Tag Archives: Harvest Records

February 25th 1975

BE-BOP DELUXE – CANCELLED”

OK, here’s where I KNOW I saw Cockney Rebel play live somewhen in 1974.

I’m sure of this because I saw Be-Bop Deluxe as a support band to Cockney Rebel long before I saw them headline… plus I spent more than two weeks after the show trying to hunt down a copy of their debut album, “Axe Victim”

As excited as I must have been to see Cockney Rebel in concert – presumably for the first time? – I can still remember how Bill Nelson’s tight little band completely blew me away that night. It’s certainly embedded in my memory how, on their final number (no encores for a support band), Bill created some screaming feedback on his guitar, coolly unstrapped it and laid it on the stage to continue screeching whilst the band walked off to tumultuous applause.

I’m not kidding when I say I really hunted for “Axe Victim”. None of my regular haunts seemed to have it in stock and no-one seemed to be able to obtain copies of it from EMI, Harvest Records’ distributor. I was phoning shops on a regular basis, all to no avail. None of the mail-order companies stocked it. No-one I knew owned the album either so I couldn’t settle for a taped recording of it to tide me over. Then my Mum took a phone message one day to inform me that Whitwams had received stock and they had popped a copy aside for me. I rushed in to Winchester and was probably never as eager to pass over my £2.99 or so.

In retrospect I know exactly why Be-Bop Deluxe appealed to me back then. Guitarist and founder Bill Nelson successfully merged prog rock sensibilities with a glam rock sound and image which, when totaled, was almost impossible for me to resist. “Axe Victim” is a perfect merger of snappy pop songs and extended proggy guitar-solo-ridden pieces that go off several tangents. I’d go so far as to say everyone will find a little something they would like about Be-Bop Deluxe.

(links to You Tube videos except where stated)

• “Axe Victim” (@last.fm)
sets out Nelson’s stall perfectly, telling a kind of Ziggy Stardust-lite tale about a post-glam band apparently disintegrating…

You came to watch the band, to see us play our parts
We hoped you’d lend an ear, you hope we dress like tarts
But back stage we stand naked, all the make-up cleaned away,
My poet sheds his pretty skin, and turns to face the day

And there’s nothing to be done, no nothing to be said,
Last night I felt immortal, this morning I feel dead

And the love that gave its blaze to my heart,
Now brings a haze,
Be careful…I’m an axe victim

Hung up on these silver strings,
Like wings,
Like time machines…
Like voices on the wind

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 smiling 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

And the words that I sung so clear
Are now clouded by my tears
Please be careful…’cos I’m an axe victim

Hung up on these silver strings,
Like sails,
Like seagulls cries…
Like church bells in the night…

The final 90 seconds of the song is, essentially, an instrumental, Nelson showing off his not-inconsiderable guitar skills.

Someone once remarked something along the lines of that whilst Nelson had the intellectual ability write about ‘other wordly’ things in his compositions, he often threw in down-to-earth remarks about his own upbringing, preferring here to mention an unfashionable Northern city, Hull, rather than any number of ‘romantic’ American cities he could have chosen to accentuate the story.

• “Love Is Swift Arrows” (@last.fm)
Again shows off Nelson’s slick guitar work, this time overlaying a drumbeat that, for some reason, always reminds me of The Kinks. I always liked the lyric “Echoed words spoken by token romantics” and how easily it trips off the tongue.

• “Jet Silver And The Dolls Of Venus
If the Bowie influence is not immediately apparent then this cut is the giveaway, just managing to fall short of being an out-and-out parody. Once again it is the guitar work that separates it from the ‘ordinary’ here, and I’ve always thought that – for whatever reason – Nelson sings this weaker than he’s otherwise capable of. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a fantastic track – the chorus again reminding me of the Kinks – just that it feels ‘undersung’, if that makes any sense? The ending is about as prog rock as you can get!

• “Third Floor Heaven” ( @last.fm)
feels a weak cut to me nowadays. It didn’t feel weak back then. It’s based around a ‘Stones’ riff that Nelson pulls off to perfection – which, yes, I tried to emulate on my own guitar… with predictably terrible results – but the lyrics, seemingly about an S&M hooker, fail to move as much as they did when I was an impressionable 17-year-old.

• “Night Creatures
This is where Nelson listened to Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side” or “Sweet Jane” and created his own take on ‘people of the night’. I love the laid back acoustic feel of this cut, Nelson’s voice matching the mood perfectly. It feels like the ‘calm before the storm’ of the next track…

• “Rocket Cathedrals
Opening with what sounds like a garbled ‘public warning’ message, this quickly turns into an almost ‘pub rock’ anthem, worthy of someone like Ducks Deluxe. It just ROCKS. I never had it pegged as a song that was worthy of covering in any way shape or form, so imagine my utter surprise when, whilst researching a few things for this post, I stumbled across an awesome Brian Setzer Orchestra version of it!

• “Adventures In A Yorkshire Landscape
This is the ‘tour de force’ cut of the album, almost single-handedly summing up what BeBop Deluxe are/were about. Romantic words (here, Nelson waxes lyrically about Northern England, poets, churches and more) highlighted with crafty guitar work and alternate bursts of energy and quiet. It’s one of Nelson’s songs that could have equally slotted onto any of the follow-up Be-Bop albums or the guitar-centric solo work later on in his career

Poster from a later tour

• “Jets At Dawn” (@last.fm)
is magnificently languid in its lyrics and presentation, Nelson’s guitar chops again coming to the fore. I’ve commented on this before, but it remains amazing to me that guitarists (who I consider third-rate hacks) such as Eric Clapton get all the ‘fame’ and attention for their (apparent) tricky guitar skills when they couldn’t/wouldn’t hold a candle to the likes of Bill Nelson in his prime.

• “No Trains To Heaven
has always disappointed me. Did then, does now. Seems to go nowhere and has always felt like a ‘filler’

• “Darkness (L’Immoraliste)” ( @last.fm)
returns Nelson to Bowie/Ziggy territory, having a “Five Years” feel to its composition. It’s grand, orchestral and theatrically pompous in a manner that Nelson would repeat on later Be-Bop albums. You can imagine it performed by a huge chorus on a West End stage. (The only other artists I have ever known to have pulled this sound off successfully are Simon Warner and The Divine Comedy)

“Axe Victim” is, by far, the Be-Bop Deluxe album I know the best, but its far from their finest work. I think Nelson was still finding his artistic feet and whilst its a very admirable debut, his latter fascination for all things ‘sci-fi’ would prove to the making of him and the band.

Maybe the gig was cancelled because their tour bus burned out?

Tonight though, in 1975, the anticipated return of Be-Bop Deluxe onto the live stage was cancelled. Of course, in true EFA70sTRO fashion I have not gone into any detail as to why the gig was called off, nor given any indication that it was going to be rescheduled in the future.

However, by way of a little trivia I can impart that this new tour would have featured two members who I saw perform with Cockney Rebel the previous year. Bill stole Rebel bass guitarist Paul Jeffreys and keyboard player Milton Reame-James from under the nose of Steve Harley. Bit naughty, but this kind of thing happened a lot with bands back then.

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July 24th 1973

“Went to get £3.50 from the Halifax – difficult job. Went up Trev’s for the day and borrowed Fragile, Dark Side of the Moon + Greasy Truckers Party”

I wonder why it would have been difficult for me to have withdrawn £3.50 from the Halifax? Perhaps it threatened to bring down the entire UK banking system?

Both Yes’ “Fragile” and the live compilation album “Greasy Truckers Party” have been commented on in these pages before. The only thing I find odd is why I would have borrowed them both again – as those previous entries would seem to suggest I had already committed them to tape. Maybe I was forced to ration my own C-90’s, taping over recordings on more of a regular basis than I would have (probably) liked?

I’m not sure what I can add by way of online comments to the third album I refer to in today’s diary entry… but why don’t I give it a shot?…

Who, in 1973, could have predicted what Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” would achieve over the next 35+ years in terms of sales and/or influence?

Music industry figures suggest that this 1973 album has sold in excess of 45 million copies worldwide since its release. That’s Forty-Five MILLION copies!

At it’s time of release I guess it was relatively unique, most certainly in terms of its packaging.

Once again – just as they did with Floyd’s prior “Atom Heart Mother” and “Meddle” – Hipgnosis design founders Storm Thorgeson & Aubrey Powell conjured up something special. George Hardie was actually the artist who came up with the (now iconic beyond belief) prism cover, a design that, apparently, was ‘merely’ one of at least ten presented to the band for their eventual approval. (I wonder if we will ever see the nine rejected ideas?)

The album sleeve opened up to reveal how the prism’s light source had morphed into “heartbeat” soundwaves, accompanied by song lyrics. The prism design was repeated (but reversed) on the rear of the sleeve, specifically, it has been suggested – and this was a masterful decision if true – to enable record stores to display visually-impressive continuous lines of the album in their storage racks.

To complete the packaging, Thorgeson and Co included not just a pair of fold out posters inside the sleeve (both destined for dorm roon walls across the world ad infinitum), but also a pair of small peel-back (crackback) stickers depicting the prism/pyramid theme.

Pink Floyd’s name is mentioned nowhere except on the “concert” poster. Just as with their prior albums EMI hated this notion, but were forced to accept it as part of their contractual agreement with the band.

To say this album pushed Floyd into the musical stratosphere is something of an understatement. Sure, the band had enjoyed commercial success – of a kind – with “Meddle“, but DSOTM took them to an entirely different level altogether.

The cut “Money” was released as a single in the USA reaching #13 in the Billboard charts, propelling sales of the album beyond the band’s wildest dreams. (No singles were released in the UK).

It was the #1 album in America for – and this seems astonishing now – just ONE solitary week in April 1973, BUT then remained in the Billboard “Hot 200″ for 741 consecutive weeks thereafter (that’s 14 years and 3 months) before sales rules were changed and it was ‘demoted’ (stupidly in my opinion) to no more than a ‘back catalogue” album. Even now, some 26 years after its release, its estimated that it sells almost 10,000 copies a week in the USA alone. There are artists out there who would probably donate a body part for sales like that per ANNUM, let alone per week.

Not bad for a concept album about mental illness and what makes us mad.

I’ve listened to the album WAY too many times to even begin to remember what I might have initially thought about it in July 1973. (Not – as most of you will have come to realise – there’s much of a chance I would have remembered anyway, but you know what I mean)

There’s no doubting how much of a musical classic it is, even if parts of it have begun to grate on me over the years. “Money” is, sadly for me, another of those played-too-often-in-rotation cuts on “Classic Rock” stations across the entire USA… to such a degree that I am now heartily sick of hearing it. Also, and perhaps sacrilegiously for some, “Great Gig in the Sky” has always appeared somewhat ‘dirge’-like to me. When I used to play the vinyl, I would always listen to it, but when I got the album on CD it was a track I would invariably skip. (Now, I don’t think I even have the cut on my i-Pod?)

Like a lot of other people though it’s an album I wouldn’t want to be without. I’ve almost lost count of how many copies I’ve owned since that (doubtless recorded) tape version in 1973. Several vinyl copies, a legal cassette version for the car and almost every CD issue and reissue. It’s almost impossible to calculate how many babies might have been conceived – or virginities might have been taken – or plans may have been hatched – to the aural sounds of this album, but I bet the figures are staggering. It’s just one of “those” albums that everybody has and thinks they should have.

I wish I had one tenth of one tenth of half the royalties/residuals Roger Waters receives every quarter for sales of – and to give it’s full and PROPER title… which not everyone realises – The Dark Side of the Moon

Finally, for this lengthy post… some Dark Side of the Moon irrelevant trivia…
• The album was originally going to be entitled “The Dark Side of the Moon” until Floyd and EMI realised that the band Medicine Head had just released an album of the same name. Waters retitled the album “Eclipse” but it was swapped back to TDSOTM when the Medicine Head album disappeared without trace in terms of sales or recognition.
• Wings’ guitarist Henry McCullough supplied the spoken line “I dunno, I was really drunk at the time”, whilst actress Naomi Watts’ dad was one of the insane chucklers during “Brain Damage” and “Speak to Me
• Some of the early profits from the album were used to help make the movie masterpiece “Monty Python & the Holy Grail
• Yes – and perhaps predictably – my wife and I have attempted the “Dark Side of the Rainbow” phenomenon which suggests that the album’s core concepts and lyrics line up perfectly as a mildly head-tripping soundtrack to the movie “The Wizard from Oz“. You need to try the experiment yourself and decide whether it works or not.

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November 30th 1972

“borrowed Fireball off Sims” / “came ‘ome to find that Mum had moved my bedroom round”

Title track aside, 1971’s Fireball is hardly one of Deep Purple’s “classic” rock albums. 

It did hit Number 1 on the UK album chart, but this may have had everything to do with fan’s frenzied anticipation of new Purple material following 1970’s FAR superior and INFINITELY better “In Rock” release.

It was the second of five consecutive Deep Purple studio albums which featured the (whatever was the then incarnation of the) band’s faces in some format or another on the sleeve. Whilst “In Rock” had them up on Mount Rushmore and “Machine Head” had them floatingly reflected in what looks like a solid bar of silver, Fireball has them VERY badly drawn as the tip of a……well, of a fireball. With *ahem* the word “fireball” as the trail. I can’t begin to imagine what Harvest Records and/or the band paid the artist for this appalling sleeve, but if it was more than the cost of a bag of crisps they were well and truly kippered!

Talking of appalling, what the hell was my Mum doing moving my room around?

PS: No, I didn’t have porn.

Yet

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