This date in 1985 marked the debut of the Bel-Aires, opening for the Ramones at NYC’s Irving Plaza in 1985. Not to be confused with the car, the brand of cigarettes, or the 3 or 4 other bands with the same name, these Bel-Aires were a short-lived Andy Shernoff project, born at the very height of the roots-rock heyday of the mid ’80s, when it was nigh-on impossible to swing a dead cat in any major city without hitting a four-piece covering Woody Guthrie and singing songs about the Swampland.
The band consisted of Andy Shernoff on rhythm guitar and most of the vocals, Paul Skelton on lead guitar, Andy Bale on bass, and JP “Thunderbolt” Patterson on drums and the balance of the lead vocals. Paul Skelton was “the twangmaster of the Telecaster” in the Cornell Hurd Band for 22 years after moving to Austin. Andy Bale was a longtime member of the Sic F*cks, and later married Snooky.
This was the first project Andy and JP worked on together, and it’s really too bad that it didn’t last longer. The band only existed for 1985, and played maybe a half-dozen gigs in total. An album’s worth of tunes was cut with Lou Whitney in Springfield, Mo., but nothing ever saw the light of day.
There was some solid material here that should have gotten more exposure. “Loyola” and “Stay with Me” were obviously holdovers from the Dictators. “Suburban Soul Man” found a home on the Master Plan’s second album, “Shallow Grave” was recently covered on an A-Bones 45, and “Savage Beat” debuted here, years before it was honored as the Coolest Song of 2001. The rest of the tunes languish in obscurity, and really deserve a better fate. This collection of songs would have been wholly embraced by today’s Americana crowd. Like a lot of things Dictators-related, it was 25 years before its time.
The set from 3/8/85 (vocals by Andy unless noted otherwise):
1. Wild Ride
3. Suburban Soul Man
4. Hungry (Paul Revere + The Raiders cover, sung by JP)
5. Bound and Gagged
6. Shallow Grave
7. Heart of the City (not the Nick Lowe song)
8. Power and Glory (not the Eddie and the Hot Rods song)
9. Savage Beat (sung by JP)
10. Stay With Me
11. Slaughter on 10th Avenue
— Salvi C.