, "A Map of the Floating City."

Thomas Dolby has spent his career at the intersection of music and technology. He was an early star on MTV, then moved to Silicon Valley, then went back on the road with his album, "A Map of the Floating City."

Ethel · String quartet

Ethel is, perhaps, the first 21st-century realization of the classical string quartet.

Ethel is, perhaps, the first 21st-century realization of the classical string quartet.