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Saturday, November 03, 2007 

NO7 - 'Secret Club For Members Only', My recollections and personal thoughts

The primary reason for my spending the weekend in York was to attend the Bill Nelson music convention, N07 "Secret Club For Members Only". Besides getting the opportunity to witness my only live performance of Bill this year, I was also hoping to meet up with some other Nelsonians I've met at other Nelsonica's previously.

I wasn't disappointed. I met a few fellow Nelsonians in the 'Yorkshire Hussar', a nice little pub next door to the 'Park Inn' (the venue for N07) on the night before the convention. It's always nice to be able to put names to faces, and in the intimate surroundings of the 'Hussy' I was able to do that easily without feeling like a pillock.

A number of 'Team Nelsonica' were also in attendance; Eddie McSheffery (lovely bloke and the most 'enthusiastic' Nelsonian I've ever met), Dave Graham (collaborator with Bill in album artwork and graphics for the convention) 'Man in the Rexine Pyjamas' (N07 host, I was to discover later) and 'Big Dunc'(Nelsonic merchandiser extraordinaire). I got a very warm welcome from these guys, as well as the heads up on what to expect at the convention. My appetite for the forthcoming event was whetted, but sadly not my pallete, none of them offered to buy me a drink, the only disappointment of the evening(lol).

The event itself was held in a very large, well appointed room, with plenty of tables and most importantly, plenty of chairs for those of us of a certain age in the audience. I was most impressed that 'Team Nelsonica' had taken on board the criticisms of the last venue for the convention and come up with something far superior (though I still pine for 'The Duke'). The sound system was fine for those of us sat down at tables, Bill's customary back projector screen was replaced by two screens either side of the stage which were easily visible.

There were a lot of new faces in the audience, 'significant others' of some of the regulars and 'noobs'. A far cry from 'the old days' when I remember a mostly male audience. This also made me think that possibly there would be a number of convention cds going on ebay shortly (why have two in a household?) which is a bit of a thorny subject on the fan forums.

At this point I'd like to mention some of the Nelsonians, old and New I had the privilege to meet and talk with; Reg, James Warner (met them both at N03), Bradford Mick, Peter Cook (great wit and raconteur, he should interview Bill at the next Nelsonica),Eric The Viking, Sean and his missus, JohnofDeath, Johnny Izzard, and of course Radium Girl (Kristen was very charming, witty and added some much needed glamour to the proceedings, it was the blue hair!!!!) who I met whilst she manned the raffle ticket counter. My apologies if I've left anyone out.....but the weekend was a bit of a 'rush'.

Back to the main event though, and one I thoroughly enjoyed by the way. Bill, to my mind has re-invented himself for this occasion. He has become an 'Entertainer', dropping any 'arty ' pretensions and this is a welcome change in my opinion. The mood throughout was also upbeat, in contrast, I felt to last years more sombre occasion.

First up was Bill being interviewed, very low key by Mike Eastwood (CEO of Eastwood Guitars and manufacturer of Bill's 'signature' guitar) I quite enjoyed this chat, which segued nicely into one of the day's highlights for me; Bill's talk about the rather chequered history of his beloved Gibson 345 guitar (bought for the small fortune then of £300 by his late Father), which was also a fascinating history of Bill's involvement in various bands as a youth, cue a lot of images on the screens and various costumes worn by Bill. There isn't much left of the original guitar by all accounts. The guitar is a different colour, it has a new neck after it broke off when Bill was electrocuted on stage, and the body has been seriously 'Pete Townsended' by one of Bill's ex wives, necessitating numerous rebuilds and refinishings.

During the proceedings and various breaks I visited the bar, caught up with fellow 'Hotel Phoenix' friends and collaborators 'Monohead' and' Happytronics', and grabbed the all important bite to eat. It is vitally important to bring a 'pack-up' with you to a Nelsonica, especially if you're there for the long haul. Hence my ever present rucksack full of sandwiches, Cornish pasties, packs of various nuts and edible seeds and a small bottle of Diet Coke. The average Nelsonica has to be the most calorifically intense spectator event next to an all day showing of 'The Lord Of The Rings' movie trilogy.

I missed the interview with Bill's producer, John Spence from Fairview Studios, Willerby (a few miles up the road from my garret in Hull). But I didn't miss both of Bill's live sets. Thankfully, Bill broke up two hours of playing into nice one hour chunks. Bill played mostly new stuff off the convention cd and his new regular release 'And We Fell Into A Dream'. His new stuff has a retro feel, jazzy noodlings, a hint of Hank Marvin, Duane Eddy. It's a far cry from the stuff he was producing at N03 and although I absolutely love it (I love jazz ), especially the ambient music, I do wonder how some of the hardcore, 'prog' rock Nelsonians feel about this change in direction?

The most memorable thing I recall from Bill's live sets was the standing ovation he received for 'Contemplation', a vocal track from 'Getting the holy ghost across'. Bill seemed a bit ill at ease performing it, but the response he got indicated that he really should perform more of his back catalogue.

I couldn't fault Bill's performance. His guitar playing was wonderful, the mix of instrumental and vocal pieces was about right, though I felt he concentrated too much on his recent compositions. But as a 'Nelsonian' what do I know?

I decided to stay for the rest of the convention, though I didn't participate in the 'meet 'n greet' having had a bad case of the 'ga ga's' in N03. But it was entertaining, the nostalgic 'OGWT' Be Bop Deluxe tapes are always welcome and illustrate just how good Bill was when he collaborated with like minded musicians.

I have to confess to not being much of a fan of Bill's artwork, it's too derivative, egocentric and without depth in terms of subject matter in my opinion, the opposite of Bill's musical 'travels' in many ways. Which is why I was surprised by the extraordinary prices Bill's artwork was attracting in the auction. But then again, a day later I popped into York's Art Gallery, saw an exhibition of some of Tracey Emin's doodles, and it did bring me a new appreciation of Bill's 'art'.

I had a great time, loved the venue, the event was very well organised and I had no gripes. I hope next years Nelsonica is also at the Park Inn. I really hope that Bill remembers his grass roots following though, plays more of the oldies, I know Bill hates this, but the fans are his bread and butter after all.

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Sounds like a brilliant day and you obviously enjoyed yourself! Once again, I wish I had gone!

have been to 4 conventions
and all about the same .
Really they are nothing
special and the ' full day '
is nothing of the sort .
Seeing Bill live nowadays
is very rare ( last public
appearance Leeds clothworkers
hall concert ) so if you want
to see him you have to pay
the dosh . The videos are old
hat and repeated year after
year . You are drawn in prior
to the event by the promises
of a day packed with goodies
but in reality the biggest part
of the event is catching up
with Nelsonians . The whole
day is just a money making
event for the artist and a lot
of fans have dropped off the
radar . The man himself has
done his best to alienate fans
who don't 'get it ' referring
to his one a month releases .
So if you want to meet some
great folks get yourself to
Harrogate this year , York
has been dropped . There are
those who seem to think
everything is fantastic ( see
the posts on Dreamsville )
but anyone who dares give a
comment that is not ' towing
the line ' there are dropped
on from a great height . We're
not going anymore especially
after last years farce with the
attempt to have a band and the
boring stamp music plus the
folks at the back not being able
to hear or see the show . The
meet and greet becomes more
salacious each year and the
artwork auction is ..........
We thought next year it will be
better but it is'nt AND very ,
very expensive .

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  • I'm JJ
  • From Hull, Yorkshire, United Kingdom
  • I still haven't got the hang of Thursdays, nevermind life in general. Perhaps I should get out more?
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* The title of this blog inspired by a piece of music written by fellow Yorkshireman, and favourite musician / composer / guitarist, Bill Nelson.