(4 / 5)
A much under-rated UK band of the 70s were Be Bop Deluxe, and with a far greater output than their one hit single, “Ships In The Night”. Main creative force, Bill Nelson is surely one of the best axe men ever to come from this country. Discuss!
“Drastic Plastic” in 1978, was their final album before Bill called it a day to explore a more electronic path with his newly formed band Red Noise for one album and then a solo career and occasional producer/collaborator role for and with other artists. he has dropped more than 100 solo albums since Be Bop Deluxe Days.
The band’s swansong LP was recorded in the summer of 1978 in the South of France at The Villa Saint Georges, Juan-les-Pins, with the Rolling Stones mobile studio, with final sessions taking place at The Manor Studio and Abbey Road.
The cast of Bill Nelson on lead vocals and guitars, Charlie Tumahai on bass and backing vocals, Andy Clark on keyboards and Simon Fox on drums ventured into new musical styles on their final album.
Tapping into “art rock” and “new wave” influences and perhaps signposting the direction Bill would go in with his “Sound On Sound” album project for his new band Bill Nelson’s Red Noise. Only Andy Clark from the Be Bop line-up staying for that post BBD project.
Co-produced by Bill and John Leckie, “Drastic Plastic” was another hit album in both the UK and the USA and featured timeless tracks such as the opener “Electrical Language”, “New Mysteries” and the dark and haunting “Islands of the Dead”. Track two “New Precision” is fabulous.
The recording sessions produced many more tracks which would appear as singles (such as “Japan”) and others that were originally planned for release as an EP set (“Autosexual”, “Lovers are Mortal”, “Speed of the Wind”, “Quest for the Harvest of the Stars”, “Face in the Rain”), all of which eventually appeared on the retrospective compilation, “The Best of & the Rest Of…” later in 1978.
This expanded reissue has been newly re-mastered from the original master tapes and features an additional 25 tracks, drawn from stereo mixes from the original multi-track tapes by award-winning engineer Stephen W. Tayler. So we get the original stereo mix version on CD one and the new stereo mix on CD two.
11 tracks on the original LP, and here we have a total of 36 cuts (20 + 16) across the two discs, including non-album singles and additional tracks recorded for an intended EP.
The set also includes an illustrated booklet with many previously unseen photographs, a replica 1978 poster and an essay of recollections by Bill Nelson.
Be Bop Deluxe released five studio albums and one live album. They had one hit single, “Ships In The Night” – a UK top 10 in 1976.
Their output began with “Axe Victim” and before their final LP, “Drastic Plastic” in 1978, they delivered “Futurama”, “Sunburst Finish” and “Modern Music”, plus “Live! In The Air Age”.
The line-up which achieved most success – Bill, Andy, Charlie and Simon – was assembled for “Sunburst Finish” and stayed put for the rest of the band’s life.
Red Noise issued just the one album, “Sound On Sound” in 1980 before Bill went solo in 1981. A second Red Noise album ,“Quit Dreaming And Get On The Beam” was ready to go, but EMI/Harvest dropped the band before it was released and Phonogram picked it up as a solo record, released on Mercury.
In an in-depth and revealing exclusive interview with Music Republic Magazine in July 2020, Bill Nelson explained that he wanted “Modern Music” to be the band’s last album and then split up the band.
“I actually wanted to end the band after the ‘Modern Music’ album, but the management and record company persuaded me to do just one more album, and that became the ‘Drastic Plastic’ album, which was a bridge to the Red Noise album.”
Thank goodness Bill had second thoughts and we got the superb “Drastic Plastic” before he trod new ground. This new expanded edition really is a little gem. (There is also a bumper four CD + two DVD deluxe version, for circa £55. This two CD set is great value at around £12.)
- Read the fascinating 2020 exclusive interview with Bill Nelson, in our “Features Zone”, here: https://musicrepublicmagazine.com/2020/07/bill-nelson-be-bop-deluxe-and-beyond/
By Christopher Weston
(2 / 5) ‘OK Zone’
(3 / 5) ‘Decent Zone’
(4 / 5) ‘Super Zone’
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