Be-Bop Deluxe to end the week. One of those bands from the 70s who were critically acclaimed, yet fell short of being a commercial success. No really good reason except poor timing. Be-Bop Deluxe initially appeared in 1972, a mix of Glam, Prog and hard-rock founded by Guitarist Bill Nelson. Their debut album, Axe Victim fit in nicely with Glam at the time, and had all the trappings of following in the footsteps of bands like Mott The Hoople, and they were compared in some quarters to David Bowie. Nelson strongly objected to the reference, fearing the band would be pigeon-holed. And it was largely because of the comparison that Nelson disbanded the first incarnation of Be-Bop Deluxe and reformed the band with a new lineup, taking a distinct turn in the direction of Guitar-based hard rock. Again, the band won favorable critical reviews, and Bill Nelson was often singled out as being one of the best guitarists in England at the time. But it didn’t translate to commercial success.
By the time of this session, recorded for John Peel on January 30, 1978, the band had taken yet another turn; this time in the direction of New-Wave and they had set out to establish a broader audience, as well as concentrate on touring the U.S., with the hopes of breaking into that broader market. I remember when they issued Live In The Air Age late in 1977, it was getting a considerable amount of airplay on the West Coast, notably via KROQ and in February of 1978, when Drastic Plastic was issued, it also garnered much airplay and critical praise. But again, Be-Bop Deluxe didn’t break through as many thought they would. Even though Air Age went to Number 10 on the British album charts and Drastic Plastic hit at 22.
So, this would effectively be the last Be-Bop Deluxe session for John Peel before Bill Nelson dissolved the band and would resurface again as Red Noise.
Be-Bop Deluxe were a good band with good material. I often thought they were somehow out of sync with changing musical tastes, and because of that, they may have been overlooked to some degree. In Rock, timing is everything as has been so often the case with many bands. That we get the opportunity to reassess what they were all about does wonders for hindsight and maybe that aspect of distance affords a better perspective in what we might have missed the first time around.
If you’re not familiar with Be-Bop Deluxe, you get the opportunity to hear this with fresh ears and come away with a different impression than those of us who remembered them as they were at the time.
Timing is still everything.
Crank it up and get ready for the weekend.