Bedlam Opera

Bedlam Opera

The over-documentation of the '90s' obsession with all things popular and British disregards what was well-known to those in the know at the time: that there lurked in the cracks, underneath the floorboards, in between the bits of peeling plaster, down the back of the radiators and on the tops of shelves long since abandoned by those fake feather dusters on sticks, some things that were neither (entirely) British nor popular. And then there was Bedlam Opera, the illegitimate IVF-spurned child of London poet jack beckett, finally forging a giggable line up after several abortive attempts at procreating with a Swiss man, a South African and an Aussie in 1996. The Aussie was Matt Cole, a virtuosic pianist from Melbourne, who brought his love of Debussy, Leonard Cohen and the Dirty Three to bear on beckett's attempt to revolutionise the rock lyric with a hybrid of surrealism, romanticism and lyric poetry to create a songwriting partnership that produced material that was part Cave/Waits/Staples/Brel/Curtis, part Patti Smith, part Mogwai, part sea shanty and part lots of other things on the fringes of the rock-pop-folk axis. Cole loved The Go-Betweens, beckett loved Baudelaire and krautrock.
Losing Miguel Pedro to his native South Africa after their first gig in 1997, Cole and beckett added Sheffield-raised Joe Murphy on accordion; Murphy gave life to the swashbuckling sailor songs and depth to their more tender moments with a Pogueish edge. Aylesbury's Matt Dolphin, a fine folksy finger-picker, replaced Pedro on guitar, and the line up was completed by Anglophile Frenchman Thibault De Montfort on oboe, MBV-obsessed American drummer Tom Wenzel and Southampton-born cellist, and sometime member of The Tindersticks' orchestra, Will Byers (appearing as Will Burrows on Tindersticks’ releases). After a year or so earning their dues in the toilets of north London, developing a live show that was a little more than just a gig, and writing meandering melodic masterpieces like Nadja and Red Wine Song, Cole and Dolphin announced their intentions to quit. The 'classic' BO line up played their last gig at their first and only record launch [a 7" vinyl-only double A-side featuring Effervescent Architecture and When It's so Familiar] in February 1998. A year or so later beckett and Murphy played a handful of shows, now a trio with Chris T-T on guitar and piano, with a raft of new material in an attempt to keep the Opera fire burning, but they didn't manage to recapture the artistic heights of the Cole-driven 1997 version of the band. Being truly international, and not in the slightest bit popular, Bedlam Opera were possibly harder to grasp than some of their more generic, more rock-rooted contemporaries like Penthouse and Dream City Film Club; in truth, they died before their time had come.
Murphy went on to make a considerable success of his main project Sergeant Buzfuz and Dolphin is still recording and performing as a solo artist. Byers played with Kid and Wenzel flaunted his not-inconsiderable skills on a European tour with Breed. Matt Cole's decision to return to Melbourne had tragic consequences when in 2005 he was killed by a hit and run driver who knocked him off his bike; his new band, Luzon, thereby hit the thankless trail of obscurity that had befallen Bedlam Opera several years before.


Bedlam Opera Discography Tracks

Singles & EPs

none Bedlam Opera Songs Of Slow Corrections(CDr, EP, Ltd, Num) Not On Label (Bedlam Opera Self-Released) none UK 1998 Sell This Version
none Bedlam Opera When It's So Familiar / Effervescent Architecture(7", Single, W/Lbl) Not On Label (Bedlam Opera Self-Released) none 1998 Sell This Version