Bill Nelson's Red Noise

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Bill Nelson's Red Noise
Also known as Red Noise
Origin England
Genres New wave, synthpop, art rock
Years active 1978–1979
Labels Harvest, EMI
Associated acts Bill Nelson, Be-Bop Deluxe, Fiat Lux, TV Toy, Puzzle Monkey
Past members Bill Nelson
Ian Nelson
Andy Clark
Rick Ford
Dave Mattacks
Steve Peer

Bill Nelson's Red Noise, or more simply Red Noise, was Bill Nelson's umbrella term for what effectively became a British new wave band, formed by Bill Nelson (lead vocals, guitar), his brother Ian (saxophone), Andy Clark (keyboards) and Rick Ford (bass), around 1978,[1] briefly employing Dave Mattacks (drums) before adding Steve Peer (drums).


Nelson formed Red Noise after dissolving Be-Bop Deluxe,[1] while metamorphosing from blues, progressive and glam rock to more new wave and electronic sounds following the last Be-Bop Deluxe album Drastic Plastic, released early 1978. EMI's Harvest Records subsidiary, to whom Be-Bop had been contracted, insisted on his name being added - hence Bill Nelson's Red Noise. Clark had also been a member of Be-Bop Deluxe while Ian Nelson had collaborated on the song (and hit single) "Ships In The Night" from the Sunburst Finish album (1976). Peer was previously in TV Toy, only joining the band for touring purposes after the album had been recorded (he can be heard on a number of Red Noise live and Bill Nelson-credited B-side studio tracks plus the one Red Noise-credited track on Nelson's later Quit Dreaming And Get On The Beam). In the studio, Nelson recorded most of the drum parts himself, hiring former Fairport Convention drummer Dave Mattacks for more complex tracks.[2]

Red Noise released only one album, Sound-on-Sound, plus two singles, "Furniture Music" and "Revolt Into Style, in February and April 1979.[1] After that, Bill Nelson continued as a solo artist,[1] with the collaboration of Clark and his brother Ian. Clark would later appear on selected tracks on David Bowie's Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) album, notably its hit single "Ashes to Ashes". Rick Ford played with Hazel O'Connor and Joe Jackson and now composes soundtrack music for the entertainment industry in California, while Steve Peer is with a band called Puzzle Monkey.

Red Noise is also considered by some Be-Bop fans as a Be-Bop Deluxe continuation because of Sound-on-Sound's similarity to the emerging electronic character of Be-Bop's final studio album, Drastic Plastic, released the previous year. An interview with Bill Nelson in 1979[3] hints that several of the songs in Sound-on-Sound were written during his Be-Bop Deluxe days and might have been included in any Be-Bop album subsequent to Drastic Plastic had that band remained together. However, Nelson also makes clear that he regarded Red Noise as an escape from Be-Bop Deluxe rather than its continuation: "Drastic Plastic was the last-ditch attempt to get the band to change a bit but it was difficult for people to accept." Touring England to promote the album, Red Noise performed a Be-Bop song from Drastic Plastic, "Possession." [4]

In a 1984 interview,[5] Nelson revealed that he had recorded a second Red Noise album immediately after Sound-on-Sound but that his record company Harvest Records didn't like it: "EMI wouldn't release it, and it sat on the shelf." Nelson's manager eventually purchased some of the unreleased songs back from EMI so that Nelson could release them as a solo artist under his own label, Cocteau Records. One of these was Do You Dream In Colour, which received generous radio airplay and press coverage for its original music video. This track and one on the B-side featured all vocals and instruments by Nelson himself apart from sax by Ian Nelson. Two other tracks, "Ideal Homes" and "Instantly Yours", featured the Nelson/Nelson/Ford/Clark/Peer lineup. This release attracted the attention of Phonogram, who secured the remaining tracks for Cocteau in order to release the full album, Quit Dreaming And Get On The Beam, credited simply to "Bill Nelson", on their subsidiary label Mercury Records in 1981. Red Noise had not been originally intended as a band so much as a name under which Nelson could bring in musicians as required without being tied down to a fixed band lineup. However, the commercial pressures of the music business meant that it didn't work out that way. Where only one track on Quit Dreaming was credited to Red Noise, it clearly referred to the band: "Disposable" featured the Bill Nelson/Ford/Clark/Peer lineup. Many other tracks featured both Bill and Ian Nelson.

Harvest's 2012 CD reissue of Sound-on-Sound contained not only tracks from single B-sides previously unreleased on that format but also a BBC Radio 1 Friday Rock Show session from 17th February 1979 previously unreleased on any format.




  • "Furniture Music" / "Wonder Toys That Last For Ever", "Acquitted By Mirrors" (February 1979) Harvest
  • "Revolt Into Style" / "Out Of Touch" recorded live at Leicester De Montfort Hall (April 1979) Harvest[1]
  • "Revolt Into Style", "Furniture Music" / "Stay Young", "Out Of Touch" both recorded live at Leicester De Montfort Hall 12" (April 1979) Harvest

Miscellaneous Tracks[edit]

  • "Ideal Homes", "Instantly Yours" on B-side of "Do You Dream In Colour" (1980) [Bill Nelson] these two tracks feature the Nelson/Nelson/Ford/Clark/Peer lineup Cocteau
  • "Ideal Homes", "Instantly Yours" (same recordings as above) on The Two-Fold Aspect of Everything (1984) comprises numerous A & B sides previously unavailable on LP Cocteau
  • "Disposable" credited to Red Noise on album Quit Dreaming And Get On The Beam (1981) [Bill Nelson] Mercury Records

Compilation albums[edit]

  • Bop To The Red Noise Be-Bop Deluxe (1986) mixture of BBD and RN material Dojo
  • The Practice Of Everyday Life (2011) [Bill Nelson] 8-CD, 40 year career retrospective mixture of BBD, RN and BN solo material Esoteric Recordings

Compilation singles[edit]

Compilation singles[edit]

  • Permanent Flame (The Beginners Guide To Bill Nelson) 5-Disc Set (1983) [Bill Nelson] includes previously released BBD, RN and BN solo material Cocteau


  1. ^ a b c d e Strong, Martin C. (2000). The Great Rock Discography (5th ed.). Edinburgh: Mojo Books. pp. 683–4. ISBN 1-84195-017-3. 
  2. ^ Reeves, Paul Sutton (2008). Music In Dreamland Bill Nelson & Be Bop Deluxe (1st ed.). London: Helter Skelter publishing. pp. 153–5. ISBN 978-1-900924-04-7. 
  3. ^ Mitchell, Tony (1979). "Revolt Into Style". Retrieved 31 December 2012. 
  4. ^ "Red Noise "Possession" live in Sheffield 1979". 1979. Retrieved 23 April 2015. 
  5. ^ Robbins, Ira (1984). "Bill Nelson - Autodiscography". 

External links[edit]