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An Appointment with the Past: Sunburst Finish

July 26, 2020

The robbery took place in the front seat of my truck circa 1981, although neither victim nor thief knew at the time that a crime was being committed.  In the moment it seemed a fair exchange; Kyle would get temporary possession of my Sunburst Finish cassette and all the joy of discovery that went with it and, in return, I would bask in glory as influencer and guide.  Kyle, a new friend, had earned the gift of Be Bop Deluxe through to his recent turn providing understated acoustic guitar accompaniment to an earnest young woman’s vocal performance of Rush’s ‘Madrigal’ at the annual high school talent show.  The friendship would prove fleeting however and, at some blurred point during the ensuing four decades, our “noble loan” story transformed into a tale of selfish misappropriation.  Many years would pass before I would be made whole.

Having settled naïve and comfortable onto the shiny CD train with the onset of the 90s, I occasionally thumbed the racks for any Be Bop Deluxe but only ever lucked upon one compilation, Raiding the Divine Archive, in a Tower Records in San Antonio, Texas.  My beloved and I had traveled there one weekend in the fall of 1991 so she could recite the three branches of government for the federal bureaucrat who would subsequently judge her worthy of U.S. citizenship.  I was pleased with the find but had to make do with just four songs out of the Sunburst Finish ten.

Be Bop Deluxe: Raiding the Divine Archive

In the summer of 1996, work friend, mentor and fellow tunes enthusiast Dave-O approached me with news of his entry into the murky world of ‘internet’ and his discovery there of a mysterious marketplace from which one could purportedly order hard-to-find CDs from ‘anywhere in the world.’  Be Bop Deluxe: Sunburst Finish (CD)He offered to act as proxy should I wish to test the dial-up waters and asked what my first pursuit might be.  Suspecting probable folly, I nonetheless offered up Sunburst Finish as acid test.  A mere seven weeks later, Dave-O appeared at the office sporting an envelope and a doubt-dismissing grin.  He handed over my treasure, noting having kept it in the “CDNow” packaging to avoid the ‘naughty’ album art offending his missus.  My prolonged time of lacking ended, and I once again owned.

Be Bop Deluxe: Sunburst Finish (LPs; 1976 / 1986)In the new millennium and to alleviate a dull but lingering anxiety left over from the post-Kyle fallow years, I have made a few additions to my Sunburst holdings, to include two vinyl copies, an original US EMI release from 1976 and a 1986 Revolver Records UK reissue.  Most recently I have further soothed myself with Cherry Red’s amazing 3CD/1DVD Sunburst Finish 2018 box set, containing the original plus new stereo and surround sound mixes of the album and an assortment of contemporaneous live and bonus material from 1976.

Be Bop Deluxe: Sunburst Finish Box Set (2018)

An aside:  For any unaware, Be Bop Deluxe was a distinctive 1970s English glam/rock/pop band built around and by guitar hero-cum-musical explorer Bill Nelson.  Sunburst Finish was the band’s third album and ranks as my personal favorite. My review of the album is that it is freaking awesome, laden to bursting with heaps of head-bopping groove, hard-rocking chug, memorable words, and soaring guitar. Recommendation:  Buy this under-recognized masterpiece if you enjoy good things.  

I still hold out hope that a guilt-ridden Kyle will leverage modern-day digital tracking opportunities to find me and return the pilfered cassette, although this reflects more a concern for his eternal soul than any continuing need of personal healing.  In the meantime, I take solace in the knowledge of my important, if unintended, role in what I imagine has been the creation of a strong community of Be Bop partisans among Kyle’s progeny.

[And before you ask about that cassette copy of Panorama by The Cars in my stacks, know that I in no way rate innocent possession of material stolen by others as felonious, let alone the equivalent of the vile crime described herein.]

From → Music

  1. How thrilling to receive a VotF announcement in my email. To be reminded how much I enjoy the writing, the impulse to engage my t-intersection only to find that there is no strain, that the construction floats weightlessly.
    Confession time. I have but one Be Bop Deluxe LP and one Bill Nelson. I know neither as well as they doubtless deserve but am playing Drastic Plastic as I type (and liking what I hear). Is Sunburst Finish better (or preferred?). Certainly I’d instantly grab it for the classic cover (then instantly feel guilt regarding my 70s programming).
    As for the story, it absolutely *is* a classic. No question.
    As for the photos, classics. No question. Did you sigh when the art director demanded a different background for every pic? Well, sigh no more. It was worth it.
    PS. We love re-issues with contemporaneous live material, don’t we. Just love ’em. Love that poster too; clever and cheeky to use a cover shoot outtake (presumably).

    • Your positive reinforcement of my (now biannual?) efforts is always well-received, reassuring, and much appreciated, VC.

      Following the necessary disclaimer re my tendency to like things, I’ll say that while I very much enjoy Drastic Plastic, I have to give the nod to Sunburst Finish. I think it leans more straightforward and less risk-taking than DP, the latter (and final) Be Bop album, but I also find it to have more punch and be more cohesive. All that said, I will stand up in praise of all of the Be Bop studio albums. 1970s Bill Nelson sometimes gets diminished with a ‘Bowie wannabe’ label but I think that is unfair; it was an era of glam and glam was of the era. I find his Be Bop songs and albums to be smart, varied, interesting, unique and musically worthy of hi fidelity playback.

      As you likely know even having just one of each, Be Bop Deluxe and Bill Nelson solo music are quite different animals. I like a lot of the Nelson offerings and will always pick them up whenever I come across one of his gazillion releases, but I find they take much more concerted effort to take in than does the immediately ingratiating Be Bop.

      • Ta for the tour, Vic. I omitted to mention (as my ramble was going on, rather), the rather lovely 12″ gatefold CD re-issue. I have a few CD box sets of LP dimensions (eg: the recent Tangerine Dream retrospective) but only a couple of CDs in LP-sized covers. We like it, precious.

  2. Great story and you got your album in the end. I now feel obliged to check out some Be-bop.

    • Thanks, 80sMM. If you do check it out, please advise your thoughts. It is always neat to hear others’ reaction to liked things.

  3. Another post? my lord, it must be an even-numbered year! They come around so regularly!

    Loved it. I’m still encouraging South Wales Police to reopen a cold case file on the ‘great missing Cinderella/Gary Moore C90 tape’ of 1987. They’re coming for you Colin!!

  4. Aargh Ive been toying with buying these BBD sets and had kinda talked myself out of it. But now I see this… The idea of spending £50 on each album is stretching it for me though. I like them but maybe not that much… might settle for the 2CD versions.

    • I’ve bought all four of these sets issued so far and have no regrets. The new surround sound and stereo mixes are wonderful… but mainly only worthwhile for the kind of BBD geek that spends entire afternoons in a darkened basement with eyes closed pretending to be able to note the differences. I do like having the full concert and Peel sessions on separate CDs, although much of that even is previously available via the various live and compilation releases and appended bonus tracks put out over recent decades. The sets do look awesome on the shelf…

      • I think I’m maybe just not quite enough of a BBD geek. The 2CD sets are probably as much as I can handle. And I’ve got the Live At The BBC set too so there’s that.

  5. I am being pushed hard to more Be-Bop listens. not just Fury but a few others also. How cant I not listen after that take. Your ending was beautiful. Like the attitude.
    “I take solace in the knowledge … among Kyle’s progeny”

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