Be Bop Deluxe – Drastic Plastic (4CD/2DVD or 2CD Sets)

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Formed in West Yorkshire in 1972, Be Bop Deluxe evolved quickly from their glam rock beginnings to their futuristic fifth and final album, 1978’s Drastic Plastic. Testament to Bill Nelson’s vision Be Bop Deluxe were a chameleon of a band, constantly shapeshifting and taking on new forms and Drastic Plastic was the perfect summation of Be Bop’s transmogrification.

Disc One: The Original Stereo Mix Remastered

Recorded in the summer of ‘78 in the south of France Drastic Plastic perfectly encapsulated the musical zeitgeist. It was a time when punk had reached its nihilistic conclusion and new wave and art rock offered a myriad of possibilities. It’s precisely that aesthetic into which Be Bop Deluxe tapped and subsequently Drastic Plastic sounds like it could have been plucked from any point over the past 40 years. Opener ‘Electrical Language’ reveals an angular sound (with a Far Eastern feel) that provides a tension of opposites between organic and electronic instrumentation and it’s a juxtaposition that echoes throughout Drastic Plastic.

Be Bop Deluxe bear little resemblance from the band who released their glam flavoured debut Axe Victim just four years earlier. It sounds like bandleader (and creative force) Bill Nelson placed the group in a time capsule and fired it towards some distant future. To be fair, Bill’s futuristic vision was very 1950’s: all jet packs, space hoppers and monorails and that’s what you get on the eternally charming Drastic Plastic. From the Clockwork Orange ‘Surreal Estate’ to the high octane ‘Possession’ via the Asiatic ‘New Precision’ this is an album that’s constantly opening and revealing new facets, rather like a lotus flower.

Supplemented by eight bonus tracks this is the most complete version of Drastic Plastic ever released and, on an album that borrows heavily from the koto, it’s no surprise that ‘Japan’ is first of those bonus octets. In their shortened single versions ‘Panic In The World’ and ‘Love In Flames’ become more direct and vital while their corresponding b-sides show what an embarrassment of riches Be Bop Deluxe had in reserve. An out take of ‘Islands Of The Dead’ is as equally haunting to that which appeared on Drastic Plastic while the smokey jazz club vibe of ‘The Saxophonist’ provides the perfect closer and, on an album that finds Bill Nelson’s fretwork somewhat subdued, it evidences what a great guitarist he was.

Disc Two: Additional Tracks And Sessions

This set is a veritable treasure trove of riches and the second disc opens with five tracks that were scheduled to appear on an EP. The band split before said EP could materialise (although they did appear on the Best Of & The Rest Of compilation) and they provide a stepping stone between Be Bop Deluxe and Bill’s next project, Red Noise. ‘Autosexual’ and ‘Blimps’ are more of that visionary space rock and are both encased in a lovely warm production.

Also included is a BBC Live In Concert outing from 1978. Featuring nine tracks it finds the band performing songs from Drastic Plastic for the very first time, and they’re on top form. The surprised silence that greets the ending of ‘Superenigmatix’ is priceless while ‘Dangerous Stranger’ becomes even more vivacious in the live environment. The keys are brought to the fore here and there’s an eclectic nature that’s not dissimilar to Lodger-era David Bowie. John Peel was a long term fan of the band and they recorded several sessions for him over the years but this one from ‘78 is particularly feisty as they shave a few seconds off ‘Superenigmatix’ and ‘Possession’ and deliver faithful renditions of ‘Panic In The World’ and ‘Love In Flames’.

Disc Three: The New Stereo Mixes

The third disc adds a new 2020 Stereo Mix of Drastic Plastic (and assorted bonus cuts) and it’s a revelation. With some reissues you’re left wondering what all the fuss is about with these new (allegedly improved) mixes but this disc is worth the admission price alone. Sounding fuller and more vibrant it’s brought subtle nuances, previously hidden deep in the mix, right to the surface and while it sounds familiar it’s simultaneously strange, too. Play back to back with the first disc and you’ll marvel at how ‘Electrical Precision’ now pulses with radiation and how ’Visions Of Endless Hopes’ seems to exist with a spacious musical black hole while ‘Islands Of The Dead’ is given a vaguely calypso feel. Eight bonus tracks are added which are also given the opportunity to blossom within this mix.

Disc Four: A Feeling Of Playing, Bill Nelson 1977 Demos

Just as The New Stereo Mixes revealed a whole new facet of Drastic Plastic so does this fourth disc, only it takes us in the opposite direction. A series of unreleased pre-production demos A Feeling Of Playing removes all the bells and whistles to present many of the songs that appeared on Drastic Plastic (and the ill fated EP) in all their naked glory. Stripped back to their embryonic form the songs reveal a strong songwriting sensibility that carries them forward despite being ‘only’ demos. Well recorded they’re an intriguing insight into the mind of Bill Nelson and it’s interesting to see the development of songs such as ‘New Mysteries’ and ‘Blue Jewel’.

DVD One: New Stereo And Original Stereo Mixes 

You don’t need the frequency range of a dog to appreciate the benefits of a 5.1 surround set up. The mixes on this disc are top notch with the tracklisting mirroring CD One. Needless to say, if you have your speakers set at optimum angles then the effect is Be Bop Deluxe performing in your living room. It may be a cliché but in this case it’s perfectly true: Drastic Plastic has never sounded so good.

DVD Two: Be Bop Deluxe In The South Of France / BBC TV Sight & Sound In Concert

Home movie footage of Be Bop Deluxe from Bill Nelson’s own collection finds the band recording during the summer of ‘78 at Chateau Saint Georges, Juan-les-Pins. It’s 8mm film that’s suitably grainy and amateur but it does capture the spirit of the times. Sight & Sound In Concert immortalises Bill and the boys back on home turf previewing tracks from the forthcoming Drastic Plastic opus. It’s the same audio that appears on CD Two but it’s been expertly captured on celluloid by the BBC and makes for compulsive viewing. Quite surprisingly Be Bop Deluxe were never the most visual band (they’re all thrift store jumpers and jeans) but the bands joyful performance carries the set forward. In fact their stage presence is not dissimilar to New York legends Television.

Cherry Red have done a great job with this box set and if the six discs are not enough (including 43 unreleased tracks) they’ve included a 68 page booklet, postcards and replica poster. A slimmed down 2 CD set is also available.

  • Reviewed by Peter Dennis.
  • Drastic Plastic is released via Cherry Red on 26 February 2021
  • Website

Track listing for 4CD/2DVD Set:

CD One: The Original Stereo Mix Remastered

  1. Electrical Language
  2. New Precision
  3. New Mysteries
  4. Surreal Estate
  5. World In Flames
  6. Panic In The World
  7. Dangerous Stranger
  8. Superenigmatix (Lethal Appliances For The Home With Everything)
  9. Visions Of Endless Hopes
  10. Possession
  11. Islands Of The Dead

Bonus Tracks:

  1. Japan (single ‘A’ Side, 09/1977)
  2. Futurist Manifesto (Single ‘B’ Side, 09/1977)
  3. Panic In The World (Single Version, ‘A’ Side, 01/1978)
  4. Blue As A Jewel (Single ‘B’ Side, 01/1978)
  5. Electrical Language (Single Version, ‘A’ Side, 05/1978)
  6. Love In Flames (Single Version, ‘B’ Side, 05/1978)
  7. Face In The Rain (Previously Unreleased)
  8. Islands Of The Dead (Take Four)
  9. The Saxophonist (Juan-les-Pins Version)

CD Two: Additional Tracks & Sessions

Recorded At The Manor Studio, August 1977, For An Intended EP:

  1. Autosexual
  2. Lovers Are Mortal
  3. Blimps
  4. Speed Of The Wind
  5. Quest Of Harvest For The Stars

BBC Radio One, Sight & Sound In Concert, 19th January 1978

  1. New Precision
  2. Superenigmatix (Lethal Appliances For The Home With Everything)
  3. Possession
  4. Dangerous Stranger
  5. Islands Of The Dead
  6. Panic In The World
  7. Lovers Are Mortal
  8. Love In Flames
  9. Blazing Apostles

BBC Radio One, John Peel Session, 30th January 1978

  1. Superenigmatix (Lethal Appliances For The Home With Everything)
  2. Possession
  3. Panic In The World
  4. Love In Flames

CD Three: The New Stereo Mixes

  1. Electrical Language
  2. New Precision
  3. New Mysteries
  4. Surreal Estate
  5. Love In Flames
  6. Panic In The World
  7. Dangerous Stranger
  8. Superenigmatix (Lethal Appliances For The Home With Everything)
  9. Visions Of Endless Hope
  10. Possession
  11. Islands Of The Dead
  12. Japan
  13. Futurist Manifesto
  14. Blue As A Jewel
  15. Autosexual
  16. Face In The Rain
  17. Lovers Are Mortal
  18. Speed Of The Wind
  19. Quest For The Harvest Of The Stars

CD Four: A Feeling Of Playing, Bill Nelson’s Demos 1977

  1. Speed Of The Wind
  2. Surreal Estate
  3. The Saxophonist
  4. Electrical Language
  5. Visions Of Endless Hopes
  6. Possession
  7. Islands Of The Dead
  8. New Mysteries
  9. Japan
  10. Dangerous Stranger
  11. Blue As A Jewel
  12. Autosexual
  13. Quest For The Harvest Of The Stars
  14. New Precision
  15. Love In Flames

DVD One: New Stereo And Original Stereo Mixes

  1. Electrical Language
  2. New Precision
  3. New Mysteries
  4. Surreal Estate
  5. Love In Flames
  6. Panic In The World
  7. Dangerous Stranger
  8. Superenigmatix (Lethal Appliances For The Home With Everything)
  9. Visions Of Endless Hopes
  10. Possession
  11. Islands Of The Dead
  12. Japan
  13. Futurist Manifesto
  14. Blue As A Jewel
  15. Autosexual
  16. Face In The Rain
  17. Lovers Are Mortal
  18. Speed Of The Wind
  19. Quest For The Harvest Of The Stars

DVD Two: Be Bop Deluxe In The South Of France / BBC TV Sight & Sound In Concert

  1. Bill Nelson’s Home Movies Filmed While Recording Drastic Plastic.

BBC TV Sight & Sound In Concert, 19th January 1978

  1. New Precision
  2. Superenigmatix (Lethal Appliances For The Home With Everything)
  3. Possession
  4. Dangerous Stranger
  5. Islands Of The Dead
  6. Lovers Are Mortal
  7. Panic In The World

 

Track listing  for 2CD Set:

CD One: The Original Stereo Mix

  1. Electrical Language
  2. New Precision
  3. New Mysteries
  4. Surreal Estate
  5. Love In Flames
  6. Panic In The World
  7. Dangerous Stranger
  8. Superenigmatix (Lethal Appliances For The Home With Everything)
  9. Visions Of Endless Hopes
  10. Possession
  11. Islands Of The Dead

Bonus Tracks

  1. Japan (Single Version ‘A’ Side, 09/1977)
  2. Futurist Manifesto (Single Version ‘B’ Side, 09/1977)
  3. Blue As A Jewel (Single Version ‘B’ Side, 01/1978)

Recorded At The Manor Studio, August 1977, For An Intended EP

  1. Autosexual
  2. Face In The Rain
  3. Lovers Are Mortal
  4. Blimps
  5. Speed Of The Wind
  6. Quest For The Harvest Of The Stars

CD Two: The New Stereo Mix

  1. Electrical Language
  2. New Precision
  3. New Mysteries
  4. Surreal Estate
  5. Love In Flames
  6. Panic In The World
  7. Dangerous Stranger
  8. Superenigmatix (Lethal Appliances For The Home With Everything)
  9. Visions Of Endless Hopes
  10. Possession
  11. Islands Of The Dead

Bonus Tracks

  1. Panic In The World (Single Version, ‘A’ Side,  01/1978)
  2. Electrical Language (Single Version, ‘A’ Side, 05/1978)
  3. Love In Flames (Single Version, ‘B’ Side, 05/1978)
  4. Islands Of The Dead (Take 4)
  5. The Saxophonist (Juan-les-Pins Version)

 

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