KamerTunesBlog

Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time

Satur-debut – JELLYFISH “BELLYBUTTON”

In an alternate timeline Jellyfish has been one of the biggest bands on the planet for the past 30 years, delivering some of the most creative, innovative and melodic music ever recorded and influencing generations of musicians & songwriters. Unfortunately in our timeline they only released two albums between 1990 & 1993 before the two co-founders (Andy Sturmer and Roger Joseph Manning Jr.) permanently went their separate ways. In that time, though, they did manage to create some amazing music which has influenced many artists who followed. They were the first band featured in my Two And Through post in 2014 and I’ve included my comments about their wonderful debut album, Bellybutton, below. This is not only one of my favorite debuts but an all-time classic album that still blows me away three decades after I first heard it. I hope they reunite one day, if only so people who missed them the first time can see Sturmer standing behind the drums at the front of the stage singing his heart out, and hear some incredible vocal harmonies (possibly the best I’ve ever heard). I saw them twice and both shows left lasting impressions on me.

For more information on this series, please read the opening paragraph of the first post, which featured the debut album from Led Zeppelin.

 

 

From TWO AND THROUGH – My Favorite Two-Album Artists:

For a brief period in the early-‘90s, Jellyfish was on the verge of stardom with a decent amount of exposure on MTV and late-night talk shows, as well as an enthusiastic & quickly-growing fan base, but they never broke through to the mainstream and within a few years it was over. This incredible melodic rock/power pop group was the brainchild of former Beatnik Beatch members Andy Sturmer (lead vocals & drums) and Roger Joseph Manning Jr. (keyboards & vocals). Each of their two albums has a distinct sound, with debut Bellybutton (featuring the talents of lead guitarist Jason Falkner) more straight-forward power-pop, along with slabs of light psychedelia and kitschy ‘70s references like the homage to The Partridge Family theme song in “Baby’s Coming Back.” I was fortunate to see Jellyfish on both of their tours and each was as different (and impressive) as their respective albums. The fact that Sturmer sang & played drums standing up at the front of the stage made for a unique concert experience, and their vocal interplay was among the best I’ve ever heard. I could rattle off key song titles but they’re all essential. If you like instantly catchy melodies, inventive arrangements and tight harmonies, it doesn’t get much better than Jellyfish. Their influence has far outweighed their initial impact, with artists in many genres name-checking them over the last two decades. The fact that there’s a 4-CD box set devoted to them, as well as CDs of instrumental mixes and live performances, proves that this was no ordinary band.

 

I hope to hear from other long-time Jellyfish fans as well as anyone who’s hearing them for the first time.

 

Satur-debut will return in two weeks with an album that was released less than a year after this one.

14 comments on “Satur-debut – JELLYFISH “BELLYBUTTON”

  1. Jim S.
    March 7, 2020

    Ok, how come I never heard of these guys? That is really good power pop a la Marshall Crenshaw, Raspberries and the like. I am definitely going to cruise down the highway listening to this stuff. But boy, way, way off my radar.

    Like

    • Yep, those are good comparisons for Jellyfish, although they carved out their own particular sound based on tons of influences. Going back to our disco conversation last week, the guy who produced this album, Albhy Galuten, is best known for producing the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. It doesn’t get much more disco than that.

      Like

      • Jim S.
        March 8, 2020

        A man of diverse talents. Look forward to hearing these while ccx driving down the highway.

        Like

      • I knew nothing about CCX until your comment but a brief Google search has me agreeing that Jellyfish would be the perfect complement to such a highway drive.

        Like

      • Jim S.
        March 9, 2020

        Heh! That’s what I got for commenting while using my phone. That won’t happen ag as in.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Aphoristical
    March 7, 2020

    I know we’ve had this discussion before, but I think Spilt Milk is a huge step forward over this very good debut. But both are essential. I want to cover some of the solo stuff of my blog sometime.

    Like

    • I love Spilt Milk as well but it’s not quite as concise as Bellybutton. Also, having seen them open for World Party shortly after the debut was released, I will always have a unique connection with this album. I don’t see the follow-up as a step forward as much as an expansion of their influences (specifically Queen). As for the solo stuff, I wrote about Imperial Drag in my One & Done series, and Jason Falkner will get his own Satur-debut post in the not-too-distant future. I also really like Roger Manning’s solo stuff but nothing they’ve done separately has quite reached the heights that Jellyfish did.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Aphoristical
        March 9, 2020

        Spilt Milk sounds liike Queen and XTC mixed together, and it’s great. My favourite of the solo joints I’ve heard is Manning’s Solid State Warrior.

        Like

      • I agree about the Queen/XTC influences on Spilt Milk. As much as I love that record, I prefer the more subtle blend of influences on Bellybutton (including Queen…especially Falkner’s guitar solo on “She Still Loves Him”). That Manning record is great but I think I like the Imperial Drag album, several Falkner solo albums and The Grays’ one & only album a little more.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. christiansmusicmusings
    March 7, 2020

    Rich, this is great! I had never heard of Jellyfish, but their harmony singing and retro sound are right up my alley!

    After sampling a few tracks from their second album, I think it’s even a notch up from this compelling debut.

    Like

    • Glad you’re enjoying what you hear, Christian. Anyone who loves melodic rock & power pop needs to have Jellyfish in their collection. Having seen them twice I can say that their harmonies were just as good live as they are on record. You can tell they spent a lot of time perfecting them. I’ve seen The Beach Boys and Brian Wilson solo numerous times going back to the ’80s, and Jellyfish was right up there. Their second album is certainly bigger, especially with the obvious nods to Queen, but for me it’s just slightly below their debut. Like a 9.5 vs. a 10. Both classics.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Aphoristical
    March 12, 2020

    The Spilt Milk lineup just released a new song as The Lickerish Quartet: https://youtu.be/p8tzd6UNA4k

    Like

  5. Pingback: Satur-debut – JASON FALKNER “PRESENTS AUTHOR UNKNOWN” | KamerTunesBlog

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