Geddes Axe formed in 1979, being inspired by local Yorkshire acts Def Leppard and Saxon (who the band shared a stage with during their formative years). In 1980 Geddes Axe recorded their first 7” single »Return Of The Gods« (which was released a year later via A.C.S. Records). This debut single gained a place in the HM charts both in Sounds (even reaching the number one spot) and Melody Maker in the UK. Kerrang! magazine also mentioned the band in their famous “Armed And Ready” section, comparing them to Rush and Judas Priest. “I’m impressed you remember that,” states original guitarist Martin Wilson. “I still have the Sounds cutting in a scrap book I made at the time. Well, those charts were based on the most requested songs at various rock clubs around the country – rather than record sales. Even so, it was great to see it there. Did it affect us? I don’t think we were so naive as to think it meant too much. But we played London’s Marquee the same week and I reckon it helped get a good crowd in.”
Geddes Axe also once appeared live at London’s legendary Rainbow Theatre along with AIIZ and More. “Well on the one hand it was great to play on the same stage as the Thin Lizzy ‘Live And Dangerous’ album and also where I’d seen the band Rainbow,” reminisces Martin. “The trouble is the stage is massive and I didn’t have the biggest backline or monitors - so I’d walk a couple of yards to the left or right and couldn’t hear a damn thing. I also remember the crowd seeming miles away and it taking about half an hour to get from the dressing room to the stage.”
Geddes Axe’s early live set did include a cover version of KISS’ “Detroit Rock City” as Martin explains: “We did a few covers when we first started. I can remember us doing `’Doctor, Doctor’ by UFO and ’Emerald’ by Thin Lizzy, I think, but it’s a long time ago! For some reason we stuck with ‘Detroit Rock City’ – I guess we had an affinity with it.”
Geddes Axe’s second 7” single followed in 1982. The excellent »Sharpen Your Wits« was issued by Steel City Records. Geddes Axe continued to gig far and wide across England over the following year. In 1983 they were able to land a deal with the prestigious Bullet Records label. The resulting »Escape From New York« 12” EP was Geddes Axe’s most accomplished and musically challenging record. Tony Rose had been joining Geddes Axe by then (replacing the old singer Andy Millard). Original guitarist Martin Wilson comments: “I think that the quality of production on »Escape From New York« went up a notch and we were getting more used to being in the studio. The songs are some of my favourites as well, particularly a number called ‘666’.” Unfortunately, Bullet Records never fully realized the band’s huge potential. As a result, the overdue Geddes Axe debut album sadly never came to be.
After “Escape From New York” the end for Geddes Axe was near: “I remember us writing some other songs and continuing to gig but we were losing money hand over fist doing the types of shows we were doing – and it just became unsustainable without a major deal. I think it was 1983 when we split.”
“Everyone went their own ways and did their own thing,” summarizes Martin. “Andy Barrott has played in a number of bands since and still is with the Dukes Of Bordello. And I know some of the others continued to play, for a while at least. I worked on a project with Nick Brown for a while but then I don’t think I picked my guitar up again until 1995! Me and Andy Barrott did some memorable gigs in the late 1990s/2000s with a fun punk covers band called ‘Well Hung, Drawn And Quartered’ which was hilarious! And I’ve also done some covers band stuff which allowed me to improve my technique but I never looked at doing original material again.”
»Aftermath« now collects the entire catalogue of Geddes Axe material. In detail that’s the first two 7” singles, the »Escape From New York« 12” EP plus never issued demo tracks such as “When The Lights Go Out”, “Life In London”, “Into The Wilderness” and “Valley Of The Kings”. 12 songs (50 minutes) of pure bona fide NWOBHM in total. Martin Wilson explains: “»Aftermath« contains the songs from the three vinyl releases but it’s also given us the opportunity to release recordings of four other songs that were previously unreleased. I’m pleased we’ve managed to get these out because I reckon they’re just as good as the others – ‘Valley Of The Kings’, particularly, is very representative of Geddes Axe’s style. ‘When The Lights Go Out’, ‘Life In London’, ‘Into The Wilderness’ and ‘Valley Of The Kings’ were originally recorded along with new versions of the ones released on vinyl as a sort of ‘demo’ album. It was around the time of »Sharpen Your Wits« during the time we had Nick Brown and John Burke in the band but while we still had Andy Millard on vocals. »Aftermath« collects about everything the band has ever recorded. There’s still the odd live bootleg and one or two other versions of these songs with other band members on – but, otherwise, that’s it. There were a couple of live recordings broadcast on the local radio station (Radio Hallam), including one supporting Saxon at Sheffield City Hall that would have been good to have now but they’ve just got lost over the years.”
Quite out of the blue Geddes Axe received an invitation to play Brofest (UK) in 2016. For Martin Wilson this was the incentive to get back into shape: “Andy Barrott was approached about us doing it. I must admit, although a few people kept asking when we’d get back together, I never thought it’d happen. It’s essentially the Geddes Axe Mark 1 line-up: me, Andy Barrott and Andy Millard but with a couple of new musicians, namely Andy Ritson on bass and Craig Taylor on drums. Yes, we’re all really looking forward to it and are also going to do a private warm-up gig in Sheffield as part of the preparation. We’ll be sticking to the songs off the »Aftermath album for Brofest as we only have a limited amount of time. But in the future, who knows?”