“Since I was a small child, I have fallen asleep, at night, to the soothing periodic flash of the light on my bedroom wall,” says She Blinded Me With Science and Hyperactive! chart-topper Thomas Dolby.

The lighthouse at Orford Ness on the Suffolk coast is a local landmark and the music man, who played piano for David Bowie at Live Aid, grew up under the beacon’s shining rays.

But now it is closing down, like many others around the world, as ships adopt satellite navigation and they become obsolete.

Global warming and beach erosion is threatening the very foundations of the building and it’s soon going to be nothing but a pile of rubble left to fall into the North Sea.

“It’s still standing at the moment, but it is at risk and eventually it’s going to cave into the water,” says Thomas sadly.

“It’s been there since 1772, but there have been 11 lighthouses on the same site and they have all fallen into the sea.

“There’s not much to be done about it, but there’s been a collective sense of loss and people have been grieving.”

It led to the British synth-player teaching himself to become a writer, film-maker and editor in order to produce a documentary film that forms the backdrop to his new music tour.

It sees him appearing at Birmingham’s mac on September 21.

It’s a new venture for the challenge-loving music maker and producer who has worked with everyone from Belinda Carlisle, Malcolm McLaren and Joan Armatrading to Joni Mitchell, Mark Knopfler and Regina Spektor during his career and played the teacher in Roger Waters’s re-enactment of The Wall in Berlin... suspended 50ft in the air.

“In the 1980s, it was a bit like Monopoly and you snapped up everything you landed on,” he remembers.

“So I was working with Joni Mitchell, David Bowie at Live Aid, Def Leppard, Foreigner, Joan Armatrading.

“It was very exciting to do such a spectrum of different things. I’m not a formulaic person. I like to start with a clean sheet every time.”

His love of technology led to him creating digital ringtones and made him an industry leader.

At one time his ringtones were heard on around two billion phones around the world.

Thomas jokes: “You can have Beyonce and the like on your phone now, but I like to think people will look back on the retro ringtones and remember it as the golden age of ringtones.”

He also co-created and performed The Mirror Song with Robin Williams and Joan Cusack for the films Toys and has written for movies like Fever Pitch, Gothic and the 1986 George Lucas film Howard The Duck.

Orford Ness lighthouse
Orford Ness lighthouse
 

His own award-winning documentary mixes music, lyrics and live narration and Thomas describes it as “a kind of tone poem with music and moving images”.

The musical soundtrack also links songs from various stages of his career, including Cloudburst At Shingle Street through to Oceanea and beyond.

“What is special about it all is it is very personal – my memories, my music, my words and my film making,” he says. “I love old cinemas.

“I love the atmosphere and character and they are intimate.

“They are great for the tour and different from venues were you have people going to the bar. It’s a bit different.”

The father-of-three, married to former Dynasty actress Kathleen Beller, was born Thomas Morgan Robertson and was given the name Dolby – after the audiotapes noise reduction name – because of his interest in keyboards and tapes.

TV’s Dr Magnus Pike appeared in the video for She Blinded Me With Science and Thomas says he still has a fondness for the old music videos.

“I never wrote love songs,” he chuckles, “I wrote songs about the environment and climate change.”

He took a break from performing in the 1990s, but the Invisible Lighthouse Tour sees the 54-year-old back on the road. “People are more involved these days in concerts and can feel a part of it.

“I can read reviews online before I even get back to my hotel room.

“It used to feel like being on another planet going on tour, but now you can keep in touch and feel more connected.”

He laughs: “The downside is there are more distractions.”

Thomas says he would like to do more filming and says he likes the challenge of a new direction. “It gets the creative juices flowing.”

He youngest son Graham is a drummer and the 17-year-old often helps his Dad in the studio and on tour.

“It used to be that you had to get a tape to an A&R man and it was the only way to get through the industry barrier.

“You needed that breakthrough even if you were the Beatles. Now in theory you can get your music out there on the internet if you are talented and be heard. The flipside is there are 100,000 other guys competing for the same space.”

* Go to www.thomasdolby.com for tour details.