Home Read Area Resident’s Classic Album Review: Be-Bop Deluxe | Axe Victim

Area Resident’s Classic Album Review: Be-Bop Deluxe | Axe Victim

The prolific British singer-guitarist's first band album is a frustrating glam-rock set.

You rarely see his name on lists of the greatest rock guitarists, but Yorkshire’s Bill Nelson deserves to be there every time. And get this — he has more than 150 albums. That’s not a typo. One hundred and fifty. Today we’re going to examine one of the first: 1974’s Axe Victim by his band Be-Bop Deluxe.

Nelson contributed to recordings starting in the early 1970s and by 1973, at age 25, he put out his first solo album, Northern Dream. He managed to get the attention of legendary BBC DJ John Peel, which helped him secure a record deal for himself and Be-Bop Deluxe. Axe Victim is the only album recorded with the original band — who were all replaced for the followup Futurama in 1975. So, it’s quite a bit different from the other four Be-Bop Deluxe studio albums. Axe Victim is a glam record, and a good one. That’s not to say the other records aren’t worth getting. Quite the opposite. Off the top of my head, Maid In Heaven from Futurama is great, and I can never get enough of Panic In The World from the decidedly new wave-ish Drastic Plastic (issued on white vinyl!).

One thing which shows the contrast is simply comparing the guitar solos in Panic In The World and the opening, title track on Axe Victim. There is no guitar solo at all in the former, while the latter has two, identical legendary face-melters. Seriously — the solo in Axe Victim is one to crank and smile about. It is peak ’70s face-melter. The song is about a working glam band looking for people who appreciate their music — not just their outfits — and are really desperate for attention. It tracks the emotional rollercoaster of onstage highs, on-stage lows and self-doubt.

“We hit the road to Hull
Sad amps and smashed guitars
Played badly at The Duke
To almost no applause
But someone made it worthwhile
When shining with bright eyes
They gave me full attention
And took me by surprise
But today the feeling’s gone
No, faded like a ghost
Last night I saw the future
This morning there’s no hope”

The record sounds great, thanks in part to prodution by Ian McLintock, who only ever really produced this album. Other than that, he wrote a pile of British psychedelic music.

Next up is Love Is Swift Arrows, another rocker which starts with dual acoustic guitars that mostly provide a nice percussive effect in what really sounds like a Ziggy Stardust-era David Bowie track. It’s a bit fast and lacks the saxophones to be a Roxy Music number, but you get the idea. There are constant lead guitar licks throughout — at the end of every lyric line. It’s a good song, but lacking a catchy melody.

The next one has a very, very glam title: Jet Silver and The Dolls Of Venus. Jet is a glam buzzword, of course — Bennie And The Jets (Elton John), Here Come The Warm Jets (Brian Eno), Jet (Wings). This one is great — but I wish it had a better chorus. The chorus is sort of pop-psychedelic, while the verses are more Mott The Hoople ballad territory. The solo sounds like an extension of the one in the title track, which makes Nelson seem like a one-trick pony when he is anything but.

Third Floor Heaven is up next and has a much better chorus, and a main riff which sounds a lot like Living After Midnight by Judas Priest, which came out six years later. Actually, I think they’re identical, Bill — if you need some cash. Night Creatures concludes the first side of the album with a two-acoustic guitar ballad with full glam overdubs. To me, the lyrics don’t match the music. This one is a bit lame, but I do enjoy the chorus which is sung-spoken in a Rocky Horror vein. All the trappings of the time.

Side 2 opens Rocket Cathedrals, the only song on the album not written by Nelson. This one is very, very Rocky Horror. It could be a Meat Loaf song or an Ace Frehley-penned KISS track. I’d prefer it that way. With a few slight adjustments it could almost be proto-punk, akin to ’80s Kinks stuff.

Another anthemic electric ballad is next, Adventures In A Yorkshire Landscape. Nelson’s songs are suddenly frustrating by this point — there are great moments, really cool turns and bits but overall mostly boring. The guitar solo in this is uninspiring. It’s like Peter Frampton‘s forgettable songs. Then there’s more jets! Yep, Jets At Dawn begins with sound effects and then turns to shit. This is not a good song. People need to stop writing songs about soldiers. The lyrics are awful.

The penultimate track No Trains To Heaven feels like a Gus Dudgeon production, but it’s musically very similar to Love Is Swift Arrows, with guitar licks after every line. It goes a bit proggy after the first chorus and loses you until the handclap-backed guitar solo kicks in. There’s another later solo — an extended one, which turns this into the album’s longest track.

The whole affair wraps with Darkness (L’Immoraliste), complete with strings, horns, piano, women’s chorale backing vocals and shockingly bad lyrics. It’s pretentious garbage.

What a frustrating record. You only really need the title track — the rest is filler at best. This is not how debut records are supposed to be.


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Area Resident is an Ottawa-based journalist, recording artist, music collector and re-seller. Hear (and buy) his music on Bandcamp, email him HERE, follow him on Instagram and check him out on Discogs.