“You came to watch the band/to see us play our parts/We hoped you’d lend an ear/You hope we dress like tarts.” The opening lines of the title-track gives us an insight of the introduction of Bill Nelson’s lyrical structurers on having the girls screaming their hearts out with their make-up and performing the hell out of either at the Lyceum or at Newcastle City Hall to a grand slam. That and this incredible 3-CD/1-DVD box set done by the good people at Esoteric Recordings of Be-Bop Deluxe’s Axe Victim which was reissued last year, showcases that it’s time to give the band the proper recognition it deserves.
Championed by Julian Cope in his August 2004 album of the month from his Head Heritage website as he describes it as a “conundrum at the time, and still today mystifies almost everyone. Here was a guitar hero guy from up north on his first LP presumptuous/naïve enough to be quoting Cocteau in untranslated French.” Originally released on the Harvest label which was home to Pink Floyd, The Greatest Show on Earth, Third Ear Band, and Deep Purple, Be-Bop Deluxe were sort of the odd-ball that belonged to the label.
You have these lyrical textures delving not just into the Bowie-sque vibes, but more of a crossover between Ray Davies and Paul Jones’ Crucifix in a Horseshoe-era. And with an amazing stereo and 5.1 mix done by Stephen W. Tayler who had done the remixes for the previous Be-Bop albums including Futurama, Drastic Plastic, Modern Music, and one of my favorites, Sunburst Finish. Axe Victim as I’ve mentioned earlier, is the recognition it is time to bow down over.
With the crossover vibes between Grand Funk Railroad and Boston’s Tom Schulz on the heavy riffs that Nelson does on Third Floor Heaven, he describes the story of a shy person falling in love a middle-age woman on the third floor of Heaven’s hotel, who doesn’t take shit from anybody and will stand up to this person who had been pushed around and bullied.
Jet Silver and the Dolls of Venus is Bill’s answer to the fantasy take of Mott the Hoople’s All the Young Dudes, but taking an intensive midsection approach with some heavy acoustic guitars, backing vocals with a Beatle-sque vibe, soaring arrangements, and walking bass touches followed by a virtuosic guitar finale that ends in feedback. When you listen to Rocket Cathedrals which sounds amazing in Tayler’s remix, you can almost imagine Bill’s nod to Delia Derbyshire for a couple of seconds.
But then it’s a ‘50s adventure into the unknown of space and time with some proto-punk vibes as Robert Bryan takes centerstage on the sixth track. He just takes it up a notch as Bill gives him a chance to take the limelight on here. Between Bill and Ian Parkin, it’s a duel between the two guitarists as they make it to the finish line as the reminiscing of childhood in post-world war II baby boom of a mournful yet touching sweetness to look back with love and passion for the Adventures in a Yorkshire Landscape and leaving very early morning for the acoustic singer-songwriter composition for the Jets at Dawn.
No Trains to Heaven become this big giant party for Be-Bop Deluxe to have a big celebration in the afterlife with some heavy guitar lines and a fast-driven sequence that would make you pop the champagnes and knowing that the pain and suffering they went through down below, is free from all of the badness that’s going on of the planet Earth.
Now onto the second and third discs. The second disc is Tayler’s new stereo mixes of the debut album which I really got a kick out of. Taken from the original multi-track tapes, Stephen takes a whole new approach to make sure that Be-Bop’s debut is giving the full shaft of light brought to the surface with some incredible instruments that come into the forefront where he brings up parts of the vocals and instruments to make sure they come in at the right moment.
But there is a moment where you hear a spoken word version of the song Night Creatures. Listening to this mellowing Floyd-like spacey approach, Bill is speaking through the minds of Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac. The third and final disc are two performances that the band did for the late great John Peel who was a champion of the band and an audition recording for the Decca label in the winter of 1973. Two from recordings include a New York Dolls-like rocker Bluesy Ruby and the throbbing Halloween touch of Dracula’s neck for blood on I’ll Be Your Vampire
The super deluxe edition contains a 68-page booklet with liner notes by Bill Nelson about the making of the debut album, unseen photographs, postcards, and a Record Store poster. This was quite the trip to revisit the album again I haven’t heard in a long, long time. So it’s time to put on your platform boots and play your guitar to be a part of Be-Bop Deluxe’s Axe Victim.