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Sunburst Finish

Be Bop Deluxe

album - 9 January 1976

Sunburst Finish - Cover
Bill Nelson - (SF Postcard)
Andrew Clarke - (SF Postcard)
Simon Fox - (SF Postcard)
Charlie Tumahai - (SF Postcard)


01)  Fair Exchange
02)  Heavenly Homes
03)  Ships In The Night
04)  Crying To The Sky
05)  Sleep That Burns
06)  Beauty Secrets
07)  Life In The Air Age
08)  Like An Old Blues
09)  Crystal Gazing
10)  Blazing Apostles


Sunburst Finish is the third album by Be Bop Deluxe. It was recorded at Abbey Road Studios, London during October 1975, and represents the band's commercial breakthrough. The band lineup on Sunburst Finish is that established for Futurama - Bill Nelson, Charles Tumahai and Simon Fox, with the addition of new member Andy Clarke on keyboards.

The album appeared on vinyl and cassette and was promoted by the release of the single Ships in the Night, which became a Top 30 hit in the UK, and exposed the band to a much wider audience. Vinyl copies were released in a single sleeve, and the record was housed in an inner sleeve bearing lyrics to all songs. For the North American market an 'Airplay' edition of the album was pressed for radio use only. This comprises the same material as the commercial release but the segued tracks are individually banded.
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. "Shine" stems from the same period as the Sunburst Finish album (albeit recorded after the album sessions, without Charlie Tumahai), but was released in tandem with the follow up album Modern Music as a single 'B' side, so arguably belongs with Modern Music. Both of the other 2 bonus tracks hail from the Drastic Plastic period, and one of them, "Speed of the Wind", is a bonus track on Futurama, so shouldn't have been included on both albums. Conversely, the experimental track "Blimps" which can be found as a bonus track on the Drastic Plastic reissue in the same series, was recorded around the same time as Sunburst Finish and should have been included on that album instead. If you no longer kept your vinyl copy, and require song lyrics, then this CD edition satisfies that need, and the informative sleeve notes penned by Kevin Cann provide useful context.

In April 2017 Cherry Red and Esoteric Recordings, who, since 2011, have done so much to raise the profile of Bill Nelson's solo recordings from the period 1980 to 2002, acquired the rights to release the Be Bop Deluxe and Red Noise material issued between 1973 and 1979. While this resulted in the deletion of existing physical editions, Cherry Red kept Sunburst Finish on catalogue from 1 June 2017 via the usual download sites such as Amazon and iTunes while an expanded edition was prepared for a 2018 physical release.


On 23 November 2018 Sunburst Finish became the first Be Bop Deluxe album to be issued as a Deluxe Edition comprising:

  • a freshly remastered version of the original album,

  • a 2018 remix of the full album.

  • 6 unreleased studio recordings.

  • previously released live and studio material recorded for Radio 1.

  • the original album presented in a 5.1 mix and three filmed performances.

  • the previously released OGWT appearance from  13 January 1976.

  • a super rare promo video for Ships in the Night that was made in 1976 but never shown on TV.


The album is presented in a triple fold out digi-pack and contains a 68 page booklet with an essay penned by Bill Nelson, reminiscing about the recording of the album at Abbey Road Studio, previously unseen photographs from the period and a couple of reproductions of advertising posters.   

A 2CD edition of the album is also being released at the same time as the Deluxe Edition featuring Discs 1 and 2 which will also replace the standard download edition.  


The full track listing for the Deluxe Edition is:


Disc 1:

01)  Fair Exchange

02)  Heavenly Homes

03)  Ships In The Night

04)  Crying To The Sky

05)  Sleep That Burns

06)  Beauty Secrets

07)  Life In The Air Age

​08)  Like An Old Blues

09)  Crystal Gazing

10)  Blazing Apostles


Disc 2:

01)  Fair Exchange (New Stereo Mix)

02)  Heavenly Homes (New Stereo Mix)

03)  Ships In The Night (New Stereo Mix)

04)  Crying To The Sky (New Stereo Mix)

05)  Sleep That Burns (New Stereo Mix)

06)  Beauty Secrets (New Stereo Mix)

07)  Life In The Air Age (New Stereo Mix)

08)  Like An Old Blues (New Stereo Mix)

09)  Crystal Gazing (New Stereo Mix)

10)  Blazing Apostles (New Stereo Mix

11)  Ships In The Night (First Version)

12)  Beauty Secrets (First Version)

13)  The Mystery Demo

14)  Crystal Gazing (Alternate Vocal Version)

15)  Crying To The Sky (First Version)

16)  Ships In The Night (Alternate Vocal Version)  


Disc 3:

01)  Life In The Air Age (BBC Radio 1 In Concert 15 January 1976)

02)  Sister Seagull (BBC Radio 1 In Concert 15 January 1976)

03)  Ships In The Night (BBC Radio 1 In Concert 15 January 1976)

04)  Maid In Heaven (BBC Radio 1 In Concert 15 January 1976)

05)  Third Floor Heaven (BBC Radio 1 In Concert 15 January 1976)

06)  Blazing Apostles (BBC Radio 1 In Concert 15 January 1976)

07)  Crying To The Sky (John Peel Session 10 February 1976)

08)  Piece Of Mine (John Peel Session 10 February 1976)

09)  Blazing Apostles (John Peel Session 10 February 1976)

Disc 4:

01)  Fair Exchange (5.1 Surround Mix)

02)  Heavenly Homes (5.1 Surround Mix)

03)  Ships In The Night (5.1 Surround Mix)

04)  Crying To The Sky (5.1 Surround Mix) 

05)  Sleep That Burns (5.1 Surround Mix)

06)  Beauty Secrets (5.1 Surround Mix)

07)  Life In The Air Age (5.1 Surround Mix)

08)  Like An Old Blues (5.1 Surround Mix)

09)  Crystal Gazing (5.1 Surround Mix)

10)  Blazing Apostles (5.1 Surround Mix)

11)  Ships In The Night (BBC 2 Old Grey Whistle Test 13 January 1976)

12)  Fair Exchange (BBC 2 Old Grey Whistle Test 13 January 1976)

13)  Ships In The Night (Unreleased Promo Video 1976)



The original edition of Sunburst Finish was deleted sometime around 1979/80, but was reissued as a budget release in 1982 by EMI on their Fame imprint. The album was reissued again on Revolver in 1986. Neither reissue came with the benefit of the lyrics on the inner sleeve.




The deluxe box set and the 2-CD set is available for purchase in the Dreamsville Store. 

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


"On Sunburst I had more control. The song "Crying To The Sky" on that is still my favourite Be-Bop track - it was called 'ecstatic' guitar. I wanted to get away from the bombast of Led Zeppelin and follow Hendrix; "Crying To The Sky" was my homage to Hendrix. I used a Gibson ES345 stereo and a Carlsboro 100 watt amp. I'm always asked how I got the sound on it but there was no gadgetry or secret devices. The amp was just put right at the back of Studio Two at Abbey Road, where the Beatles used to work, right at the back wall. I turned it up until I couldn't turn it up any further, stood right at the other end with a very long lead, to avoid feedback, and just played. I approached it from the angle that Hendrix had approached his more lyrical pieces." (from an interview in Guitarist Magazine, September 1991).

"There were THREE perspex cylinders on that tour. They were used to make a visual connection between the Sunburst Finish album sleeve image and the tour itself. They were also inspired by my fondness for a cult 1950's sci-fi film, 'This Island Earth'. (If you've seen the film you'll recall the scene where the hero and heroine step into perspex tubes that turn their flesh transparent, revealing the underlying physical structure of muscles and skeleton.)

"The show that Be Bop presented back then was designed around a stage set that included our own theatre-style procenium arch, complete with scarlet velvet curtains with the band's name embossed in gold at the top. The curtains would part to reveal the stage in semi-darkness with the three cylinders spread out at the front. The cylinders had tracer lights inside them and were filled with dry ice. (Not smoke.) Charlie was in one tube, Andy in another, and myself in the central one. Simon was hidden behind us, up on his drum riser at the rear of the stage. The tubes would be winched up and out of sight, revealing Charlie, Andy and myself, before we'd pick up our instruments to play. All this was choreographed to a tape of opening music...(Which, I think, was the abstract instrumental "Blimps"). There were three projection screens at the rear and sides of the stage, the central screen being used for specially edited film and the side screens for slide images of old pulp magazine covers from the 40's and 50's. Again, everything was co-ordinated to music cues and all the images were chosen to reflect the musical content. Once the stage lights went up, we'd go straight into the first song of the show which used clips from the Fritz Lang film 'Metropolis'."

"Actually, I have silver discs on my studio walls for Sunburst Finish and Modern Music. These represent sales to the value of "more than £100,000" according to the little plaque mounted under each disc. I guess the ambiguity lies in the words 'more than'. It could, I suppose, amount to a heck of a lot 'more than', but no one's telling. I do remember being told that Sunburst had gone gold towards the end of the band's career but I was never given a gold disc."


Review by Dmitry M. Epstein

Review on ProgNaut


Tim Barr:

"It was with Sunburst Finish that the band achieved their most significant commercial success, reaching the charts with both the album itself and the "Ships In The Night" single. Stretching out across ten tracks, Sunburst Finish sounded like the product of some weird, future jukebox; from the Hendrix stylings of "Crying To The Sky" and the dreaminess of "Heavenly Homes" to the raw, vamped-up punk of "Blazing Apostles". Outside of the band's increasingly obvious "signature sound" it was evident that something special was happening." (Interviewer for Guitarist Magazine)


"Sunburst Finish - the ultimate 70's album (and album cover)."

Old Darkness:

"One day in 1976 my world changed forever when an older friend (to whom I shall be eternally grateful) introduced me to Be-Bop Deluxe via Sunburst Finish. From the very first listening I recognized that here was something very special and unique. Be-Bop had it all, the music, the lyrics, the voice, the perfect triumvirat for the perfect musical storm."


"I consistantly return to those incredible soaring guitar runs that Bill crafted for the dynamo-of-a-song "Sleep That Burns", a track that, once I bought the CD (and lovingly shelved my vinyl), I had to resist (and fail) multiple "repeat" playbacks.  Sunburst Finish is an incredible collection of art, each track a beauty, story-sets blazing with characters, drama, location and energy."


"In my mind it is more aggressive, edgier, rawer - more basic - but at the same time so polished and honed to within an inch of perfection. There is incredible beauty & poetry in the slower compositions ("Heavenly Homes" being an absolute gem - along with, of course, "Crying To The Sky") balanced with the sheer energy of "Fair Exchange" and "Blazing Apostles". The soundtrack of my youth and an absolute classic."


"I was on a "cosmic cruise" in my buddy's Mercury at night navigating the two-tracks in local forests. He had recently purchased 8 track tapes of Sunburst Finish and Futurama because he like the covers. I've been forever hooked.


"Was at home doing my homework and listening to KSAN, a local AOR station that was my favorite at the time. On comes this amazing song! I was transfixed and transported. I waiting for the DJ to give the title and it turned out the be "Fair Exchange". I decided that BBD deserved another chance. I went out and bought Sunburst Finish and an obsession was born."


"I was waking up for another 2nd grade school day when my big brother put on "Beauty Secrets" on Sunburst Finish. The opening guitar with its folky chords and almost Spanish solo notes were magical to me."


"I went into K-Mart (1976) to look through the limited record rack... there was a naked girl in a tube holding a flaming guitar on the cover of an album, I thought even if the music sucked the cover was cool, I bought it. Side one was awesome, turned it over and side two was defective after track 2, so I went back to K-Mart to get another, they offered me my money back... I kept the album defects and all rather than give it up altogether. It was years later I got to hear the 'rest' of Sunburst Finish."


"I listened to the entire Sunburst Finish album, in the car last weekend and was once more blown away by the quality and freshness of the music - there's STILL no other band like Be Bop Deluxe...I will certainly continue to enjoy them, along with all of Bill's more recent music."


"I won Sunburst Finish off the radio, went to the concert later that week and have bought everything I could get my hands on ever since."

John Leckie:

"I first met Bill Nelson in 1974 when I mixed most of the album called Axe Victim over a weekend. I then went on to co-produce and engineer Sunburst Finish, Modern Music, Live! In the Air Age, Drastic Plastic and Red Noise and Bill's solo album Quit Dreaming."

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