Be Bop Deluxe – Axe Victim, Deluxe: Album Review

The fourth of an excellent repackaging series of the Be Bop Deluxe catalogue with the 1974 debut, Axe Victim, getting the treatment. Feted by Peel and owing a debt to the glam rock of the era, it paved the way for Bill Nelson’s musical creations.

Release Date: 19th June 2020

Label: Esoteric Recordings

Formats: 3CD/DVD box set and 2CD digipak

Recorded in the Spring of 1974 at several studios in London, Axe Victim, complete with striking cover, was released by EMI’s Harvest label in June 1974 and introduced Be Bop Deluxe to the record-buying public.

A debut album that from the off, saw Nelson and the band channeling the Roxy/Bowie style of the era but were soon set to cut loose and plow their own furrow. Indeed, why not hitch a ride and grab a hold of the coattails of the glam rock movement for a rolling start? Foot in the door – know what I mean? Skirting the edges of the oh so important fashion too, the evidence is all there as the band made their mark before shifting towards their three-piece suit era. When Nelson sings of “came to watch the band” in the opening seconds, you get the impression that it’s Ziggy and the Spiders.

The influence of his Zigginess is more evident on the Jet Silver & The Dolls Of Venus; maybe Nelson toying with the fashionable step adopting an alter ego. The Hunter/Mott ‘Dudes’ guitar line reference is striking. The riffs and acoustic gentleness come and go along with a space rocking Rocket Cathedral, yet it was Adventures In A Yorkshire Landscape that emerged as the track that gives a hint of what was to come.

As Nelson himself notes, the album is “A brief snapshot of a band in the process of becoming something else.” In fact, for all the furor, in hindsight, it seems quite an oddity in the catalogue. With a line up of Ian Parkin, Rob Bryan and Nicholas Chatterton-Dew, it’s an unfamiliar sounding Be Bop Deluxe. However, with John Peel in your corner (having had Nelson on his radar for several years) and a pair of stack heeled shoes, how could you fail?

In fact, relistening to a couple of Peel sessions from 1973 and 1974 is one of the highlights on the expanded version that also adds the obligatory 5.1 version to the 2CD version of the usual original mix/remastered versions with some bonus tracks in the form of singles and ‘first mix’ versions. Listening to Peel’s droll monotone enthusing about Nelson’s homemade LP (while getting in a footy reference) is like taking a trip in the time tunnel. He always did have his finger on the pulse and had astutely earmarked Bill Nelson. This is, of course, the (in)famous and previously unreleased ‘lost’ Peel session from November 1973 from the period before the release of the record.

The full expanded version features an additional 41 bonus tracks drawn from stunning new 5.1 surround sound & stereo mixes of the album from the original multi-track tapes by award winning engineer Stephen W. Tayler, along with those two complete BBC Radio One sessions.

Also included is the complete previously unreleased Be Bop Deluxe audition session for Decca Records from December 1973 (mixed from the original 16 track tapes by Stephen W Tayler) & previously unreleased out-takes from the original album sessions. Cherry Red really do cherish these indulgent remasters.

Another selling point of this limited-edition boxed set is the lavishly illustrated 68-page book with many previously unseen photographs and an essay of recollections by Bill Nelson. His observations are always enlightening and well worth a read and are thankfully included with the budget 2CD set.

Already Nelson and Be Bop Deluxe were moving on, prepping material for Futurama. However, this remaster is a fitting celebration of the fledgling band. Not so much of a landmark debut album but a tribute to the creative vision of Bill Nelson.

Listen to the opening track from the album here:

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