A music genre that had an amazing run during the 70’s was progressive rock music. Bands like Yes, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Supertramp and The Moody Blues were blotching radio airwaves with music that had the sophistication of classical music but had little social importance. These bands wrote songs that were at least relevant within the listener’s inner psyche but for the most part lacked engaging melodies and lyrics.

Progressive music in general didn’t have the traction or excitement of glam music that was starting to emerge in England and America at the same time.

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There was one English band that brought together progressive rock and glam; and that was Be Bop Deluxe.
The band was the brain child of Bill Nelson who was also a guitarist extraordinaire. Nelson brought together progressive and glam to form a sound that created a strong bond amongst fans. It had strong elements of glam lyrics while delivering compelling rock music.

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I remember seeing Be Bop Deluxe while I was in college and their live performance was displayed with the utmost in precision and technicality. Nelson would wail diligent guitar licks like no one else before and sing of life in a futuristic time. He was a burgeoning guitar hero with a blazing style and a talented bunch of players backing him up. His vision was not restricted to mere music but he would oversee the artwork that always had a 1930’s monolithic perspective of science fiction. Their only live album titled “Live! In the Air Age” was originally released as a double album in white vinyl.

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Their most important album released in 1976 was “Sunburst Finish” and Nelson finally found a balance between his virtuosic guitar playing and the demands of pop songwriting. The arrangements were still busy, but the humor

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of Nelson’s music was on display as never before, and the songs frequently were catchy. For the first time, it began to seem that the group had a future beyond serving as a foundation for Nelson’s splashy guitar work, as Be Bop Deluxe charted in the U.S. and the U.K. and even scored a Top 25 British hit with “Ships in the Night.”

With the momentum created from Sunburst Finish, Be Bop released the same year “Modern Music”
Things had changed for Be Bop Deluxe by the time of the group’s fourth album. The band that turned up in glam rock regalia on its 1974 debut, Axe Victim, was in suit and tie on the cover of Modern Music in 1976. Inside, the band’s transformation into a sophisticated pop group seemed complete. Arrangements were still ornate, but the songs were dominated by their highly imagistic lyrics, and as often as not, Nelson was borrowing ideas from the Beatles. The album charted high in England but barely cracked the Top 100 in the U.S.. What was supposed to be their breakthrough album turned out to be their peak. The album contained one track that was Nelson’s journey into intergalactic romance and that was the title track, “Modern Music”.

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Nelson formed Be Bop Deluxe in 1972 in West Yorkshire; they never played “Be Bop” music, but instead came out of the blues-based British Rock. At first they were compared to the more successful David Bowie, but Nelson never tried to copy Bowie, and appears to have disliked comparisons or being pigeon-holed. The momentum of Nelson’s band really started to wane and they soon broke up after the release of “Drastic Plastic” in 1978. Nelson admitted that during his tenure of recording for EMI Records he had never received a royalty check until 2011 when they label re-released the catalogue in a remastered format.