Ok: I admit that I’d heard of Bill Nelson and knew a couple of odd songs but didn’t know much about his first big band, Be Bop Deluxe — except that proper musos loved them at school — or any of his subsequent work. After buying a box set of Be Bop Deluxe (a bargain, five albums for a tenner) I felt able to read on.
It’s an odd diary. Nelson obviously has a rabidly keen fanbase that buys everything he does and at least puts a roof over his head. (The book makes it clear that the days of big money have gone, and he drives an old banger).
The diaries were originally put on his website for fans to read, so it’s an odd mix of the personal and the slightly self-aggrandising tone that “rock stars” have — I assume that’s because his fans want to know the vision behind his work and what it all means, and he just comes over that way, rather than being that way. If you see what I mean.
On the whole he comes over as a bit of a grumpy old man, though perhaps he’s too self-aware to be really grumpy. A lot of it comes from sitting at home and working long hours in a darkened room and being creative (as I write this the blinds are closed to keep out that pesky sun, and I’ve been hard at it for 10 hours thus far today).
He doesn’t keep a diary every day so it’s a series of random samples from his life, writing music (his output is prodigious) or planning gigs, as well as sorting out domestic issues and having problems with his Mac.
This volume runs from 2005 to 2006 and bits of his daily life mingle randomly with rants against the world’s wrongs.
In the middle of his book his brother and co-performer Ian dies suddenly and his pain comes across clearly through the pages. He says he is unable to read that section back.
There’s a lot of frustration of the slow progress of everything, not least his music writing, and it’s an insight into the world of the not-rock star — while he is treated with respect, his is not a world where heaven and earth is moved to get a record out.
Fans of Be Bop Deluxe may well have heard of this, if not: buy it. Anyone else with a passing interest in art and music should take a look. Even not knowing much about him, it’s an interesting read and he’s an engaging writer who gets the reader caring about his problems (“You should have run a back-up!” I told him at one point).
Out now on Pomona (paperback), £9.99.