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.