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Art: Bill Nelson

What was it about art school that made it an invaluable training ground for so many musicians in the sixties and seventies?

I was an art student in Wakefield in the early to mid-sixties. Art school seemed like such a free and bohemian environment compared to earlier schooldays. It was as if everything was open to enquiry. There was an optimistic, kinetic, creative spirit in the air. In many ways it was a golden time and anything seemed possible. I’ve tried to maintain that art-school spirit throughout my musical life.

Who or what was the biggest non-musical inspiration on you back then?

I discovered French poet, artist and filmmaker Jean Cocteau while I was at art school. I found a book of his in the college library. His worked resonated with me quite strongly and I later began building up a collection of his writings, films and other items. On the very first Be-Bop Deluxe album I placed a Cocteau quote on the album’s sleeve. It said, “no longer to consider art as an amusement but as a priesthood.” It’s a romantic notion but I felt that I knew exactly what he meant.

Do you ever regret choosing music over filmmaking or painting back in the day?

No, not at all… music is definitely my calling, it’s at the very centre of my life. I remember being summoned to the office of one of my tutors at art school. He was concerned that I was perhaps spending a little too much time with the band I had back then, and that it might impact on my advancement as an artist. I assured him it wouldn’t, but of course fate decreed otherwise… But no regrets whatsoever. Music has fulfilled all my artistic dreams. It’s not just what I do, it’s what I am.

Classic Rock’s Reviews Editor for the last 19 years, Ian stapled his first fanzine in 1977. Since misspending his youth by way of ‘research’ his work has also appeared in such publications as Metal Hammer, Prog, NME, Uncut, Kerrang!, VOX, The Face, The Guardian, Total Guitar, Guitarist, Electronic Sound, Record Collector and across the internet. Permanently buried under mountains of recorded media, ears ringing from a lifetime of gigs, he enjoys nothing more than recreationally throttling a guitar and following a baptism of punk fire has played in bands for 45 years, releasing recordings via Esoteric Antenna and Cleopatra Records.