Bill Nelson

Bill Nelson is an English multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, composer, producer, and photographer who rose to prominence as the guitarist–singer of Be-Bop Deluxe, which released five albums between 1974 and 1978 on EMI. He then formed the new wave band Red Noise for the 1979 album Sound-on-Sound. Since 1980, he’s issued vocal and instrumental titles on various labels, including his own Cocteau imprint.


Early Life

He was born William Nelson on December 18, 1948, in Wakefield, West Riding of Yorkshire, to Jean and Walter Nelson, an alto saxophonist and jazz bandleader. Inspired by Duane Eddy, Bill took up guitar as a teenager and played in his first band, The Cosmonauts, with local youth.> He attended Wakefield College of Art and immersed in the works of French surrealist Jean Cocteau, his lifelong muse.

Nelson studied art but decided on a music career. In 1966, he did an electronic score for a Wakefield adaptation of the 1867 play Peer Gynt by Norwegian dramatist Henrik Ibsen. His younger brother Ian Nelson (1960–2006) studied music and served as Bill’s on-off sideman but later pursued a career in art.


1970–1970


Northern Dream

Bill Nelson released his debut solo album, Northern Dream, in November 1971 on Smile Records.


Sound-on-Sound (1979 — with Red Noise)


Quit Dreaming and Get on the Beam (1981)


Das Kabinet (1981)


Sounding The Ritual Echo (Atmospheres for Dreaming) (1981)


Love that Whirls (Diary of a Thinking Heart) (1982)

La Belle et la Bête (1982)


Chimera (1983 mini-LP)


Savage Gestures For Charm’s Sake (1983 mini-LP)


The Two-Fold Aspect of Everything (1984)


Trial by Intimacy (The Book of Splendours) – The Summer of God’s Piano (1985)

Trial by Intimacy (The Book of Splendours) – Chamber Of Dreams (Music from the Invisibility Exhibition) (1985)

Trial by Intimacy (The Book of Splendours) – Pavilions of the Heart And Soul (1985)

Trial by Intimacy (The Book of Splendours) – A Catalogue of Obsessions (1985)


Getting the Holy Ghost Across (1986)


Living for the Spangled Moment (1986 mini-LP)


Chance Encounters in the Garden of Lights – The Angel at the Western Window (1987)

Chance Encounters in the Garden of Lights – The Book of Inward Conversation (1987)


Discography (See also Be-Bop Deluxe):

  • Northern Dream (1971)
  • Sound-on-Sound (1979 — with Red Noise)
  • Quit Dreaming and Get on the Beam (1981)
  • Das Kabinet (1981)
  • Sounding The Ritual Echo (Atmospheres for Dreaming) (1981)
  • Love that Whirls (Diary of a Thinking Heart) (1982)
  • La Belle et la Bête (1982)
  • Chimera (1983 mini-LP)
  • Savage Gestures For Charm’s Sake (1983 mini-LP)
  • The Two-Fold Aspect of Everything (1984)
  • Trial by Intimacy (The Book of Splendours) – The Summer of God’s Piano (1985)
  • Trial by Intimacy (The Book of Splendours) – Chamber Of Dreams (Music from the Invisibility Exhibition) (1985)
  • Trial by Intimacy (The Book of Splendours) – Pavilions of the Heart And Soul (1985)
  • Trial by Intimacy (The Book of Splendours) – A Catalogue of Obsessions (1985)
  • Getting the Holy Ghost Across (1986)
  • Living for the Spangled Moment (1986 mini-LP)
  • Chance Encounters in the Garden of Lights – The Angel at the Western Window (1987)
  • Chance Encounters in the Garden of Lights – The Book of Inward Conversation (1987)

Sources:

2 thoughts on “Bill Nelson

  1. “I find another really interesting trope of Nelson’s music showcased in the piece is the chords that overlay the entire thing. He has a particular way of creating these chord strokes, both with guitar and keyboard, that carry a lot of weight in the song without sounding heavy or too reliant on bass tones. They lack the punch that many other artists would have when playing these large chord movements but they still have a very confident nature to them. I think in general this song is really a shining example of the curiosity and whimsical nature of his music.” – A System Is Failing (YouTube user)

  2. “Great to see Bill’s earlier work getting this depth of attention. I followed Bill post Be Bop, and Red Noise, a time when he seemed to abandon his guitar (brave for a guitar hero) for electronics, and sampling. I believe it lost him quite a few fans, but i found this work fascinating. His creativity seemed to know no bounds. And this 4 album box set I loved. My copy is titled: Trial by Intimacy, The Book Splendours. I read a BN interview that an error at the printers meant a number were made with the ‘of’ left out of the title. The box set came with a number of postcards with Bill’s drawings on them, and a large, glossy booklet of his photographs. Also, a small, pale blue badge, with a drawn self portrait of Bill, with his name on.

    The piece, ‘The Charm of Transit’ is my favouite on the whole box set. A beautiful, multi layered track enhanced by those samples. Re the samples: The first half of the track, they sound like fragments of fairy tales. I’m not 100% sure of their origins, if audio books were about then, but i recognise a number of the voices. If not from audio books, I think they may have come from a UK children’s show called Jackanory. This was a late afternoon show, on Monday to Friday. Famous people, actors, comedians, presenters, and various other entertainers read stories. Meant as entertainment for kids not long home from school, and to promote reading.

    Of the voices, the first male voice is Bernard Cribbins, comic actor. the second male voice is George Layton, also a comic actor. The lady between then, I don’t recognise, but the final voice is Michael Aspel. He was a very famous presenter who hosted a myriad of shows. The French voices, with the odd English comment ‘return please’ I believe have been sampled from Linguaphone cassettes. Linguaphone are/were a popular teach yourself a foreign language course that came out on tapes, and an accompanying book. They may still be going, not sure, likely online now if they are. Well, I hope this is of some interest to anyone who reads it. This vid deserves a lot more views. And Bill, still going strong, and very much back in touch with his guitary side. Cheers. ” – Jfergs (YouTube user)

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