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Bill Nelson

Massey Hall, Toronto, Oct. 22, 1977
Photo: courtesy Jean-Luc Ourlin
Background information
Birth name William Nelson
Born 18 December 1948 (1948-12-18) (age 61)
Wakefield, West Yorkshire, England, UK
Genres Experimental rock, Art rock, New Wave, Post-punk, Ambient experimental music
Occupations Musician, songwriter, artist
Instruments Vocals, guitar, keyboards, drums, bass, percussion
Years active 1970 - present
Labels EMI, Emigma, CBS
Associated acts Be Bop Deluxe, Red Noise, Fiat Lux, Channel Light Vessel
Website http://www.billnelson.com/

Bill Nelson (born William Nelson, 18 December 1948) is a prolific guitarist, songwriter, painter and experimental musician from Wakefield, West Yorkshire, England. He currently lives in Selby.

Contents

Career

Born to Walter, a musician, he also had a brother who was dedicated to music: Ian (1956-2006), and who collaborated on the Be Bop Deluxe song "Ships In The Night" and formed the band Fiat Lux.

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1970s

Nelson was educated at the Wakefield College of Art, where he developed an interest in the work of poet and filmmaker, Jean Cocteau. At this time he was also developing as a musician, drawing upon Duane Eddy as a primary guitar influence.

His first recording was a brief contribution on an album entitled A-Austr with Chris Coombs, Brian Calvert and Mike Levon. Levon recorded and produced the album A-Austr: Musics from Holyground which appeared on Holyground in 1970. After that Nelson appeared in a much more substantial role with Lightyears Away on the Holyground album Astral Navigations released in 1971. One track from this also gave Nelson his first airplay by John Peel: "Yesterday" by Lightyears Away, written by Coombs, where Nelson's lead guitars were recorded by Levon in an acid rock style, supporting Coombs' stylophone riff. After this, Nelson's solo album was recorded and co-produced by Levon at Holyground, also in 1971.

Nelson's debut solo album was named Northern Dream and drew more attention from John Peel on his national BBC Radio 1 programme in the United Kingdom, and this eventually led to Nelson's band Be Bop Deluxe signing to EMI. The band's first recordings were made at Holyground. (All of the Nelson recordings made there were released in February 2001 by Holyground on a CD called Electrotype.) Shortly after this Be Bop Deluxe were signed to EMI, releasing "Axe Victim". On stage, the band developed a reputation built upon Nelson's electric guitar stylings, which have been described as "pyrotechnic".

After the breakup of Be Bop Deluxe, Nelson attempted another band project called Red Noise (releasing the seminal Sound on Sound album), but eventually settled into a career as a solo musician, recording albums in the early electropop vein such as The Love That Whirls and Quit Dreaming and Get On the Beam. Many of these albums also shipped with bonus records featuring experimental ambient instrumentals, and this was a genre of music Nelson would embrace more fully in the future. For a period between the late 1970s and early 1980s, Nelson self-produced on his Cocteau label a bewildering plethora of releases, mostly cassettes and vinyl, consisting of solo synthesizer and keyboard instrumental pieces. Later released on the short-lived Enigma label, the complete range of material was inconsistent (some tracks sounding like little more than just the barest bones of a melodic sketch or repeating tonal figure). Perhaps the finest expression of this period of Nelson's music can be found on the double album release, Chance Encounters in the Garden of Lights (see below), an evocative and mysterious collection of solo synthesizer and keyboard works, packaged with album graphics of an occult nature.

1980s

In mid 1980 Nelson released "Do You Dream In Colour?", and after airplay on BBC Radio 1, especially by John Peel, the single climbed to a modest number 52 in the UK Singles Chart.

A notable contribution to the work of another electronically oriented artist, Gary Numan, occurred in 1983 when Numan, an admirer of Be Bop Deluxe, began to co-produce his Warriors album with the veteran artist. In spite of a difference of opinions and a general falling out (which led Numan to remix the co-produced version of the album — hence the lack of a production credit), Nelson's dream-like guitar work adds to the album's ambiguous, warm and distinctly jazzy feel. He also contributed towards several tracks on David Sylvian's Gone to Earth (1986).

Nelson had bad luck with major labels in the 1980s. A deal with CBS Records went sour, leaving one album, Getting the Holy Ghost Across (U.S. title: On a Blue Wing). Nelson and his manager Mark Rye had formed the Cocteau Records label in 1981, and for many years this label handled the majority of Nelson's output, which often included multiple albums per year. Among the more ambitious Cocteau releases were the four-record boxed set of experimental electronic music, Trial by Intimacy (The Book of Splendours), and the later ambient collection, Chance Encounters in the Garden of Lights, which contained music informed by Nelson's Gnostic beliefs. In the late 1980s, Nelson signed to the U.S. label Enigma Records, and though they re-released his entire Cocteau catalogue, the label soon went out of business.

As the 1980s ended, Nelson suffered a series of personal setbacks, including a divorce, tax problems, and an acrimonious dispute with his manager over his back catalogue rights. In the case of one album, the unreleased Simplex, his manager had been selling copies via mail order without Nelson's authorisation; Nelson claims he never received any royalties from these sales. link Nelson vs. Rye

1990s

Nelson channelled his troubles into his music, with the result that the 1990s proved an even more prolific period for him. His divorce inspired a 4-CD boxed set, Demonstrations of Affection, and he worked on some guitar-based instrumental projects such as the albums Crimsworth and Practically Wired, or How I Became Guitar Boy. With Demonstrations, Nelson perfected a songwriting ethic based on the immediacy of creative inspiration; each song was recorded almost as soon as it was written, taking only an average of two hours to complete. This technique enabled Nelson to produce a staggering amount of new music into the new century, which resulted in such large-scale releases as the 4-CD set My Secret Studio and the 6-CD set Noise Candy.

In 1996, Nelson's troubles with his former manager were resolved in a lawsuit which enabled Nelson to recover much of his back catalogue. A fully authorized version of the Simplex album was released in 2001.

In the late 1990s, Nelson created the Populuxe Records label, with a distribution arrangement with Robert Fripp's Discipline Global Mobile, but the relationship with DGM has stagnated and Nelson's last DGM release was Atom Shop in 1998. Subsequent releases have been on other imprints such as Toneswoon and Voiceprint as well as direct mail-order releases.

2000s

2002 saw the release of Three White Roses and a Budd (CD Single, with Fila Brazillia and Harold Budd) on Twentythree Records.

By 2006, Universal Music (UK) re-issued three Mercury albums on CD - Quit Dreaming and Get on the Beam, The Love that Whirls, and Chimera all have been remastered, and released with bonus tracks. The lone CBS album, Getting the Holy Ghost Across/On a Blue Wing, has also been issued on CD, with all the original tracks and extras on Nelson's Sonoluxe imprint.

An annual event known as Nelsonica is held every year in Yorkshire, England, at which Nelson makes a rare public performance. Nelsonica is attended by admirers of Nelson's work from all over the world, and he records a special limited edition CD for each event. Some of these recordings from earlier years of Nelsonica are highly collectable.

Discography

Albums

  • Northern Dream (1971)
  • Axe Victim (1974) [Be Bop Deluxe]
  • Futurama (1975) [Be Bop Deluxe]
  • Sunburst Finish (1976) [Be Bop Deluxe]
  • Modern Music (1976) [Be Bop Deluxe]
  • Live! In The Air Age (1977) [Be Bop Deluxe]
  • Drastic Plastic (1978) [Be Bop Deluxe]
  • Sound - On - Sound (1979) [Bill Nelson's Red Noise]
  • Quit Dreaming And Get On The Beam (1981) Mercury
  • Sounding The Ritual Echo (Atmospheres for Dreaming) (1981)
  • Das Kabinet (The Cabinet Of Doctor Caligari) (1981)
  • The Love That Whirls (Diary Of A Thinking Heart) (1982)
  • La Belle Et La Bete (1982)
  • Chimera (1983)
  • Savage Gestures For Charm's Sake (1983)
  • Trial By Intimacy - The Summer Of God's Piano (1985)
  • Trial By Intimacy - Chamber Of Dreams (Music from the Invisibility Exhibition) (1985)
  • Trial By Intimacy - Pavilions Of The Heart And Soul (1985)
  • Trial By Intimacy - A Catalogue Of Obsessions (1985)
  • Chameleon (The Music Of Bill Nelson) (1985)
  • Getting The Holy Ghost Across (1986)
  • Iconography (1986) [Orchestra Arcana]
  • Map Of Dreams (1987)
  • 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)
  • Optimism (1988) [Orchestra Arcana]
  • Demonstrations Of Affection - Chimes And Rings (1989)
  • Demonstrations Of Affection - Nudity (1989)
  • Demonstrations Of Affection - Heartbreakland (1989)
  • Demonstrations Of Affection - Details (1989)
  • Simplex (1990)
  • Altar Pieces (1990)
  • Luminous (1991)
  • Blue Moons & Laughing Guitars (1992)
  • Automatic (1994) [Channel Light Vessel]
  • Crimsworth (Flowers, Stones, Fountains And Flames) (1995)
  • Practically Wired or how I became…Guitarboy! (1995)
  • My Secret Studio Volume I - Buddha Head (1995)
  • My Secret Studio Volume I - Electricity Made Us Angels (1995)
  • My Secret Studio Volume I - Deep Dream Decoder (1995)
  • My Secret Studio Volume I - Juke Box For Jet Boy (1995)
  • After The Satellite Sings (1996)
  • Excellent Spirits (1996) [Channel Light Vessel]
  • Confessions Of A Hyperdreamer: My Secret Studio Volume II - Weird Critters (1997)
  • Confessions Of A Hyperdreamer: My Secret Studio Volume II - Magnificent Dream People (1997)
  • Atom Shop (1998)
  • Whistling While The World Turns (2000)
  • Noise Candy - Old Man Future Blows The Blues (2002)
  • Noise Candy - Stargazing With Ranger Bill (2002)
  • Noise Candy - Sunflower Dairy Product (2002)
  • Noise Candy - King Frankenstein (2002)
  • Noise Candy - Console (2002)
  • Noise Candy - Playtime (2002)
  • Caliban And Chrome Harmonium (2002)
  • Astral Motel (2002)
  • Whimsy (2003)
  • Whimsy Two (A Garage Full Of Clouds) (2003)
  • The Romance Of Sustain Volume One: Painting With Guitars (2003)
  • Luxury Lodge (2003)
  • Plaything (2003)
  • Dreamland To Starboard (2004)
  • Custom Deluxe (2004)
  • Satellite Songs (2004)
  • Wah-Wah Galaxy (2004)
  • Rosewood: Ornaments And Graces For Acoustic Guitar Volume One (2005)
  • Rosewood: Ornaments And Graces For Acoustic Guitar Volume Two (2005)
  • Orpheus In Ultraland (2005)
  • The Alchemical Adventures Of Sailor Bill (2005)
  • Neptune's Galaxy (2006)
  • Return To The Jazz Of Lights (2006)
  • Arcadian Salon (2006)
  • Gleaming Without Lights (2006)
  • Secret Club For Members Only (2007)
  • And We Fell Into A Dream (2007)
  • Silvertone Fountains (2008)
  • Illuminated At Dusk (2008)
  • Mazda Kaleidoscope (2008)
  • Clocks & Dials (2008)
  • Golden Melodies Of Tomorrow (2008)
  • Fancy Planets (2009)
  • Here Comes Mr Mercury (2009)
  • Theatre Of Falling Leaves (2009)
  • The Dream Transmission Pavilion (2009)
  • Non-Stop Mystery Action (2009)

References

External links


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