Be Bop Deluxe “Axe Victim”

I listened to this record with great anticipation, not having any recollection of what this band sounded like, even though I remember the name well, from my youth. To my surprise it sounds more like David Bowie than anything, though not quite, kind of like that parallel universe Bowie created for the movie “Velvet Goldmine” by a lot of musicians, but most notably Brian Eno and Bryan Ferry. And I suppose you could say this sounds a lot like Roxy Music, but I never listened to that much Roxy Music, it was Bowie for me. I never listened to ANY Be Bop Deluxe– how did that happen? I would have loved this record had I bought it when it came out in 1974 when I was a huge glam rock fan and really into the whole androgynous sci-fi thing, and still a little afraid of the Rolling Stones. I pretty much know for a fact that guitar excess didn’t bother me as much then as it does now– and there is plenty of excess here! This is pretty much Bill Nelson’s band– not the Bill Nelson who is the Florida Senator who flew on the Space Shuttle– though this Bill Nelson has just as effectively seen the heavens firsthand on his six-string rocketship. The title “Axe Victim” could very well refer to the ears of the listener who is not somehow immune to this sort of thing. I mean, if you removed about two fingers on one hand and three on another, this guy could be a great guitar player. This record could be convincing argument for religious leaders not to condemn masturbation, just so young boys will have something to do with their hands besides practice, practice, practice. I’ve just got to say, if you really want to play with the London Philharmonic, get a fucking violin!

But for all that, somehow, perhaps against my better judgment, I really like this record! Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised, as it comes out of my favorite era of rock, the early seventies. And that should surprise no one– just look at my hair! Okay, I admit, I’m stuck a little in that time period, forever trying to relive the weird trippy sensation I had when I brought home that “Diamond Dogs” album from the Ontario store. Anyway, I’ve been listening to this thing over and over, and the more I listen to it the more I like it. The guitar still sounds tremendously overdone, like 300 notes where you could get by more effectively with one, but the singing is quite compelling, and most of the songs are great. Actually, the songs are all over the place, some much better than others, but together as a whole, and specifically as a record album with two sides, they really work together as a whole. The album cover is better not mentioned– I won’t describe it, and if you don’t remember it, believe me– don’t go searching it out. The back cover, however, is classic– a picture of the band– looking more goth than glam, almost– and there is every indication that if you were Bill Nelson’s lover, you’d always be in second place.

But really– I love this record– this is just the kind of thing that finding in some dingy basement could really make you have faith in the idea that there are still great things out there that you have somehow overlooked. I am going to go so far as to go out and buy myself a cassette tape device and record this in a lovely analogue fashion. I might ever go a little further and look up Bill Nelson on the internet. Well, actually I already did, a little bit. It kind of makes me happy, for once, that he’s still out there, maybe in space, making music.


2 Responses to “Be Bop Deluxe “Axe Victim””

  1. November 25, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    Well this is interesting. I remember seeing the Be-Bop Deluxe albums in record stores in the 70s too, and always kinda wondered what they were like, but always assumed they were probably pretty bad, just because the covers were so cheezy — but also kind of cool in a way too. I think I just assumed that they were records for people who were into a different kind of music than what I liked. Though, what kind, I could not say.

    I’m surprised you seem to like it so much, considering how you describe it, but I know that sometimes a record will hit you just so, and you wind up liking it almost in spite of itself. I’m not even sure I want to hear it now, because in some ways you’ve confirmed that it is probably not the kind of music I like, although I’m also intrigued to a certain extent too, because I do like a lot of Roxy Music. I would have never guessed this was anything like them.

  2. November 28, 2008 at 6:03 pm

    I don’t want to take responsibility for any Roxy Music fans, or people looking to relive their early Bowie experiences, going out and buying the CD of this record and then hating it. First of all, you have to understand that part of the experience I’m having is the discovery of putting a vinyl record, which doesn’t belong to me or even take up space in my world, on a turntable, and listening to it in a lovely, rich, warm analog shower of sound, complete with static and scratches, through my vintage 1970s Pioneer receiver and some inexpensive but still impressive Bose speakers. Only a black light in the room and some bizarre variety of incense could be an improvement.

    Still, this is a pretty heavily guitar-excessive record, to be sure. So anyone who is put off by that to any degree, this is a fair warning. I’m actually pretty surprised I can listen to it at all.I decided to give it one more test and TAPE IT. This required that I go out in the world and FIND A CASSETTE TAPE. This is not too easy these days. I walked around the Fulton Street miracle mile of 99 cent stores, that carry tons and tons of other useless items as if in a time warp, but no cassette tapes. I even checked Radio Shack, but no luck. Finally, I found a torn box containing five old Maxell C-90s behind a glass counter in some kind of an insane mini-mall, in front of a giant wall of Asian porn DVDs. I asked the very small woman sitting there wearing a heavy coat and hat (no heat) how much for the cassette tapes, and I had to point to them so she knew what I was talking about. One dollar each– so I bought three– leaving two, just in case someone like myself was on a similar quest.

    I came home and taped it, listening to it once more, half expecting my folly to be exposed with this ultimate test. But no, I liked this record pretty much as much as I liked it before, even more so, maybe. The parts that should make me cringe don’t make me cringe and it continues to work very well as a whole for me. A few of the songs keep standing out as being really pretty excellent, and keep getting better, and one in particular, “Night Creatures” strikes me as a song an entire movie should be built around. I can picture it. And pretty much, that’s what I think movies are good for these days: a blank canvas on which to present a good song. I’m not talking about rock videos, which should never have existed at all, but feature length dramatic movies. A well-used, great song can make a movie that otherwise has no value at all be worth existing. I guess I’m getting onto quite a few other subjects here, but my editor doesn’t bother with these replies, thank god!

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