My Prog Hero: Jesus Jones' Iain Baker on Bill Nelson

A shot of Bill Nelson playing live

“The first time I heard Be-Bop Deluxe was either through John Peel playing them, or through watching them on The Old Grey Whistle Test. There was a strange duality going on in my childhood – I was this little punk kid buying all the punk records, but at the same time, I’d grown up with a father who’d played loads of wild and disparate stuff, so I was also listening to Be-Bop Deluxe, Barclay James Harvest and Mike Oldfield.

When people think of prog, they think it’s the refuge of the virtuoso, and Bill Nelson is an incredible guitarist. On [1977’s] Live! In The Air Age album, there’s a version of Adventures In A Yorkshire Landscape and the guitar solo on that is just staggering. I can’t imagine how he did it; it’s almost transcendental. His playing is engaging, it brings people in, and I think that’s what attracted me to him.

I love [1978’s] Drastic PlasticPanic In The World is just a fantastic song. But I also love the way [1976’s] Sunburst Finish bursts into life with Fair Exchange – it’s just amazing. Even going back as far as the first album, Axe Victim, which has such a different sound compared to what came after it.

Iain Baker

Iain Baker

My fascination with Bill Nelson’s work extends beyond Be-Bop Deluxe. Drastic Plastic was the sound of a band finding what was happening in the future, but he moved it on even further with Red Noise. By then, I was listening to post-punk and I think [debut] Sound On Sound fits in almost perfectly with that. It’s an incredibly forward-thinking album. Then he does things like Quit Dreaming And Get On The Beam and Chimera, and the mini-albums… he’s put out an incredibly strong body of work. He’s always been forward-thinking and it made perfect sense to me when he won Visionary at the 2015 Prog Awards.

In Jesus Jones, we’ve always thought that if you get too bogged down in what’s actually happening now, you get left behind. It’s more exciting to be influenced by what could be done rather than what is being done. That’s a progressive outlook.”

Passages is out this year. See: www.jesusjones.com.

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