Drastic Plastic

Be Bop Deluxe

album - 10 February 1978

Drastic Plastic cover


01)  Electrical Language

02)  New Precision

03)  New Mysteries

04)  Surreal Estate

05)  Love In Flames

06)  Panic In The World

07)  Dangerous Stranger

08)  Superenigmatix

09)  Visions Of Endless Hopes

10)  Possession

11)  Islands Of The Dead


Drastic Plastic is the sixth and final album by BeBop Deluxe, and was recorded using the Rolling Stones Mobile Unit on location in Juan le Pins in Southern France during May and June 1977.  The album was stylistically a departure from their past work and signaled a transition in Nelson’s work to a more electronic approach, closer to New Wave music than 70s Rock.  As a result, some fans found this change difficult to fully accept.  Drastic Plastic was the fourth Be Bop Deluxe album in succession to feature the now established line up of Bill Nelson, Simon Fox, Charlie Tumahai and Andy Clarke.
The album appeared on vinyl and cassette, and was promoted by the release of two singles "Panic in the World" and "Electrical Language".  Like their two previous singles, both of these failed to chart.  Vinyl copies were released in a single sleeve, and the record was housed in an inner sleeve featuring lyrics to all songs.

In North America the album appeared with a slightly revised track listing, with the track "Visions of Endless Hope" replaced with the UK only single, "Japan".  Canadian collectors were treated to a limited edition white vinyl edition.  When reissued on CD in 1991, EMI elected to enhance the album by adding 3 bonus tracks, although they represent a mixed bag in the context of this album and the reissue programme as a whole.  "Blimps" in chronological terms belongs with Sunburst Finish, and "Lights" with Futurama, leaving just "Lovers Are Mortal" as the only appropriate inclusion.  If you no longer kept your vinyl copy of Futurama, but require song lyrics, then this CD edition satisfies that need.  The informative sleeve notes penned by Kevin Cann provide useful context.



The album is still in print in a number of guises.  The 1991 CD edition is still available as a physical CD and download (on iTunes and Amazon), and the album without the bonus tracks can be obtained in the budget box set Original Album Series (2014), as well as on Disc 4 of the Futurist Manifesto box set (2012). 

Joy Through Amplification, Fantastic Guitars, New Northern Dream, Fancy Planets, Special Metal,
Romance of Sustain, Orpheus in Ultraland, Modern Moods for Mighty Atoms, Satellite Songs,
The Alchemical Adventures of Sailor Bill, Golden Melodies of Tomorrow, Practically Wired


"I came up with that TV heads image way back in the 1970s, before even some of you good folks might even have been old enough to notice.

"It eventually was photographed for the '70s album, Drastic Plastic, (by 'Sleazy' of Throbbing Gristle), and was originally intended for a front cover, but sadly got relegated to the back cover due to Hipgnosis, (the favoured designers at EMI back then), who supposedly had a 'better' front cover image showing paint being thrown over an artificial kitchen.
Well, what the heck this ever had to do with the musical concept of the album still escapes me and it is one of those record company decisions that simply baffles...But there you go...Art, in the hands of the infidel, turns to banality."

"Getting my first Mini-Moog was exciting because previously you would have had to invest in a bulky and very expensive modular system.  The Mini-Moog brought the possibility of synthesis to a much wider range of musicians, myself included.  And I wanted to break away from being stereotyped as a 'guitar hero' at that time, but mainly liked the added textures that the Moog brought to the songs."

"Several of the tracks on Drastic Plastic feature drum tape loops rather than 'live' playing.  Basically, we recorded a few bars of Simon playing the basic beat, then mixed it to a reel of stereo tape whilst feeding it through a guitar fuzz box and compressor, then we'd cut the tape so that it contained just a couple of bars of drums, then joined the ends of the tape together so that it formed a physical tape loop and then ran this 'round and 'round, on constant repeat, copying it back to the multitrack, adding gated reverb to make it more explosive.  The band then played to the tape loop rather than to a live kit.  Thinking about it now, it was like an early, primitive, version of 'sampling'.  The idea was to get a repetitive, neo-mechanical, machine drum feel to the rhythm, rather than the usual rock approach.  The home demos I made for the album have a very similar feel and we often spent time in the studio trying to re-create the groove of those demos."

"Visions of Endless Hope":  "from Drastic Plastic has birdsong and wind sound...but it's all live in real time, as the guitar parts were recorded in the open-air in the garden of 'Villa St George' in Juan Les Pins in the South Of France.  Every bird cheep and breezy tree shimmer was picked up by a ring of microphones as I played the Ovation 12-string guitar whilst sitting in the middle of the villa's garden."



"When I first played Drastic Plastic and heard the song "Electrical Language".  I thought WTF is this?  I grew to love the track and wished there was more pure electronica like it on the album.  Although I suspect Simon Fox would have been a bit hacked off not playing a real kit."


"I remember back in 1978 my friend's older brother, who was the first person I ever knew with Be Bop Deluxe records, thought you had lost it with Drastic Plastic.  I thought it was the best thing I'd ever heard!  Perhaps that was the first but far from the last time you challenged your fanbase."


"I have to say, living in this insane planet, that I bought Drastic Plastic when it was first released and I loved every song on first hearing.  It is ALL hit potential...in a sane world."


"After absorbing Drastic Plastic in early '78 I remember considering what the next development would bring.....tracks like "Possession" and "Superenigmatic" were so not of the previous, and kind of gave a hint of things to come, albeit in hindsight as we now know."


"Who would have thought that "Electrical Language" from Drastic Plastic was about people communicating via 'electronic devices' and not talking face to face?.....Ring any bells with today's norm of texting and emails?....and Bill predicted this over 30 years ago!"

Ian Nelson (from Music In Dreamland by Paul Sutton Reeves):

"There are phrases in the English language which, if not entirely original, have passed unobtrusively into common usage after being coined by Bill.  How often do you see the term 'Drastic Plastic' used as a strap line for an album review?"

Mayor of Dreamsville:

"I first heard Be Bop Deluxe as I walked/cycled around the village I grew up in (and live in once again).  You could pretty much hear them all around the village as they rehearsed in the wooden hut that served as a village hall.  We used to stand on our bikes to spy through the windows, then when we got a bit braver, we'd sneak into the hall to watch from the back.  This will probably have been rehearsals for the Drastic Plastic tour as I can distinctly remember them rehearsing 'Panic In The World'.
How bizarre that 30 years later, I was in a band with Bill Nelson playing some of those very same songs!!!"


© Bill Nelson 2020

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