Reviews Zone

Bill Nelson: My Secret Studio – Vol 1 – 4CD Boxset (Esoteric Recordings)18th February


4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)



This man was my absolute hero back in the 1970s. I adored his guitar playing, his vocals, his song writing and his brilliant band Be Bop Deluxe. When I was fortunate enough to work as a music photographer, and got to shoot pix of Bill and Be Bop on stage, I was like a pig in the proverbial brown smelly stuff.

Gutted when Bill split Be Bop Deluxe. He formed Red Noise. I liked their only album, “Sound On Sound”, but it was going down an electronic route and not at all like what had come before. I’ve dipped in and out of his solo stuff since then. When he formed a version of Be Bop Deluxe to tour their music in more recent years, I gave that a miss, as I wanted to remember them as they were with the orignal line-up.

Funny; I walked into a very famous recording studio in the middle of nowhere years ago, as a music journalist doing a piece for a national music ‘paper, and sat on an amp noodling on his bass was the wonderful Charlie Tumahai, Be Bop’s bassist. Sadly now deceased (1995). There with his then new band, The Dukes. I was introduced to him and we chatted about Be Bop and his new band. All I could hear in my head, was the music of Bill and Be Bop Deluxe; flashing back to the many times I saw them and photographed them.

Only a few years ago, I was unpacking boxes after a house move and found some negatives files. Sheets and sheets of the buggers in a cardboard box. Under all of that was a plastic tray full of transparencies. Shots I had taken and forgotten about. When we worked in black and white, I often shot off a roll of colour ‘trannie’ film for myself. Here was a little “lost” goldmine of images from the late 1970s. The Police, Siouxie and the Banshees, Wishbone Ash, Blue Oyster Cult, some great punk stuff, plus a few more bands I cannot recall right now and…………..Be Bop Deluxe. Oh yes…………wow, those particular shots brought back happy memories for me.

So, why am I taking this stroll down memory lane? Because yesterday a package dropped through my door; a lovely box set of 4 CDs from Mr Bill Nelson. Originally released as a  limited edition run of 2000 units in 1995, and long out of print. This four album collection has been re-mastered and re-issued in February 2017.

“My Secret Studio” features a collection of recordings made by Bill Nelson between 1988 and 1992; “Buddah Head”, “Electricity Made Us Angels”, “Deep Dream Decoder” and “Jukebox for Jet Boy”.

In his notes for the original release, Bill explained the original recordings thus; “Between the years 1988 and 1992 my life underwent some severe changes…both emotional and financial. During that time, I used my home studios to create sketches of songs for possible development with a potential band. The band, for various and nefarious reasons, never materialised. What you will hear is the raw stuff of dreams, instant song writing with a vengeance”.

This Cocteau Discs re-mastered limited edition presents these four albums once again, restoring the original artwork in the collection in a clamshell boxed set. Bill is the sole presence on all four discs; as composer, singer, producer, engineer and he took the photographs, one of his great passions and skills as an artist.  

We get 65 songs in total, “Deep Dream Decoder” and “Juke Box for Jet Boy” discs include lovely examples of Nelson‘s dreamy, ethereal instrumental work. The first two discs, “Buddha Head” and “Electricity Made Us Angels”, is Bill’s audible stock take of his life at that time, in turmoil with business and domestic hassles.

Born William Nelson in 1948 in Wakefield, Yorkshire, Bill is a singer, guitarist, songwriter, producer, painter, photographer, video artist, writer and experimental musician. He first found fame as the main songwriter, vocalist and guitarist of Be-Bop Deluxe, which he formed in the 1970s. They released their debut album in 1971 and their last in 1978. He then formed the more electronic band Red Noise, for one album, “Sound On Sound” in 1979. The second Red Noise album was shelved by the record label after they heard it, and realised that Bill was almost the only contributor. It was later bought by Mercury Records and released as a Bill Nelson solo album in 1981.

Bill is now 68, lives in York and is still a prolific recording artist in his own right and as a collaborator. If you are a Nelson fan and did not get this set first time round, then this review is probably preaching to the converted. If you want some unique, interesting and creative music in your life, some of this will be an acquired taste. For me; it is a fascinating insight into the mind of a true visionary, and an important and often overlooked artist and guitarist who the UK should be extremely proud of, and who ain’t done yet!  


By Simon Redley


1 out of 5 stars (1 / 5) ‘Dull Zone’
2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5) ‘OK Zone’
3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5) ‘Decent Zone’
4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5) ‘Super Zone’
5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5) ‘Awesome Zone’



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