Be-Bop Deluxe: “Sleep That Burns” (Sunburst Finish, 1976)
I’ve been working ahead on my UK Prog volumes, and yesterday I put the finishing touches on my 1976 volume, which will be posted several weeks from now. As I put it together, I did a lot of peripheral listening to other British rock from 1976. The volume will reflect this when I post it, but I found it really interesting how far the ideas embodied in progressive rock had burrowed into the mindset of rock musicians in Britain by that point.
Be-Bop Deluxe had been around for a minute by ‘76. The band, which was essentially the name for guitarist Bill Nelson and whoever happened to be playing with him, came out of Yorkshire in 1972, and Sunburst Finish was its third album. Nelson was established as a sort of guitar hero, and you can hear his skill all over “Sleep That Burns,” which is also slathered with dive-bombing synth leads.
It’s prog-pop, and it hit right on the cusp of punk and prog’s final slide out of the mainstream, a slide that had already begun. Sunburst Finish produced the band’s biggest hit, “Ships in the Night,” which is fantastic, but the multi-sectioned “Sleep That Burns” has an undeniable ambition and pull to it that makes it my favorite from the album. If more prog bands had gone in this direction instead of upping the ante on side-long suites and tedious fusion projects, the genre may never have been exiled.