Sound-On-Sound

Bill Nelson's Red Noise

album - 16 February 1979

Sound-On-Sound cover
Sound-On-Sound page 3
Sound-On-Sound page 9

TRACKS:

01)  Don't Touch Me, (I'm Electric)

02)  For Young Moderns

03)  Stop/Go/Stop

04)  Furniture Music

05)  Radar In My Heart

06)  Stay Young

07)  Out Of Touch

08)  A Better Home In The Phantom Zone

09)  Substitute Flesh

10)  The Atom Age

11)  Art/Empire/Industry

12)  Revolt Into Style

ALBUM NOTES:

Sound-On-Sound was Bill Nelson's first album to be issued subsequent to the dissolution of Be Bop Deluxe.  The album would prove to be his final for EMI.

Sound-On-Sound represents a major departure from Nelson's previous work, combining the urgency of New Wave music with the layering of synthesisers that would come to define the Synth Pop sounds of 1979-83.  Consequently, the album is virtually absent of guitar solos, and the songs are delivered in a frantic, accelerated pace compared to most of Nelson's past work.      

Most of the tracks on Sound-On-Sound feature the nucleus of Nelson, Clark and Ford (as described for the Furniture Music single) with Ian Nelson playing saxophones and/or synthesisers on 10 of the 12 tracks.  Dave Mattacks from Fairport Convention played drums on only four tracks.

Sound-on-Sound was initially issued by Harvest on vinyl (complete with lyrics on the inner sleeve) and cassette, and peaked at No. 33 in the UK album chart.  The album failed to sustain the level of interest associated with Be Bop Deluxe, and when EMI underwent a major re-structure in late 1979, Bill Nelson's Red Noise were dropped.  Sound-On-Sound was deleted (along with the Be Bop Deluxe catalogue) sometime around 1980/81.


PAST RELEASES:

Sound-On-Sound
has been re-issued on vinyl once (1986, Cocteau), and on CD on three separate occasions (1989 Enigma, 1999 EMI, and 2012 EMI).

 

 

CURRENT AVAILABILITY:


The 2012 CD from EMI is the most extensive in content, coming as it does with all four b-side tracks from the album's two singles, plus four previously unreleased tracks recorded from a BBC 'session' (17/02/79 Friday Rock Show).

Extra songs on the 2012 CD:

Furniture Music b-sides:

13)  Wonder Toys That Last Forever

14)  Acquitted By Mirrors

 

Revolt Into Style b-sides:
15)  Stay Young (Live at Leicester De Montfort Hall, 8 March 1979)
16)  Out Of Touch (Live at Leicester De Montfort Hall, 8 March 1979)

Radio 1 Friday Rock Show session (17 February 1979)
17)  Stay Young
18)  Furniture Music
19)  Don't Touch Me (I'm Electric)
20)  Out Of Touch

This 2012 edition was remastered (using the 1999 remaster), includes new liners notes, and contains a nice selection of photos from the time period.

Although overall the sound quality is an improvement over the previous CD issues, the album version of "Stay Young" on this edition suffers from a what appears to be a 'drop out' introduced in the remastering process.

The 2012 reissue was deleted in 2014 and is currently out of print as a physical CD, but is still available as a digital download from major online retailers.



IF YOU LIKED THIS ALBUM, YOU'LL PROBABLY ENJOY:
Quit Dreaming and Get on the Beam, The Love That Whirls, Rooms with Brittle Views, Trial By Intimacy,
Chimera, Savage Gestures for Charms Sake, Sleepcycle & other Cocteau Club eps, Drastic Plastic



BILL'S THOUGHTS:


"The main inspirations were dystopian science fiction novels from the likes of George Orwell (and E.M. Forster's 'The Machine Stops', written in 1909 and frighteningly prophetic of the internet).  Also images from Fritz Lang's 'Metropolis' and the ideas encapsulated in Ray Bradbury's 'Fahrenheit 451'.  But there's also a future-kitsch element to the Red Noise album's stylings, a sense of irony and a slight tongue-in-cheek quality that suggests humourous absurdity.  Although the songs portray a future with sinister overtones, the album attempts to have fun with these concepts, almost as if the citizens who inhabit the future-world the album portrays are too wrapped up in its electric distractions to register the negative effect it is having on their cultural values.  Or something like that!"
_____

"Punk wasn't the reason I disbanded Be Bop Deluxe, just frustration with the 'straightjacket' I felt we'd been fitted with by the industry and our success.  The band's commercial machine was on an ever increasing upward path when I switched it off.  I'd actually tried to pull the plug much earlier, before the Drastic Plastic album was recorded, but had been persuaded by the band's management to hold on a bit longer.  Had I gotten my way, the Drastic Plastic material would have been recorded as the first Red Noise album.  Instead, I adapted it for the final Be Bop album."
_____

"I don't separate Be Bop era from Red Noise Era from whatever.  It's a constantly flowing river heading out into an ocean of whatever is left when I'm gone.  What appears to be different sections or parts appears so only if you view them from close up, from a particular point of bias.  If you stand back and take in the entire work, you'll see it as a unity, a single expression of 'being', a single, unwavering, personal voice.  And it's ALL relevant to the story I'm telling.  No single part is any less or more important than another."
_____

"I chose the album title, Sound-On-Sound, as a reference to early multi-track recording techniques, as pioneered by the great Les Paul."
_____

"The little 'notice' on the vinyl version about playing the album loud and 'motorised in sequence' etc, etc, was written by me, tongue firmly in cheek...

On the original back cover, an "Important Notice" stated: "This record has been styled with today's hi-fi in mind.  For optimum results it should be played at high volume in a room with no views other than those afforded by the use of subliminal image video apparatus.  Dancing is allowed though electrical stimulation of the nervous system is unnecessary.  The music has been motorized in sequence to conserve real time.  File under Absolute A-Go-Go."



FAN THOUGHTS:

Peter:
    

"SOS is a masterpiece!  Everyone is so right about how this collection is so unique, so alive, so frantically searching for something -- and so revealing of exciting new things to come.  Rather like Bill throwing down the gauntlet at the feet of the world (and the music industry) and hollering "Take THAT!"

It reflects Bill's love-hate relationship with change and technology in a raw, pureness that makes it jump into your ears and run around your brain pan laughing at the top of its lungs."


asterisk:

"Every time I listen to this album, not only do I hear some of the best, tightest, and most exhilarating songs ever recorded, I also heard Bill's muse moaning, panting, and screaming in ecstasy.  It's no wonder she's stayed with him all these years."


telekon:
    
"It's fun, self-conscious punk-post-punk-new-wave-prog-rock-eletronica-kitchen-sink-garage-door-glass-of-aspirin-cats-on-fire kind of stuff."


Swan:

"Sound-On-Sound blew my head clean away at the time...it was like a shot of oxygen in a carbon dioxide rich environment...I re-bought it only last year...and...my head is still remote from my neck!  A class and very important album.  Dare I say it?...away ahead of its time..."


John Izzard:

"Don't be misled by the title, Sound-On-Sound is not an audio recording, it's a feature film in your head.  Never in my long and delirious love affair with the album as an art-format, have I experienced a more cohesive, coherent - and fun - explosion of creativity.  Unprecedented and unsurpassed in concept and delivery, I'm forever a rabbit in the dazzling glare of this album's headlights."


andygeorge:

"I remember when I played SOS for the first time thinking WTF!! is this?  I think it was the shock of hearing Bill explode out of the speakers, guns blazing and taking no prisoners!  Then it clicked.  I played it continuously, hooked by the frantic energy of the opening track until the last tracks killer ending...and yes, I can remember my mum, god bless her soul, shouting out that classic line "turn that bloody music down!"..."


paul.smith:

"I have had sex to "Don’t Touch Me I'm Electric", but that's another story - resulting in an ambulance being called and several paramedics attempting to restart my heart..."


Southern Dreamer:
    
"I cycled home from town, put the LP on my ancient record player and pretty much sat there for the whole length of the album with my jaw dropping on the bedroom carpet as I listed to the incredible sound (on sound) coming out of the small battery powered speaker.

One after another the songs burst out from the vinyl grooves; each track sending my pulse racing, as well as to my amazement, when each track finished I just couldn't imagine that the next one would match it, but they did - and some! When the final chords of Revolt into Style crashed out and the pick-up arm lifted the stylus off the LP; my one & only thought - I HAVE GOT TO LISTEN TO THAT RECORD AGAIN, NOW!! And listen to it again I did; and again, and again and…

Be-Bop Deluxe were brilliant, but here was an entirely different listening experience; this was music for the now - hip hop and happening!  I listened to the album so many times over the course of the following months and not once did it fail to reach the parts that most other albums of that period could only dream of getting anywhere near.

However when all is said and done SOS will always stand up to any scrutiny that could be applied towards the recordings from that period and it will forever remain one of THE stand-out albums of the post punk era.  It is with us now for all to marvel at and will be there for generations of listeners to come."


Sound on Sound:

"Back in Feb 1979 I was in my final year at art college.  The Red Noise album was playing on my cassette machine time after time and driving many of the girls in the art studio mad.  But, the guys all loved it and we'd put up with listening to plenty of 'their music'.

The Red Noise concert at Newcastle City Hall was stunning and I have a clear memory of how it made me feel even today.

My brother Ian had a band at the time, so "Revolt Into Style" and "Furniture Music" were rehearsed and added to the playlist within weeks of the album coming out.

Fast-forward many years, Ian and I were working in publishing and itching to start our own music magazine.
Whilst writing the business plan in March 1985 and getting the editorial ideas together, we would often play the Sound-On-Sound album.

Then when we were making a list of possible magazine names such as Studio World or Recording Monthly, we added Sound-On-Sound.  This was not only the album we were listening to but also the name is actually taken from the sound recording process pioneered by Les Paul and was very applicable to our readership.

So, we thought we'd drop the dashes and named the mag Sound On Sound and launched in Oct 1985.

Over the years we would often interview Bill but it wasn't until 2004 that we got involved to help him out with his web site and then manage the CD pressing and mail order.

Back in 1979 I would never have believed this would ever have happened.  Life takes some interesting turns!

Regards all,  Paul"


wonder toy:

"We must all stand back in awe and honor the tremendous courage and sheer BALLS it must have taken in the name of art and following one's creative spirit at all costs.  Cheers to Bill Nelson.  This album is a monument to why that struggle to get your vision across as an artist is so important."

 

© Bill Nelson 2020

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