My favorite story about the BellRays doesn’t belong to me. It belongs to my friend Jon. As I remember it, he was attending one of the rare but wondrous music festival catering to trashy garage rock and rockabilly-tinged punk that were a little more prevalent a decade or two ago, when the concept of a band like Southern Culture on the Skids having a minor radio hit wasn’t entirely absurd. As one does at festivals, my friend wandered a bit, a little aimlessly and a little attuned to finding the good beer on what was surely a hot day. He had acts that he definitely wanted to see, but much of the time involved browsing. In his wanderings he came upon a stage whereupon a blistering band was fronted by a powerhouse singer, like something out of a fantasy world where a biker babe version of Aretha Franklin handled lead vocal duties for one of the best garage rock bands of all time. He got to see about a half a song before the band left the stage for good. That’s when he realized he’d made a huge mistake by not getting there earlier.
I had my own dashed opportunities to see the band live, but nothing quite as heartbreaking as what my friend experienced. I had to settle for the albums, which were strong but always felt a little like they were a few photocopies away from the striking original. Still, if they were delivering a full-on blast of fiery rock goodness that happened to be about my favorite barroom pastime, it was going to tickle my primal music-lover pleasure centers just fine. “Pinball City”? Yes, I want to go to there.
The BellRays seem to officially still be a going concern, though its now been a couple years since their most recent activity. In the meantime, anyone wanting the avoid the near-miss experienced by my friend Jon should check future festival rosters for a band called Lisa & the Lips.
Listen or download –> The BellRays, “Pinball City”
(Disclaimer: I am under the impression that a sizable part of the BellRays catalogue is officially out of print, at least as physical objects that can be procured from your favorite local, independently-owned record store in a way that compensates both the proprietor of said shop and the band. Since “Pinball City” is drawn from a collection of stray bits and B-sides, that unavailability is even more likely. In general, there’s not much chatter about or attention given to the BellRays music. Raw Collection has only four reviews on Amazon, and this is considered the best one:
I am simply doing my humble best to try and fill the emptiness with a little more praise. I mean help, not harm. Still, I will gladly remove the track from the internet if asked to do so by any entity or individual with due authority to make such a request.)