Going way back to 1978 my favourite band was Be Bop Deluxe, so you’d think I would have been devastated when they split that year having just released (probably) their best album. In fact I saw it coming. Drastic Plastic had been a bit of a departure with it’s simpler song structures and increased use of synthesisers and sound textures and it split the Be Bop audience to a degree so it wasn’t a big surprise that Bill Nelson wanted to move on. I wasn’t particularly worried – after all Bill was Be Bop Deluxe wasn’t he? Not entirely true as listening to old live performances and some of Bill’s solo work shows but that’s what I thought at the time. Even so, as the release of the debut single by Bill Nelson’s Red Noise approached I did get a bit apprehensive. There were rumours of Bill ‘going punk’ which worried me (at the time there were always rumours of people going punk or disco).
I needn’t have worried. Right from the opening drum beat and bleeping synth I was hooked. It took the sound of Drastic Plastic a stage further. The synth was upfront, the guitar was rawer, the singing more aggressive and Bill’s primitive drum style really suited the song. It was probably better than any Be Bop Deluxe single. Lyrically it celebrates isolation and in my mind is in the same category as Bowie’s 'Sound and Vision' and Gary Numan’s 'Cars'.
The tracks on the b-side confused me somewhat. The synths were there but the songs didn’t have the textures of Drastic Plastic or the urgency of Furniture Music. They have a home made quality which in hindsight is reminiscent of some of Bill’s solo work. Over the years I’ve grown to love Wonder Toys that last forever and, er, appreciate Acquitted By Mirrors, a favourite with Nelsonians (yes, they really call themselves that).
As for going punk, with the Sound on Sound album Bill did embrace the new wave to a larger degree than most of his contemporaries but, with the way people like to pigeon hole bands, seemed to end up not finding a big audience with his old fans or the hip new wave crowd. A long, meandering and extremely inconsistent solo career beckoned…
mp3: Bill Nelson's Red Noise - Furniture Music (1979)
mp3: Bill Nelson's Red Noise - Wonder Toys That Last For Ever (1979)
mp2: Bill Nelson's Red Noise - Acquitted By Mirrors (1979)
The same person who thought Heaven 17 sang ‘Bullshit! Bullshit’ on We Live So Fast also thought Bill sang ‘My testicles are green’ at about 1.27