Monday, 7 September 2009

Deluxe Upgrade

Be Bop Deluxe were a guilty pleasure of mine back in the late seventies.
Of course I was a young punk: 'rock music was passe' ; bands such as Be Bop Deluxe were dinosaurs: has beens.

But there was just something about them I liked.
A particular favourite was the Live in the Air Age album; the one with the Metropolis robot on the cover; but it wasn't something I would slip on between ATV and the Angelic Upstarts when mates were round.

Essentially, what was so interesting about Be Bop Deluxe was Bill Nelson.
So when he decided to dissolve Be Bop Deluxe, and recreate himself in the guise of an arty post-punk rocker, it suddenly became okay to publicly show appreciation: Bill Nelson became hip!

(If you think I'm exaggerating just check out the hair and outfits he wore on the covers of Be Bop Deluxe albums. Don't mean to sound too mean though; after all it was back in the day... and he was definitely one of the best - and one of the least appreciated - guitarists of that late glam period.)

His first conception into this new world was the album Sound on Sound, quickly followed by the e.p. Furniture Music.
With the title track lifted from the album, the flip contained two unreleased tracks; and as so often with artists working in more alternative genres the flip side is more interesting than the more commercially targeted A side.

'Wonder Toys That Last For Ever' is a great track; very evocative of its time.
Punk had completely thrown out the rule book, and the early post-punk period allowed musicians to experiment; to play around; not to be so self conscious and deferentially intertertextual.

With this in mind, the final track, 'Acquitted By Mirrors', is a kind of laid-back, post-punk, reggae, blues.
Nelson possessed the 'magic ears'; he was incredibly good at mixing things up.

The next single revealed Nelson's new sense of style; adopting a militia look, fascistic even - it was kind of vogue: think of Devo, Kraftwerk or Joy Division.

The tracks leaned more towards the new wave than the harder post-punk sound, and electronica and manipulation of sound seemed to become more interesting to Nelson; and technology and development of sound soon became something that was very much part of the band's identity.

And then he broke it up.

And for the first time since his debut album in 1971, he began creating music as a solo artist.

Whether it was the independence, autonomy or whatever; his next project, the e.p. Do You Dream in Colour? was without a doubt the best yet.

Playing all instruments bar saxophone (played by brother Ian), Nelson's magic ears brought great vibrancy and colour to the title track.
The arrangement is perfect. The production entirely modern - reverting back to more of a progressive post-punk sound - but I just love the way he uses the finger cymbals throughout the track; it shouldn't work, but it so does.

On the flip side more experimentation is heard; with Nelson using lots of guitar effects and synthesizers to great effect.
'Instantly Yours' is particularly excellent; with some of the fastest ska styled playing you'll ever hear.

In so many ways Bill Nelson's music at this time was really a product of fusion: his own past had caught up with him.
It's all in there; evident especially on the Do You Dream in Colour? e.p.
You can hear the prog roots and the glam; punk, new wave and post-punk; they're all there too; all elements coming together; creating something new.
Nelson was a true post-modern musician; he adapted to the time; he tuned into the zeitgeist.
But to be quite honest; to my ear at least; there's not really that much difference between 'Atom Man Loves Radium Girl' and 'Ships in the Night'.
After all, Live in the Air Age did use robot imagery for its cover.

Bill Nelson's Red Noise - Furniture Music (1979)

Furniture Music
Wonder Toys That Last For Ever
Acquitted By Mirrors

Bill Nelson's Red Noise - Revolt Into Style (1979)

Revolt Into Style
Out of Touch

Bill Nelson - Do You Dream in Colour? (1980)

Do You Dream in Colour?
Ideal Homes
Instantly Yours
Atom Man Loves Radium Girl

Decent vinyl rips @320kbs
Nelson's evolution found here


Anonymous said...

excellent post roy, this is gonna get played to death round here... furniture music has a slight whiff of memory but maybe because it reminds me of the first two seminal japan albums. cheers.x

newelectricmuse said...

Well. I have to say Mr Rocket, you have excellent taste. These are some of my favourite singles of all time...

roy rocket said...

I'm so glad others feel the same way.
This is very evocative music: Japan, yes exactly - funnily enough one of Be Bop Deluxe's final products was a single entitled 'Japan'.
There was a lot of synchronicity in the air.
Good times!

newelectricmuse said...

I got to see Japan live, but later than their glam period - I think it was on their last tour in 1982, after Tin Drum had come out. Never got to see Red Noise, though - not surprisingly, as I think they only toured once. But to hear what they sounded like, visit this excellent blog:

roy rocket said...

I'll do that.
Nice one!
Shanti, roy

Anonymous said...

Thanks for these, had the LP at the time but had never bothered with the singles.

Peter said...

I had the good fortune to see (and hear) Bebop Deluxe when they were touring their last album, Drastic Plastic. It was a terrific show.

roy rocket said...

They were a great band; I guess fashions and trends just ran away from them.
Sound good now though; especially that live album: shit hot!
Regards, roy

Anonymous said...

Great stuff. I always had a soft spot for Bill Nelson. W.

Klockwerk said...

Rock is dead, punk is dead, soon rap is dead. I remember how I hated what music journalists did to kill great music in the 70s, and replace it with simple trash.

Anonymous said...

Blogger went down as I was posting this comment before so better safe than sorry, here it is again:

To say thanks, maybe you haven't seen this? Thanks to the great Pip and zippyon:

Bill Nelson & The Practical Dreamers
Elegant Machines
The Keystone, Palo Alto, San Francisco, California, USA 7/29/81

2.Boom Year Ahead.
3.Don't Touch Me (I'm Electric).
4.For Young Moderns.
5.Rooms with Brittle Views.
6.A Kind of Loving.
7.Furniture Music.
8.Do You Dream in Colour?.
9.Eros Arriving.
10.Youth of a Nation On Fire.
11.Out of Touch.
12.Decline and Fall.
13.Stay Young

radio broadcast.

MP3 192Kbps

File Size 86.2MB

Cheers, Dave Sez.

roy rocket said...

Yes, I do know that gig; there's a really good quality Red Noise boot, recorded at Sheffield.
I'm sure you can get it - if you haven't got it already - at D & P's Bootleg Tunz World (link over there>)