Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Be-Bop Deluxe—
Axe Victim


Released 1974 on Harvest
The Seth Man, June 2000ce
From the beginning, Be-Bop Deluxe was main man Bill Nelson’s futurist vision of rock and roll cut with aesthete lyrics underscored by massively huge and technically precise guitar runs re-tooled and fashioned in equaled parts from the choicest riffings of Hank B. Marvin, John Lennon, Duane Eddy, Jimi Hendrix, Mick Ronson and distilled down to their essential components and heaved through with massive soloing. But for all his burning leads, Nelson was only able to unleash undue amounts of them within an ordered pop structure of his own making. In 1974, UK glam was getting scarce and well into its waning phase, making this album a little too late to be coming on so heavy with all the greasy painted faces and darkening-of-eye, but the absolute airtightness of the tunes overcome these faint anachronisms effortlessly. Especially side one, a glam sleaze fest nonpareil that leaves side two to contain Nelson’s aural postcards from his native Yorkshire, sentimental muses caught out in the open air. But side one’s far different attitude begins with the slow-tempo title cut with the great camp opening of the first lines that had me howling for days as a fifteen year old:

“You came to watch the band,
to see us play our parts.
We hoped you’d lend an ear,
you’d hoped we dressed like tarts.”

It took sheer fuck balls to sing that line! But to do so in a black, quilted jacket with more mascara than Dusty Springfield playing a hollow-boded Gibson at full blast like an alien dropping in from Mars for a unisex quickie topped up by multi-dimensional Chuck Berry riffs cut with progressive finesse hit me right between my eyes and ears. Then the guitars come in as a ceaseless parade of ultimate glam riffs that continue practically unabated for the next three songs: “Love Is Swift Arrows”, “Jet Silver And The Dolls From Venus” and “Third Floor Heaven.” “Swift Arrows” is underlined by a delicate 12-string acoustic as the guitars come careening in, edging feedback to the corners as it gathers into a Durango 95 run by Bill and his Be-Bop droogs through the countryside in broad daylight for another mascara run. “Jet Silver And The Dolls” is (obviously) glam to a T and “Third Floor Heaven” is an even bitchier “Queen Bitch” with more feedbacking wheeling over all the camp vocalising with onanist/trick turning references that kept me both laughing and rockin’ out throughout the latter part of my teens...More tales of glam poseurie follow with the gig/life-weary “Night Creatures,” a downer tale of broken stardust dreams amongst equally dead-end glitter-ati.

The real anomaly on side two is in the opener, “Rocket Cathedrals” (not least of all because it’s the sole Be-Bop Deluxe song neither written or sung by Nelson himself), because it’s about as sloppy and shaking a rockandrolla as Be-Bop Deluxe ever cut on record. A sputtering generator purrs over the repeated robotic intonation “Tenalp rehtona no gnicnemmoc won si noitcurtsed latot” and the rock and roll madness promised on the inside Mick Rock-photographed gatefold is delivered once more with Nelson’s unsmacked and reoccurring Johnny Thunders-styled ace riffing. “Adventures In A Yorkshire Landscape”, “Jets At Dawn” and the heart-swelling “L’Immortaliste” (with strings, choral and a symbolist light beam from the heavens) completes this first wax offering from a group that came too late and ended too soon, but left behind a unique body of work that resists categorisation and comparison to everything it drew inspiration from.