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Life in the Air Age

Sunburst Finish: Be-Bop Deluxe at their most luxurious

Be-Bop Deluxe was one of those mid-seventies bands that plugged the gap between glam and punk like Roxy Music on one side and Thin Lizzy on the other, less ballsy than the latter and less campy than the former. But like 10cc or Sparks, smart enough and tuneful enough to get one through the Horse Latitudes of most AOR programming: the endless sorties of the Eagles, America, ABBA, Elton, Jackson, Rod and the Doobie Brothers.

Lyrically, Bill Nelson’s songwriting seemed to ascribe more to the ethos of another underrated band of the era, Blue Oyster Cult, and their code language of flames and futurism, than any other contemporaries. And even these similarities are more subtle than striking. Nelson could write a song like “Blazing Apostles”, reminding the listener of BOC’s “Flaming Telepaths" in the construction of the title and the theme of transformation, but tone it up with the kind of lyricism that one associates with Brits and Romantic poetry: “Salvation brings a badge to wear/on the glad rags of your soul”…all the while extending a metaphor about pop fame and not buying one’s own press… “Posters make a prophet if you’ve got a soul to sell.”  Considering Nelson’s sad and sorry history of trying to get paid for his Be-Bop work, the lyrics seem prescient. He’s invested more than a pound of flesh only to be frustrated at every turn.