Jane Aire and the Belvederes – “Yankee Wheels”

My active engagement of the world of music is typically cyclical (well, maybe ‘cyclical’ isn’t quite the right word for it—’fickle’ is probably more appropriate). Questions of word choice aside, however, it’s safe to say that I am in discovery mode at the moment. Of course, in my adoption of a now nearly universal disillusionment with MySpace, discovery, for me, is now just as likely to occur whilst rummaging through boxes of forgotten 7-inches as it is through indiscriminate internet referrals. And it was in one of these bins where I accidentally stumbled upon Jane Aire and the Belvederes’ 1978 single ‘Yankee Wheels’ b/w ‘Nasty…Nice’ (hey, I never said everything on this blog would be new—besides, it’s new to me).

Born Jane Ashley, Jane Aire was discovered in Akron, Ohio (reportedly whilst singing karaoke) by talent scout and songwriter Liam Sternberg (‘Walk Like an Egyptian’) who included two Jane Aire songs on the Akron compilation he prepared for London’s Stiff Records. Shortly after, Aire left Akron for London to record for Stiff Records. Leaving Ohio to pursue the British music scene…remind you of anyone? (No, I still live here. I am, of course, referring to The Pretenders’ Chrissie Hynde, another Akron native.)

Backed by the Belvederes (aka ‘The Edge’—a real band in their own right including Lu Edmonds and Jon Moss, both former Damned, one future Culture Club), Jane Aire released ‘Yankee Wheels’ in 1978, her first single for Stiff, penned by Sternberg. With it’s half-spoken verses, strutting rhythms, and meandering melodies, ‘Yankee Wheels’ is evocative of the more experimental side of New Wave. Paired with B-side ‘Nasty…Nice’ and it’s post-garage riffs reminiscent of early Kinks, the single comes across as a prelude to a promising new record.

Or, at least it did—that is until the band defected to Virgin. Whereas there is no telling what a Jane Aire LP on the eclectic and iconoclastic Stiff Records (also home to Elvis Costello, The Damned, and Wreckless Eric, among others) would have sounded like, the Virgin version, by most accounts (and from the handful of tracks I’ve heard), manifests as a sort of neutered rendition of the ‘Yankee Wheels’ aesthetic, tending toward a more marketable pop sound. Neither track from the single appears on the LP.

Though her LP garnered something of a cult following, Jane Aire experienced very little conventional success with her Virgin releases. After a few years of silence, she did return to Stiff with one last single, a cover of Dusty Springfield’s ‘I Close My Eyes and Count to Ten’ b/w ‘Heat of the City’, in 1982. Of her complete discography—some  one and a half dozen—only one, ‘Yankee Wheels’ has ever appeared on CD, a Stiff Records compilation of some sort.

She has, at some point in the last 30 years, returned to the States and is now, apparently, living somewhere around Baltimore and performing with R&B cover band The Majestics. I think.

Listen to ‘Yankee Wheels’ below and, if you want to track down Jane Aire’s other stuff, this guy has actually heard all of it, so check out what he has to say.

10 thoughts on “Jane Aire and the Belvederes – “Yankee Wheels”

  1. Love this! That 70s vocal sound… what a gem. I love that you’re branching out into older stuff too. Of course, I love the new stuff, but there is so much out there that people, myself included, are not aware of, and (sorry for being cliche) how can you know where you are headed if you don’t know where you come from? Right?

    1. I, personally, come from 1984–the land of Michael Jackson and the birth of Stryper–but, yes, I get your meaning. I may start extracting bits from my record collection more often, if it looks like people are actually interested in hearing about it. There’s some weird stuff in there…

  2. Don’t forget that on ALL releases by Stiff there are little sayings (probably inside jokes) scratched into the inner blank space between the end of the grooves and the label; and sometimes on the outer blank edge also. “It’s a Porky Fine Cut” appeared on many of their releases, and as part of the company’s credo that NO ONE would EVER have a “complete” collection of Stiff Records, they would often change the saying in mid-production run. (Sometimes they would press up only 100 or 150 records to be handed out at a particular concert, then immediately deny they had done so, then use the rumor of a free record at the next concert to sell more tickets, and then NOT hand out any records……ahhhhhh, GOOD times!).

    1. I didn’t know any of that, actually, though I did read something on mine which seemed, at the time, to be absolutely ridiculous, though I can’t recall what it was. I’ll have to go back and check. I’ve only just begun to become familiar with Stiff, but the more I learn, the more I love them!

    2. “… Porky PRIME Cut”. Porky was the nickname of the guy who cut Stiff’s masters for pressing- something that can drastically affect the sound and volume of the final piece of vinyl. Porky was a true craftsman!

      1. MistahMike…..EXCELLENT trivia on where “Porky” came from….just wondering where your info is sourced….NOT giving you a hard time/challenge….just seriously interested on where this tidbit comes from…..been reading/collecting/laughing/rocking STIFF since their earliest days and this is the first I”ve heard about Porky…..GOOD ONE!!!

      2. That’s a really fascinating bit of information. Not that I doubt you for a second (it makes perfect sense to me), but I too was wondering how you knew that. Because, whatever the source was, I want to read it, or watch it, or hear it, or whatever it.

        On a related note, have any of you seen the Stiff doc the BBC did a while back and/or know where I can see it for myself?

  3. Jane Aire (Ashley) sings on a great cover of Loving You Ain’t Easy fronting The Records. It’s from when they were both signed to Virgin Records and appears on The Records album “Music On Both Sides”. Yes it’s available on CD!

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