Bill Nelson to start the week. Last week I ran the last John Peel session of Be-Bop Deluxe, the band Bill Nelson spearheaded in the early 1970s. The session was from 1978 and the band would dissolve soon after.
What emerged was Red Noise, a new band and new lineup and the new incarnation of Bill Nelson. At odds with his label, Harvest over calling the band simply Red Noise, or yielding under pressure from the label to add Bill Nelson’s . . .to the title, Nelson opted to add his name, which in a way seemed easier for fans to recognize this was the same Bill Nelson who gave us Axe Victim and Live In The Air Age.
This incarnation only lasted a year, yielding one album (another was recorded, but held from release by Harvest and not issued until Nelson formed his own label and bought back the masters) and two singles. After that, Nelson decided to go solo.
Red Noise was considered by many fans to be an extension of Be-Bop Deluxe because there were so many similarities in sound and structure – and listening to this concert, and comparing it to the Peel Session from earlier in 1978, as well as Be-Bop’s final album Drastic Plastic, you can understand why most fans felt that way. It was also largely the reason Nelson dissolved the band in the first place – fans were having a hard time accepting the new direction Be-Bop Deluxe was going in. So rather than be straddled with a band whose reputation extended back to blues and Glam, to emerge as something new under a new name.
Sadly, neither the album, nor Bill Nelson’s relationship with Harvest were successful, and the second Red Noise album was shelved and Bill Nelson went searching for another label, before doing it on his own.
But beyond all that and beyond the struggles, Bill Nelson has been widely considered one of the best and most underrated guitarists in 70s Rock – and with good reason. He was, in short, a visionary. And the need to take new directions and experiment were crucial – something that wasn’t possible in the mainstream music world (not unless you are so successful you can do anything and the powers-that-be will go along).
Bill Nelson is still playing, still recording and released a new album in 2016, New Northern Dream. A sequel to an album he released 46 years earlier.
Here’s what was going on in 1979 – crank it up and enjoy.
Many thanks to Leo Lyons for the great photo!