Wednesday, August 5, 2015


Jellyfish were on their best behavior with the angelic shout of a psychedelic powerpop paradise.  The group was formed by high school friends Roger Manning and Andy Sturmer after their songs were rejected by Chris Ketner the lead singer of Beatnik Beatch.  They recruited Jason Falkner, who had played with The Three O'Clock on their final album Vermillion.  Manning had met Falkner while studying music at the University of Southern California years before.

Atlantic Records lost interest in the project when they heard some deliberately shoddy demos; but soon there was a buzz and numerous record labels were courting the band.   Sturmer says:   "It was so ridiculous, we were trying to finish this record, and every night we'd get wined and dined by a different record company. And these guys would make all these gigantic promises and offer us all this stuff, and it was just so obvious that they were lying. I mean, they'd look us right in the eye and lie, and we would just smile...and order the lobster."

The band eventually signed with  Virgin subsidiary Charisma and finished their debut album with producers Albhy Galuten and Jack Joseph Puig at Schnee Studios, Studio 55, and Ocean Way Recording in San Francisco.   The sessions featured  Andy Sturmer on vocals, drums, guitar, and keyboards;   Roger Joseph Manning Jr. on keyboards, piano, harpsichord, and vocals;   Jason Falkner on guitars, bass, and background vocals;   Chris Manning as band witchdoctor and mime;   with  Steven Shane McDonald providing bass on "All I Want Is Everything", "Now She Knows She's Wrong" & "Baby's Coming Back" (Courtesy of Redd Kross).   When it came time to tour, they brought in Chris Manning to play bass and finally decided to call themselves Jellyfish.   The album title 'Bellybutton' was another possible band name that they were throwing around.

Manning muses:    "My writing partner and I aspired to kind of pop/rock classicism. We were inspired by so many great writers before us and we saw no reason why we couldn't at least aspire to that. Writing the songs, we took it very seriously. There was a lot of time spent passing it through different standards and different tests, making sure it was in place. And if those songs passed those tests for us, then we graduated to the next level, which was being album contenders. While we were inspired by so many artists from the past, we did try to put our own stamp on things. I think in most cases we were successful and I think that's what resonates with the audience. At the risk of sounding like I'm comparing our group to Big Star, which was another band that kind of came out with two records and were never heard from again, they certainly did not receive the attention they deserved at the time. They were a sales failure at the time, only to be rediscovered by a whole new generation of people seventeen to twenty years later. And I certainly rediscovered them, didn't know about them back then. So for me, the whole reason I enjoy going back to these things is because I thought they were writing great classic pop rock stuff. It could have been done in the sixties, could have been done in the eighties, it really didn't matter. And that stuff I believe ultimately sinks in at deeper levels with a listener. You have to enjoy that style of music to begin with. I do have friends who, believe it or not, are really not interested in the Beatles."

Falkner fumes:   "I joined the band because I loved the majority of songs they had demoed. It was after I moved up to SF from LA and we were recording more demos for what would become the 1st record that they sprung the whole platform boot and Brady Bunch gear concept on me! haha....I was like, "hang on a minute....there's already a band doing this very well in LA and they are friends of mine called Redd Kross" anyway the style stuck and I had some problems with that the entire time I was in the group. Musically we had a lot in common but I found that they didn't really possess any real rock and roll spirit. As cliche' as that might sound it is very important and evident in most music I love.... so there was a conflict there...The Jellyfish sounds was the three of us but more accurately it was Andy and Rogers concept with me coming up with the guitar and bass parts...We had some personal conflicts pretty much the whole time I was in the band. Three years is a long time to deal with the beginning stages of an ulcer! haha. The main reason I left was that they weren't open to recording any of my songs and I knew it wasn't because they thought my songs weren't good but rather they didn't want to share the vision and that was a shame because I totally got their vision."

"The King Is Half-Undressed" was  nominated for Best Art Direction at the MTV Video Music Awards

"That Is Why"

"Baby's Coming Back"

full album:

All songs written by Roger Manning and Andy Sturmer, except where noted.

"The Man I Used to Be" – 4:33
"That Is Why" – 4:16
"The King Is Half-Undressed" – 3:46
"I Wanna Stay Home" (Sturmer) – 4:06
"She Still Loves Him" – 4:30
"All I Want Is Everything" (Sturmer) – 3:44
"Now She Knows She's Wrong" – 2:35
"Bedspring Kiss" – 5:03
"Baby's Coming Back" (Sturmer) – 2:57
"Calling Sarah" – 4:02

"No Matter What" (Pete Ham) – 2:48
"Let 'Em In/That Is Why" (Paul McCartney)/(Manning/Sturmer) - 4:58
"The King Is Half Undressed" – 3:38
"Jet" (Paul McCartney/Linda McCartney) – 3:08
"Now She Knows She's Wrong" – 2:45
"Baby's Coming Back" (Sturmer) – 3:05

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