They say that stars that burn twice as bright burn half as long. I want to introduce you to a really amazing power-pop band from the 1990’s, but before I do I must warn you: they only put out two records. If you’re the kind of person that obsesses over really awesome shit that never got its proper due, maybe you should sit this one out. Jellyfish was a band that I grew up with and to this day I still love them and smile whenever I hear one of their songs. I’ve met precious few people who’ve even heard of them (or can remember them) and that’s a real shame because they put out two damn near perfect records.
A word about “power-pop.” I really feel stupid using that term and not just because it sounds like a super-caffeinated soft drink. In general, I really dislike the concept of “genre.” But I must admit that it does serve as a nice bit of short-hand when you’re trying to talk to people so I’m going to use the term “power-pop.” Power-pop is basically rock music that features strong lyrical hooks and big guitar riffs. Melodies and harmonies are also really important in power-pop. A lot of the British invasion-era rock could be considered power-pop, but for the most part the term is applied to bands that came after/were influenced by those bands. So The Beatles are not considered power-pop but Badfinger (who came later and are basically the same band) are power-pop.
Jellyfish was formed in 1989 in San Francisco, California. The band had several members over the years but the foundation of the band was two super-talented, multi-instrumentalists: Andy Sturmer and Roger Joseph Manning, Jr.* Andy was primarily the drummer and Roger played keyboards. For their first album, Roger and Andy were joined by bassist Chris Manning a duty that was also shared by Steven Shane McDonald (of Redd Kross-fame, another great power-pop band from this era) and guitarist Jason Falkner. To say that these lads had talent is the worst kind of understatement–there really were four geniuses in the band. And while that helped make the first Jellyfish album, BELLYBUTTON, an instant-classic…it also lead to a lot of tension.
BELLYBUTTON came out in 1990 and was met with moderate success. The album spawned three singles, “The King Is Half-Undressed,” “That Is Why,” and “Baby’s Coming Back.” Some quirky music videos and a funky day-glo image helped get people’s attention, though the band was never a true household name. BELLYBUTTON’s sound is one of lush harmonies and catchy-as-hell choruses. The Beatles and Beach Boys are all over this record (they even mention The Beatles by name in “All I Want Is Everything”). And while the band doesn’t ever quite go full-on psychedelic, they get close. It’s a bit difficult to say “this is what Jellyfish sounds like” because like late-period Beatles (and super-druggy Brian Wilson), Jellyfish experiment with different sounds and instruments.
Among the kaleidoscope of 1960’s-ish sounds there are are two really nice ballads, “I Wanna Stay Home” and “Calling Sarah.” “I Wanna Stay Home” in particular almost sounds like it belongs on a totally different record. It’s a very sincere song that’s about having to go even though you just want to say home. The very next song “She Still Loves Him” is a haunting tale about an abusive relationship, it’s a great song, with some really sharp lyrics and an awesome guitar solo…but it also feels very odd after “I Wanna Stay Home.” BELLYBUTTON, while a fantastic record, is not a unified work of art. Instead it’s more of an awesome Frankenstein’s Monster of a record, with a bunch of really awesome bits sown together. There are a ton of really nice little details that really don’t appreciate on the first few listens. Some of my favorites include: the nice trumpet part at the beginning of “Bedspring Kiss”, the faux-live effect/crowd sound on the Cheap Trick-like “All I Want Is Everything”**, and the dreamy piano noodling that plays before “She Still Loves Him.”
In 1993 the band put out their second album SPILT MILK. This album sadly did not feature most of the band from the first record–gone was everyone but Sturmer and Manning Jr. A new bassist, Tim Smith, was added to the mix along with a few session guitarists. Despite the change in personnel, I actually prefer SPILT MILK and think it’s the stronger of the two records. SPILT MILK is interesting because Jellyfish takes the 1960’s British-Pop aesthetics of BELLYBUTTON and apply a thick coating of Glam Rock. What you get is something that sounds like Queen-by-way-of-The Beatles. Oddly enough, despite losing their guitarists, SPILT MILK also has way better guitar parts/solos, though Roger Manning’s keyboards do wind up taking a more prominent role. SPILT MILK is full of such dualities: it’s a keyboard album with awesome guitars, dark and angry but has a playful song about masturbation (“He’s My Best Friend”).
The album opens with the quiet, lullaby-like “Hush” which ironically leads into the explosive “Joining A Fanclub.” I can’t say enough about how awesome “Joining A Fanclub” is. Ostensibly about the dangers of stardom and hero worship, the songs is a really headbangger. It’s the kind of song you hear while driving and it causes you to get a speeding ticket. Every time I hear it I think about Robert Downey Jr. (who at the time this song was written was constantly getting into trouble with the law). I also really love “New Mistake” with it’s twisty-lyrics about an “oops” pregnancy–the best part? At the end the baby grows up and marries a pop singer (because it’s time for her to make her “first mistake.”). This is the kind of song that keep me up at night it’s so awesome. I almost don’t believe it was crafted by mere mortals. I also can’t help but marvel at “The Ghost Of Number One” which seems to poke fun at the fact that the band knew that they weren’t going to reach the level of success that they deserved.
Like BELLYBUTTON, Jellyfish’s second record also features some interesting experimentation. I’m confident that I’d never been exposed to Klezmer music*** before I heard “Bye Bye Bye.” That song alone is worth the purchase price of the album, it’s simply a stunningly awesome song, and was definitely not something you heard on the radio in 1993 (or hell today for that matter). The album ends with the magnificent, circus-themed “Brighter Day.” The song is a fantastic way to close the record and unfortunately the recording career of Jellyfish. And when it ends all you want to do is start the whole thing over again.
So what happened? Well a lack of success and bruised egos led Jellyfish to die an unglamorous death, alone and relatively unmourned. Jason Falkner and Roger Joseph Manning, Jr. both have had relatively successful solo-careers (Falkner in particular has recorded some amazing records). Lead-singer Andy Sturmer gave up being in bands and is how a producer. Over the years the band has developed a somewhat cult-following online. I wrote my one and only Wikipedia entry in 2006 when a greatest-hits compilation called BEST! was released. It’s not a very long article, more like an album stub but for some reason I felt compelled to write it. Jellyfish is one of those bands I simply can’t imagine living without and it bums me out that so few people are aware of them. I highly, highly recommend Jellyfish.
*Fun fact, the “Jr.” had to be added to Roger’s professional name because it turned out there already WAS a semi-not-really famous musician named Roger Joseph Manning. What are the chances of such a thing? Now go win that super-obscure power-pop bar-trivia.
**It sounds like LIVE AT BUDOKAN, get it?
***Jewish Eastern European music. It’s as awesome as it sounds.
Jellyfish was truly a musician’s band – there was a great tribute covering both albums in 2007 put out by Burning Sky Records…http://www.burningskyrecords.com/bsrjellyfishv2.php
Oh man, I gotta check out this compilation! Thanks for the tip, and that’s for reading!
First got bellybutton on cassette tape back in the day and have listened to both albums ever since. One of my favorite bands and new mistake is my favourite tracks from either album. Definitely a musicians band as I am. who else could appreciate them properly.
My love for Jellyfish has been there from the near beginning. I got to see them live with The Black Crowes, supporting Bellybutton, and then I saw them headline for the Spilt Milk tour. I am slowing gaining a sleeve of tats on one arm that is at this point a lot of jellyfish. I have a lyric from Sebrina on my shoulder..and my children are huge fans, they are 17 and 13. I wish that Andy was willing to tour and handle crowds…But I do know that Nate from fun. said if they did a reunion tour, he would fill in for him! I agree that Jellyfish are a band most people don’t know, unless they happen to be musician’s themselves…They should have been huge!
Gross, that’d be like Adam Lambert filling in for Queen. No thank you.
Where and when did you see Jellyfish/Black Crowes? That’s like my dream double bill. Just don’t know how many shows they did together.
Woah! It’s so awesome to hear from people that still remember this band! I wish they’d reunite but for now I’ll be content with the albums they left us. It’s cool that you’re getting your kids into this kind of music, that’s how this artform with live on after we’re all gone.
They should have been huge, but to me they’re giants!!!
I was a totally obsessed fan from the word go. If they were to reform tomorrow, I’d be first in line to see them. My bucket list includes a live performance…. The world needs these guys reassembled in a room to hash out whatever it was that parted them.
You and me both, Tim. If I were a millionaire I’d pay big $$$ to get these guys together, even if it was just a one-off.
Jellyfish were simply awesome, and as far as “Power Pop” bands go, just might have been the greatest ever! If all you have are the two studio albums, and the “Best” compilation, you also need to track down their out of print 4 disc box set “Fanclub”. There are also several import CD singles and promotional discs that feature rare & live tracks from the band. Not to mention the recently released “Live at Bogarts” album (on CD and vinyl). Lastly, check out Imperial Drag (Roger’s first post Jellyfish band, along with Eric Drover, their last guitarist), the Black Crowes “Amorica” album (which Roger and Andy play on), Ringo Starr’s “Time Takes Time” album (which Andy & Roger appear on), The Grays “Ro Sham Bo” ( which features Jason Faulkner and Jon Brion amongst it’s members) and even more stuff I don’t have time or space to list now. That should get you started though.
I really, really, really dig Jason Falkner’s solo-stuff. I have RO SHAM BO, and it’s good, but nowhere as good as his solo records. That guy’s like George Harrison in that I feel he was overshadowed while he was in Jellyfish. I wish they could have all gotten along, but after hearing his stuff I’m glad he ended up leaving.
I fully plan on writing about AUTHOR UNKNOWN and/or CAN YOU STILL FEEL very soon.
As for the Jellyfish boxset, I’ve never been able to get my hands on one. When it came out it was in college and had no job (so no money). I’ve found a few torrents online and have been meaning on downloading the audio. I also found out yesterday that there’s a live album (from a show in 1991) that literally just came out. I’m not sure if this material has appeared elsewhere before, but I’d love to check it out.
All I have are the two albums and the BEST! compilation. My mother has a VHS copy GONE JELLYFISHIN’ which to this day is pretty radical.
Some of the LIV AT BOGARTS material appeared on the FANCLUB box-set,and some appeared on the JELLYFISH COMES ALIVE and SCARY-GO-ROUND promotional EPs. The rest is previously unreleased.
One other pre-Jellyfish band I forgot to mention is Beatnik Beatch, that featured Andy & Roger a few years before BELLYBUTTON came out. It’s not quite Jellyfish, but you can hear the beginnings of their sound on it.
Andy has also appeared on albums by the artist Bleu, and co-written some songs with him. He’s also on the Bleu side project – L.E.O. – and the album ALPACAS ORGLING, which is kind of an homage to E.L.O.
I’ve got the GONE JELLYFISHING VHS, and as I’m sure you an tell, a lot of other Jellyfish goodies, as I’ve been a fan pretty much since day one of BELLYBUTTON’s release back in 1990.
I’d be lost without Jellyfish and all of their solo work. They knocked down the creative walls for me. I owe them my chosen career direction basically.
Hey thanks for reading! Jellyfish are pretty inspirational, what kind of work do you do? (I’m guessing you play tambourine).
haha, not quite, you can check out my stuff at http://www.toxicmelons.bandcamp.com Eric dover played guitar on my last E.P!
Jason, I would say every musician I know who is a pop fan is a huge fan of Jellyfish. They seem to always have been loved by musician’s, and everyone else just let them go by. I was fortunate to have been able to see them in support of Bellybutton and Spilt Milk. The Grays (Jon and Jason) also hold some intense feelings for me. I had already met Jason once, but when I was about 6 months pregnant with my son, and the Grays played at the record store I worked at, very intimate. But My mom and I were talking to Jason and telling him what name we had picked out for my baby. (at this time, we still didn’t know for sure what the baby’s sex was gonna be) I knew if I was having a boy, his name would be Julian. But we were really wavering on his middle name. Jason said “I think Gray would be great” and that is how my son got his middle name. Julian Gray (I think its such a great name!) I sent Jason a birth announcement and highlighted Julian’s middle name. That boy is now almost 18 years ago..and that just shows how long it has been since all that amazing pop happened. Jason I also have pictures of my Jellyfish tattoos on my arm, if you would to see them.
Wow, you got to see The Grays and Jellyfish? That’s awesome! And Jason Falkner helped name your kid? Now THAT is what I call super-fandom.
If you’re on Facebook “like” Defending Axl Rose, you can share your tattoos with the rest of the class.
Jason..I am sort of the biggest nerd/fan! i still have all my Jellyfish Army stuff, My Love JellyfishStyle shirt, I have a note from Roger because when I met them on the Bellybutton tour they had seen some clowns across the street from the venue and wanted to take pics with them to scare their manager or some one. So i took some and sent them to him and he sent me a note back and money too to pay for developing the film (This was a long time ago, no digital photpgraphy). And I have 3 tattoos on one arm. I compare everything to them and always seem to find a band who somehow was influenced by them. I bought Amorica only because they were on the album! Yeah…Nerdy! But they will always be my all time favorite band. Oh and I have a promo vinyl fold out Bellybutton album. The only thing I don’t have is the actual box set…I couldnt afford it, and I am still unable to get it due to finances…but I pretty much have everything!
Oh and I also have a fan club only tee shirt…”Shameless Promotional Device” best shirt ever!
A friend introduced me to Jellyfish’s Spilt Milk about a year and ago. How on earth did I miss these guys? No one who liked XTC’s Oranges & Lemons should miss this album.
I totally dig XTC, another hugely under-appreciated band. I’d say that was a pretty good friend that introduced you to Jellyfish.
I was a HUGE Jellyfish fangirl, subscribing to their fanclub stuff and being absolutely over the moon in love with these guys. They were my musical heroes – my age – influenced by the same damned music I loved and adored (Cheap Trick, the Beach Boys, the Zombies, and even Queen!). They were epic. I still remember seeing them at an “in store” promo at a record store in Chicago while on tour promoting Spilt Milk. It was an acoustic set, little in the way of PA, but OMG they all sang and they all harmonized and it was a thing of perfect joy.
I’m not at all surprised that Roger and Andy parted ways after Spilt Milk – it must have driven them both nuts to finish this album (they were both perfectionists!) . I always got the feeling that Roger wanted to go in a more commercial direction, whereas Andy wanted to massage his muse and become a bit more like Brian Wilson.
Even all these years later the sheer genius of Spilt Milk and Bellybutton blows me away. They are albums from another time – almost completely out of context for the time they were released (in the grand age of “grunge” when the rest of the world was listening to Nirvana and Soundgarden). Here were these music nerds, school friends from the Bay area who had the bright idea to dress up like hippies (or the McDonald brothers, depending on your perspective) and put some of their freaky, extremely creative ideas out there to dance in the earholes of some fellow music nerds.
Awesome that you got to see them. I agree that both records are pretty timeless. But in the context of history, it’s pretty damn amazing that these records got ANY attention considering (as you pointed out) the whole “grunge” movement. I can’t think of a great antithesis to grunge than Jellyfish. Bright colors, harmonies, excellent musicianship. Thanks for checking out Defending Axl Rose.
All I think about is the scene in “Mr. Saturday Night” when Billy Crystal has to go on before the Beatles..Jellyfish had the unfortunate circumstance of coming out when GRUNGE hit the scene. I am a DIE HARD Jellyfish fan and I make it my business to introduce them to anyone who loves music …If I ever found a lamp with a Genie who gave me 3 wishes….Jellyfish reuniting and touring would be the first one!!
Yep, I think the grunge scene totally dashed Jellyfish’s hopes for mainstream success. I’m like you, I’m always ready and willing to turn ANYONE onto them (hence the “Your Next Favorite Band” post, I try to pick bands that are awesome but my immediate friends/family have no clue about).
Thanks for checking out my website, and I hope you get that magic lamp!
I stumbled into this post on a slow day, searching the web for info on Jellyfish, a band I discovered when they were still together, but never saw live. I won’t go into the music here, other than to say I echo all the comments above. As a songwriter, I only wish I could achieve the beautiful complexity that their two albums captured.
As a recording engineer as well, I’d like to point out the production of Bellybutton and Spilt Milk. At the time, I remember conversations with other engineers about the stunning audio and production quality of these albums, both of which owe their sonic awesomeness to Jack Joseph Puig, a producer/engineer who has gone on to being a giant in the production world. And if you’re a Jellyfan, here’s another tip for you – if you can listen past the hard rock guitars and hair band sheen, you’ll find some terrific songs by another band of that era, Enuff Znuff. Out of Chicago and highly influenced by Cheap Trick and The Beatles, there are some killer melodies and harmonies in a similar vein.
Thanks for stopping by, I’m glad my little slice of the web could help fill a slow day. You make a good point about the production on both of those records being phenomenal. Engineer’s are starting to get the credit they deserve (thanks in part to the rap genre) but we still don’t give them enough respect.
I’d never heard of Enuff Znuff, but last night I sat down and listened to a few tracks on Spotify. You’re right, they do have a very awesome Cheap Trick-vibe. The outfits/hair are ridiculous, but the songs are rad! Thanks for sharing, stop by again any time.
http://www.digmeoutpodcast.com/ has a podcast today featuring Bellybutton!
“On episode #81 we’re joined by mastering engineer, record label owner and Jellyfish aficionado Steve Turnidge to revisit the band’s debut release, 1990’s Bellybutton. Steve is half of the team that put together the Jellyfish tribute album Sensory Lullabies and brings a deep knowledge and passion for the band to this episode. Grab a drink, find a comfortable chair and sit back, because you are about to learn everything you ever wanted to know about the most under-appreciated band of the 90s.”
Steve Turnidge, I think you forgot you already commented on this post about this subject. I certainly hope you read my post twice!
Listen to a podcast review of Bellybutton by Jellyfish on Dig Me Out at digmeoutpodcast.com, a weekly podcast dedicated to revisiting lost and forgotten rock of the 1990s.
I think I heard something about this Dig Me Out Podcast…
I’ll have to check it out.
Brilliant article about a brilliant band. If is was possible to wear out the (new at the time) CD format, I gave it all I had hitting the “replay” button on what have turned out to be two of my favorite albums, ever. Thanks for sharing the passion.
Hey thanks! I’m so glad people remember Jellyfish, they were so awesome.
Like you, I nearly wore out the “replay” button listening to them.
Nicely written, Jason. I know I’m a bit late to the party on the history/review, but being part of a small but passionate group that loves this band, I still had to chime in on the conversation.
I saw Jellyfish in ’93 supporting Split Milk. It was my first real concert…and I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen a band top them live. I remember being so impressed by the fact that they could reproduce such a dense and beautiful studio sound live. It’s really a testament to the skill of the band.
The concert was also important to me in another way. Even though I wouldn’t meet her for number of years later, my future wife was at the show, standing near me throughout the show. To this day, I’m amazed by the odds of something like that happening. I don’t know if Jellyfish had anything to do with us being together, but the romantic in me likes to think they did.
Keep up the great work!
Wow, that is a fantastic story! You got to see Jellyfish AND your future wife was at the show, incredible. I’m continually amazed at how popular this seemingly little-known band is. Truly Jellyfish were an important band (for many, many reasons).
Thanks for reading, friend.
Nice job with this article!
As a huge Jellyfish fan, since I picked up their first CD in 1990, I can totally relate to all of it. I’ve even had both their CD’s in my car ever since the day I bought them
I’ve been wanting to see a Jellyfish reunion for many years, but I know that that it’ll never happen and we should be feel lucky we have the music they (perfectly) produced.
Speaking of new stuff, I picked up the recently released Live At Bogarts ’91.
I still listen to both Jellyfish and many of their solo projects (Jason Falkner, Grays,Roger Manning, Tim Smith (Umajets), L.E.O, and more).
It’s a shame that more people will never know their greatness though. I spread the word as much as possible. Also, when I met my current girlfriend (I’ve now been with her for 7 years), she had never heard of them. Now they are her favorite band and we listen to them on long car trips..
Few things have been carried with me from a teenager to adulthood, but those 2 CD’s are getting their money’s worth. That’s for sure! 🙂
[…] song, which begins with drums and very familiar-sounding vocal harmonies instantly made me think of Jellyfish. Particularly their second album SPILT MILK which my mom got me into durin the 1990′s. […]
Robert Joseph Manning, Jr helped produce the band “Fun”s albums. You can definitely hear some influence with the harmonizing and variety
Woah. I didn’t know that…kinda makes me want to give that record another spin. Thanks for the info.
My fave band from the early nineties, and the only one that I still listen to regularly. Pure class on every level!
Great post. Loved reading through your notes …and everyone else’s comments! Jellyfish have been a big part of my life since way back when. Like others, I quickly became obsessed with the band and hold them in the highest regard to this day. Only managed to see them once (only one tour of Australia after the release of Spilt Milk) however eternally grateful for that as many fans never got the opportunity. What a gig it was. Etched in my memory forever!
I had the pleasure of touring Dover in Australia about a month back as part of the Lost Angels line up. We put on a couple of acoustic gigs and a couple of electric gigs also. At least 2 Jellyfish tracks were played at the acoustic shows, and one at the electric gig. There was even some Imperial Drag thrown in for good measure. It wasn’t Jellyfish, however it was just great to catch one past member playing those tracks live again with some other brilliant musos helping him do them justice.
I recently picked up a copy of the ‘Stack-A-Tracks’ double album (instrumental versions of Bellybutton & Spilt Milk) & thoroughly recommend it to any fan of the band. It’s released on Omnivore..and for those that aren’t yet aware, those fine folk have also re-issued the two albums on Vinyl too.
I love that of all the posts I wrote, this is hands-down the most popular. How did this band not achieve massive commercial success?
We they first came out I didn’t give them much of my time. I saw them open up for “tears for fears” Elemental Tour in San Jose Ca in 93 I think —I was COMPLETELY blown . One of my roommates worked for one of the big record companies and she gave me a belly Button poster signed by each the member—- still have it. Fricken Love Jellyfish! Why they didn’t get super big— I would guess Probably because grunge was just starting to hit.
As a musician and Jellyfish disciple, I like to suggest that Jellyfish faithfuls keep an open mind and hunt down Andy Sturmer’s recent work in television animation. There, is a growing portfolio of distinctly Sturmer-esqe perfection that is easy to find… Namely the Scooby-Doo movies circa 2011-2013 (present). What’s more is that his tunes are often performed by some truly talented vocalists that I have come to enjoy. Plus, to hear the songs and see Andy listed as writer/performer on the film credits brings me joy that one of the most talented song writers in modern history is still writing at least something… The best Sturmer tunes are performed by Daphne (Grey Delisle) posing as a “Hex Girl” on a first season “Mystery Incorporated” episode called “In fear of the Phantom”. Allow yourself to get to like the animated show and watch all offthe season episodes, as well as the full-length movies that have been released and you will discover many, and I mean many, tunes written and produced by Andy. My kids found the tv show on Apple TV and when I heard the song “Trap of Love” I told my daughter that that song was special… Whoever wrote that was way more than the average WB staff writer. Imagine my surprise when I saw Andy Sturmer listed in the credits! I flipped out. Check it out…
As a working/ career musician, I like you, was so satisfyingly giddy when I discovered some of the contributions Mr. Andy Sturmer has made to modern day animation. My son (now 16) and I would watch a ton of Cartoon Network shows and one of my all time favorite shows was Teen Titans. I was not at all suprised, but pleasantly blown away to see Andy’s name in the credits for the theme song (often sung in Japanese). I later found out he was a principal contributer to the Japanese Power Pop band Puffy Ami Yumi (a HUGE band in Japan before they made the cartoon). PAY even released their own cover versions of some Jellyfish songs on their albums. Those bits and some of the more recent songs that have popped up on YouTube from Andy have only served to stoke the fire of fandom in me that will NEVER die out. I play drums and sing as well, so Mr. Sturmer is VERY influential. Irrespective of my regret of never having seen them live – my GREATEST wish is to just hang out with the guy sometime and talk about music and drumming and singing. (PS- there ARE some great live videos on YouTube of a great show in SF with Eric Dover and Tim (?) – watch them all the time!
“Spilt Milk” remains my second-favorite album of all time. Just an astonishing piece of work, both cohesive as an album and chock-full of songs that would work as brilliant singles.
(For the record, “Plants and Birds and Rocks and Things” by fellow San Francisco band The Loud Family sits in the #1 spot.)
The Loud Family? Never heard of them, but I’m not intrigued…
I’m hoping that was intended to be “now” rather than “not” 🙂
The Loud Family were the second major band project by Bay Area musical nerd-genius Scott Miller, the first being “Game Theory”. Miller also wrote the wonderful book “Music: What Happened?” based on his blog.
Sadly he died last year – no details, but suspected suicide.
Personally I found that the LF’s later albums became a bit too clever-clever and not sufficiently entertaining as song collections, but Plants and Birds is awesome. (Nonetheless, it’ll probably take several plays to work its magic.)
Everybody seen this: https://defendingaxlrose.com/2013/12/11/new-jellyfish-live-album-released-today/
I have loved Jellyfish since they began. I never tire of listening to their 2 amazing albums. Fantastic band 🙂
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gzxHZmhaKa0 is pretty great!
Reblogged this on Ptesone's Blog and commented:
Awesome article- says everything I’d want to say about the 90’s band Jellyfish!
Great article- everything about Jellyfish that needs to be said!
I first heard them on KBCO radio in Colorado doing an unplugged version of The King- and I was completely enraptured! Their harmonies were like, perfect and heavenly- they were promoting their show for The Mercury Cafe, which is in Denver, and it was the most mind blowing show I’d ever been too…Altho the guitar player didn’t look like he wanted to be there, it was still pretty amazing. . .I was immediately inspired to start writing my own music which strangely enuff- sounded like Jellyfish pop!
LOVE Jellyfish! I’m in the UK and saw the video for The King is Half Undressed and was captivated. I was delighted to see them live in 1993 at the Redcar Bowl. There was a small turnout so I was right at the front and met the band after the show, got autographs etc. I still have my t-shirt which makes me laugh as it says “shamelesss Jellyfish promotional device”! I often wonder how no one has heard of them when I listen to them almost every day!
I met Jellyfish in their heyday. Jason Falkner will go down as the nicest “star” I’ve ever met. He remembered my name on sight, invited me and my friends up to an after-party with the Black Crowes, and the entire band was as cool as could be. Black Crowes were great, but Jellyfish was, collectively, the shit. If you’ve never met a groupie, I highly recommend it.
Do you have the date and location of the Jellyfish/Black Crowes show you attended?
I’m a huge Redd Kross fan and I remember picking Bellybutton up around the time of Third Eye. Both are absolutely pop classics. I saw Jellyfish supporting INXS at the old Wembley Stadium and they were the only reason I went. You’ll be pleased to know Omnivore are reissuing the albums with added tracks from the box set this January.
For only the most die-hard and open-minded Jellyfish fans… Andy Sturmer has been writing and producing, and I suspect performing though it is not specific in the credits. Now I stress open-minded here… Andy is apparently a staff-writer/music producer in the world of television cartoons. His work is absolutely BRILLIANT, if you understand what he is doing to make a living.
My kids and I love Scooby-doo, you probably do too, but won’t tell anyone. We were watching a, yet-again, reincarnation of the ghost meddlers, when I heard a song that was unusually AWESOME for being on a Saturday morning tv show. Checking out the credits I almost fell off the couch when I saw the name Andy Sturmer.
Now it makes sense. I believe the reason all us musicians that appreciate finely crafted tunes gravitated to Jellyfish because Andy (and of course the rest of the band) was gifted at the nuances of crafting the color, mood and energy around the “message” of the song. Not the obvious stuff of lyrics and *gag* genre, but using the instruments in a powerful way to overwhelm the more-than-casual listener. Any Jellyfish fan can site specific references to this… Bedspring Kiss, Fan Club, and of course New Mistake to just name a few.
So, disgruntled Andy has a gift. He needs to make a living. Lives in LA somewhere. Possibly has a supporting wife and family. And I’m just making this up, but living in LA and knowing many in the industry, I might be dead on… Let’s say one day someone in the TV industry close enough to help him out is also a former Jellyfish fan… He says to Andy; “Wanna make a buck? You’re the BEST! and we need some cartoon music!” This gig could pay residuals for years to come in re-runs, and if you do it enough, one could make a pretty good living, stay out of the spotlight, and still do what one was clearly meant to do.
I love Jellyfish and Andy’s unyielding desire for perfection on many levels. I love inspired music that is refined and subtly complex yet wrapped in something palatable that I can tap my feet to. That was Lennon-McCartney right? Ever try to “truly” reproduce the nuances of a Beatles song? No one can. And when Paul is gone, it will be like losing Sinatra or Elvis, right? Andy was the heir-apparent, but alas the mediocrity of MTV and the sad approach of grunge and loop-based rap and other very-low-cost music left no room for genius. The music world gets what it deserved and rock will have to rise again on the shoulders of unlikely heros like John Meyer and Dave Grohl, two really gifted musicians, but sadly, probably not in my lifetime.
Here are some links, open your mind, understand what you’re listening to, and be happy for Andy… this is really a good gig for him and we can still consume his brilliance:
PS: Grey Delisle does the voice of Daphne and tons of other cartoon characters. She sings the first tune “Trap of Love”. I would LOVE to see Andy and Grey onstage together and that would be FAR more likely likely to happen than a Jellyfish reunion. Also, the second tune is CLEARLY Andy, check out the drums, and the outstanding chorus.
So glad to find this post. I was working at a college radio station during the time that both of these records came out. Aside from being awesome, these albums can always put me right back to that time.
You’ll like this, I didn’t get that “He’s my best friend” was about masturbation until 2011. That was a shocking realization to have after listening to that song and album 100’s of times 🙂 http://www.oakbox.com/personal/hello-world/
i never thought of checking up on what happened to jellyfish till now. i always wondered why
nothing manifested from them. The fruit from jellyfishes two albums, is nothing like i ever tasted. Glad i found this site so i can expand my investigation, and maybe find a few more nuggets. Just yesterday a friend on FB asked “who was your favorite 90’s band?’. I recalled some good ones, but hands down , I wrote Jellyfish. I knew they wouldn’t know who i was talking about, but i knew they loved music ,and it was the least i could do ,and encourage them,
to listen. If i ever have the chance to share there music with someone, my last reply is ” your welcome. I’ve been influenced and indulged in every genre of music. XTC is not one of them,but is now a twinkle in my eye! Ive never heard or seen a band like Jellyfish in my 43 yrs of life. Definitely in my top 5 favorite of all time…. in no particular order…Beach Boys,ELO,77s, Metallica pre 90’s nothing after. Jellyfish of course.
Saw Jellyfish open for Black Crowes supporting Bellybutton just before finals week started when I was in college. Made the guy I went to the concert with stop by Tower Records to pick up their CD on the way back to school. Only song I knew was Baby’s Coming Back but I was blown away because they were the opener and in a lot of ways better than the Crowes who were pretty good in their own right. Saw them again in a small club for Spilt Milk. Still just amazing live. I loved grunge when it was out as I saw all those bands since I live in Portland, OR and all the Seattle bands came through here a lot, but I still loved Jellyfish and their amazing talent. I would see them in a heartbeat and probably take the family as I have converted my kids and wife into Jellyfish fans.
I’ve been a Jellyfish fan since 1990 and got to see them live when they were opening for The Black Crowes. Anything you’ve heard about how great they were live is an understatement. I’ve seen countless videos of their live performances and none comes close to what they were really like live. They literally had an energy that almost knocked you over when they started playing. All of those relatively mellow songs on Bellybutton flat-out rocked when they played them live.
I remember when they started playing their first song and I was watching Andy and suddenly there were vocals but Andy’s lips weren’t moving!!!! Of course, it was Roger singing “Hello”. They didn’t do some of the popular cover stuff you hear on the videos but they did do Badfinger’s “No Matter What”, which they killed! “Calling Sara” was the first Bellybutton song they played and I’m guessing it was the second song they played.
I will say that live, Andy is quite Manic and even his speech had a “driven” quality to it that was infectious. I’ve read that during that era they were one of the top five live bands in the world and I have no trouble believing that.
Do you have the date and location of the Jellyfish/Black Crowes show you attended?
Believe it or not, you’re not alone. The first time I heard Jellyfish was in a Sound Warehouse in Austin when I was in college. I thought I was in music heaven. I wore BOTH *tapes* (haha!) out and had to buy the CDs twice because I over played them so much. Now…I can listen to them on my ipod whenever I want…I am happy to have found another fan.
[…] “Your Next Favorite Band: Jellyfish” – Defending Axl Rose […]
Im so in love with Jellyfish and i get a teenage heartbreak feeling when they come up again in my playlist just knowing they havent been a band for so long. Im a hardcore Andy fan for 20 years and I still dare to dream of a day that Jellyfish will emerge again. Dare to dream.🎩
I’ve been in love with Jellyfish for 20 years and still get a teenage heartbreak feeling every time they come up in my playlist and I realize they no longer exist. I’m a hardcore Andy fan and dare to dream of a Sturmer/Manning project in the future. Dare to dream!
[…] get guitar hero Eric Dover to participate…he got Roger Manning. Are you a fan of Jellyfish? You know, that band I won’t stop blathering about that everyone who’s ever heard them lo… Well if you pine for those golden power-pop days of yore, supporting Paul’s Kickstarter is a […]
WOW. I’ve found my people here! I was just digging up old stuff and found pictures of me in my Jellyfish t-shirt. I saw them open for the Black Crowes and was instantly hooked. I bought their shirt and tape at the show and those songs still roll around in my head. Thank you for this write up and thank you commenters:)
No, Sarah. THANK YOU!!!
Love Jellyfish to bits. Some of my songs hint at that power pop vibe too. Free tracks on newsletter sign up… Enjoy: http://www.markbritton.net
Been a devoted Jellyfish/Power Pop fan for many years.
Also…I an a DENTIST!
I used nitrous oxide/laughing gas to sooth my patients.
Jellyfish is BEST with nitrous😀
So often afterwards patients wanted more of both.
I ethically could not offer the nitrous, but I sure could turn them on to the CD’s.
I was drilling on people who could not stop smiling! That was weird!
So much fun….
Another heavy spin was Erik Voeks and “Sandbox’
Listen to his My Dentist… your just can’t make this stiff up!
Pure JELLYFISH infused genius… not a clinker on the entire disc.
I am now reading the new book about the Jellyfish. A bright professionally written book that is available from Not Lame Records. See their website. The owner is Powerpop God!
I am old and retired now, albeit still in love with anything ‘Jellyfishish’ I am lucky enough to find.
Any suggestions are deeply appreciated.
This thread has given me joy.
Dr. Bob Leipziger
Thank you! Always loved ’em, still listen to this day when I need a lift.
um, its the “ghost AT number one”
andy was primarily the drummer!?! one of rocks best voices is primarily the drummer? killer drummer too, but to say primarily the drummer destroys the writers credibility.
the piano piece before she still loves him as dreamy as it may be is a killer piece of gospel.
the word incredible doesnt even begin to describe this band.
Great article! Nice to see I’m not the only one in the world that thinks these guys were absolutely amazing!
Brad! Welcome to the most eclectic and longest running thread I have on my notification list 🙂 Jellyfish forever!
I adore Jellyfish and have done for what must be 24 years 😮. It’s sad to think there will be no new music from them, but I love following this thread. I have had it bookmarked for so long!!
i feel so blessed to have been able to see them 4 times in 1993. i went to the Houston show opening for Tears for Fears which was the fourth to last show they played. I’ve prayed for them to get back to being friends and record. the Manning cds after have been amazing.