Bill Nelson: Permanent Flame – The Beginners’ Guide To Bill Nelson UK 5×7 
- Do You Dream In Colour
- Ideal Homes
- Instantly Yours
- Atom Man Loves Radium Girl
- Panic In The World
- Maid In Heaven
- Electrical Language
- Revolt Into Style
- Stay Young
- Furniture Music
- Touch And Glow
- Dancing In The Wind
- Love Without Fear
- Rooms With Brittle Views
- Dada Guitare
I can’t exactly remember where I had heard of Bill Nelson first. I have the vague idea that it was a review in the singles section of Trouser Press where the initial impression might have been made. I do know that I never heard his music, even that of his previous band, Be-Bop Deluxe, on the stingy Orlando airwaves! I remember seeing Be-Bop albums like “Live In The Air Age” in stores at the time of their release, but I had no idea who Bill Nelson was… other than a Florida Congressman!
But I certainly remember where I first heard Nelson… in this handily named seven inch boxed set! With a subtitle like that, how could I not take the bait? I believe it was in the hallowed halls of Crunchy Armadillo Records that I found this gem upon its release. I felt it would be an ideal program to sample whether this Bill Nelson was my cup of tea or not. The box held five 7″ records in picture sleeves, a sheet of liner notes, and a Bill Nelson button.
The “Do You Dream In Colour” EP was a four-track/33.3 rpm affair. This was from Nelson’s 1981 album “Quit Dreaming And Get On The Beam” with a compliment of three non-LP B-sides to get all of the material Nelson had recorded out in the world. “Instantly Yours” was a churning bit of New Wave enlivened by frantic rhythms and brother Ian Nelson’s sax. “Atom Man Loves Radium Girl” deals in the sort of sci-fi kitsch beloved by Nelson and is the type of tune that indelibly prints itself in my mind. I can’t begin to count how many times this song pops up like a mental virus.
The “Be-Bop Deluxe” EP was a sampler of three tunes from the band that Nelson made his name with. “Maid In Heaven” was an earlier song from the band’s second album, “Futurama,” but it sounded firmly planted in the mid-70s next to the other two tracks. “Panic In The World” was a step ahead from the proto-glam of “Maid In Heaven” to post-glam ethos. The glitter has faded but a hint of boogie is still in the mix. Not so for “Electrical Language,” which was my favorite song off of any of these discs in the box! This was pure technopop that was prescient by several years in its 1978 milieu. I would definitely need to get the “Drastic Plastic” album from whence it came!
The “Red Noise” EP gave an overview of the project that Nelson followed on with after Be-Bop Deluxe ceased to exist after “Drastic Plastic.” By this time he was perfectly in step with the Post-Punk era. Click on the cover. Have you ever seen a skinner tie? The three tracks here are a few of the less twitchy tracks from the “Sound On Sound” album that was the sole legacy of Red Noise. “Stay Young” is the liveliest track here, but “Revolt Into Style” remains a bright pop manifesto based on the George Melly book of the same name, and served to inform the name of my [now moribund] vanity label.
The “Touch + Glow” EP was one of the early singles releases on Nelson’s own Cocteau Records label. This label served as an outlet for the large backlog of music Nelson was constantly recording; an amount far in advance of what a major label was capable of releasing. He was still signed to Mercury in the UK in 1982, but singles like this allowed his current experiments to reach public ears. The cut Dancing In The Wind” still seems to be m.i.a. on CD after all of these years!
Finally, after four EPs comes an old-fashioned two track 45 that Nelson had issued in 1980 for the Belgian Disques Du Crépuscule label. “Rooms With Brittle Views” would have been right at home on “Quit Dreaming And Get On The Beam.” The B-side, “Dada Guitare,” was a peppy instrumental that ventured into Fripp-like territories. It would have been right at home on the next year’s “League Of Gentlemen” album by Fripp’s “new wave dance combo.” Fripp and Nelson would eventually collaborate on David Sylvian’s “Gone To Earth” album of 1986 that saw two of my favorite guitarists together at last.
From this zero-point, I made a bee-line to any and all Bill Nelson material that I subsequently happened upon. Any and all of it is good but I particularly enjoy the period that came immediately before this box was issued in early 1983. I’d keep up with Nelson through the early 90s and his insatiable lust to release huge amounts of recorded music moving through ambient, dance collage, and technopop styles, but at a certain point he dropped his boosters and shot through the stratosphere; far outdistancing my ability to keep up with his increasingly peripatetic muse or the cost of 4-10 albums worth of material per year!
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