Be-Bop Deluxe “Sunburst Finish”

Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#454 in the Series) is Be-Bop Deluxe, Sunburst Finish.

Create a list of 1970’s guitar heroes. Hendrix, Clapton, Richards, Schenker, Gallagher, Ronson, Jones, etc… Be-Bop Deluxe’s Bill Nelson wouldn’t get much mention. He should.

Be-Bop Deluxe was a band formed in England in 1972. Classification of Be-Bop is a difficult proposition. In 1972 Deep Purple, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, and the Rolling Stones dominated much of the rock world. Perhaps the most logical comparison may be that Be-Bop Deluxe was a poppier version of Roxy Music. Nelson was definitely the straw that stirred the Be-Bop drink. While each member of the band contributes mightily to the sound, every song builds to a burst of Nelson’s six string.

1976’s Sunburst Finish was the most popular LP in the Be-Bop catalog. “Fair Exchange” starts the record out with some typically interesting wordplay from Nelson. “Now Venus De Milo, a statue of note, she lays in the gutter with a knife in her throat……naked as sin, no not even a coat, she gave you a thrill, so you gave her a grope, it’s a fair exchange.” Pulled off in a usual classy manner, these words are almost a surreal type of pornography.

“Heavenly Homes” is a spacy song about Nelson and his mate’s love and their place in the universe. What makes this song go is a great inter-play between Nelson and Andrew Clark’s atmospheric keyboards. Most starts need a foil to play off of and Clark is Nelson’s.

“I’m sitting in a cafe in paradise, naked as a razor, I’m as loaded as a dice” Nelson proclaims in “Sleep That Burns.” Be-Bop is intelligent pop music for the discerning rock fan. It becomes obvious after listening to Be-Bop Deluxe that Bill Nelson’s favorite organ is his brain. The Be-Bop fan must bring his or hers to the listening party.

The original version of Sunburst Finish (there are three bonus tracks on the 1990 reissue) concludes with another guitar raver. “Blazing Apostles” reaffirms what I have known about Bill Nelson since my sophomore year in high school (1974). Nelson is a guitar innovator and star. It’s a tragedy that not many people are aware of this. Or maybe it’s awesome that my friends and I were in a small pocket of people in the know about Be-Bop Deluxe.

— Jim McCabe


  • Bill Nelson – lead vocals, electric guitar, 12 string guitar
  • Charlie Tumahai – bass guitar, backing vocals
  • Andy Clark – keyboards and Synthesizer
  • Simon Fox – drums

Track listing

The Great Bill Nelson

Original UK release (February 1976)

All songs written by Bill Nelson

  1. “Fair Exchange” – 4:49
  2. “Heavenly Homes” – 3:36
  3. “Ships in the Night” – 4:03
  4. “Crying to the Sky” – 3:57
  5. “Sleep That Burns” – 5:16
  6. “Beauty Secrets” – 2:47
  7. “Life in the Air Age” – 3:59
  8. “Like an Old Blues” – 3:27
  9. “Crystal Gazing” – 3:24
  10. “Blazing Apostles” – 4:29


Posted by Larry Carta

1 Comment

  1. Liam Zam (02 Mar 2012, 15:08)

    William is the master of music!

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