On March 26th ITV films a special concert at Metropolis Studios in London, featuring guitar legend Bill Nelson, leader of pop art bands Be-Bop Deluxe and Red Noise.
Bill Nelson left high profile music some years back, due to his dislike of the music industry machine. However, his influence is immense. Admired by Paul McCartney, Brian May, David Bowie, Kate Bush, Eno, Prince, The Foo Fighters, The Darkness, My Chemical Romance among others.
Through conversations with Bill I’ve put this beginners’ guide to the enigma that is Bill Nelson together, as a prelude to this unique concert which still has a few seats available.
Bill Nelson’s celebrity career started with 1970’s Art School band Be-Bop Deluxe, where he had considerable success with classic albums like Futurama, Sunburst Finish and Drastic Plastic. By the mid 1970’s Be-Bop Deluxe were conquering America although Bill’s dislike for the Rock’n’Roll lifestyle was revealed in his lyrics:
“This jet age life is getting worse, I feel I’m half a universe away…, I left my home some time ago, To fight the creatures of the U.S.A…, You tell me that this neon world is free…, You say this is the place I ought to be…, The time has come for me to go…, You say it’s fast but it’s feeling slow today…”
(Lost in the Neon World – from the album Modern Music).
It was time for a change and Bill disbanded Be-Bop Deluxe and formed Red Noise, a synth / new age band that was considered way ahead of its time, paving the way for 1980’s acts like Gary Numan, A Flock of Seagulls and many others.
Red Noise’s music was jagged and edgy and EMI dropped Bill Nelson at this point since he refused to perform ‘more of the same’. It was shortly after this time that Bill was a pioneer in what we would now call Indie music, releasing albums made in his own studio on his own ‘Cocteau’ record label. Many of these home-made creations were of superior quality to what others have created in the most professional of recording studios.
At various points since this, Nelson has dabbled with the music industry, having had recording deals with Mercury and CBS, but his heart is more within the inventor’s domain, locked in his home studio. He has produced a more or less continuous stream of music in several different genres over the last twenty years. Much of it can be accessed through Bill Nelson’s website ‘Dreamsville’.
His latest works are mostly lush ambient soundscapes although he is still not averse to churning out a 3 minute pop classic that would leave any of the X Factor great pretenders in the shade. He will be mixing old with new at the ITV Legends concert in London on Saturday March 26th, performing a set which includes a wide range of Be-Bop Deluxe material, Red Noise and his later collaborations with the late Mick Karn of Japan, plus a few hedonistic sonic soundscapes from his more recent work.
Check out the concert details if you want to be a part of this once in a lifetime experience. I wrote a personal cameo about Bill Nelson in the book Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll, as he is a master of continuous creativity and reinvention.
For more information about Peter Cook: The Rock’n’Roll Business Guru, visit The Academy Of Rock.