Jellyfish was an American rock band formed in San Francisco in 1989. Their original line-up consisted of songwriters Andy Sturmer (drums, vocals) and Roger Joseph Manning Jr. (keyboards, vocals), guitarist Jason Falkner, and bassist Chris Manning. Sturmer and Manning Jr. led the group and were its only consistent members.
|Origin||San Francisco, California, U.S.|
The band's music is characterized by its blending of 1970s classic rock and XTC-style power pop. They released only two LPs, Bellybutton (1990) and Spilt Milk (1993), before breaking up in 1994. They have since been recognized for their influence on artists of a similar mindset or approach.
In the late 1980s, high school friends Andy Sturmer and Roger Manning were in the group Beatnik Beatch. Sturmer was the group's drummer, singer, and songwriter, while Manning was the groups's keyboardist. The duo soon began collaborating with one another, writing compositions that were stylistically different from the songs the band was producing at the time. Soon after the group released its eponymous debut album in 1989, Manning and Sturmer left the group to continue songwriting with one another.
Jason Falkner was the lead guitarist for the Three O'Clock, a Los Angeles-based Paisley Underground band. He originally put a newspaper advertisement looking for "like-minded musicians" influenced by XTC, David Bowie, and the Blue Nile. Manning responded to Falkner's ad and the two met to collaborate. Nothing initially came out of the meeting. However, once Manning and Sturmer had left Beatnik Beatch, Manning got back in touch with Falkner to see if he was interested. Falkner was persuaded by the prospect of a major-label deal.
Jellyfish recorded their debut album Bellybutton at Schnee Studios in Hollywood with producer Albhy Galuten and engineer Jack Joseph Puig. It was released on July 27, 1990 on Charisma Records. Bellybutton peaked at number 124 on the Billboard 200 and was well received by contemporary music critics.
The band embarked on a year long tour with Roger Manning's younger brother Chris joining as the band's bassist. While on tour, the band opened up for the bands the Black Crowes and World Party. During the tour, tensions arose amongst the band members. Frustrated by having his songwriting contributions ignored by Manning and Sturmer, Falkner left the group after the tour. Afterward, Manning and Sturmer worked with Ringo Starr for his 1992 solo album Time Takes Time. They were also invited to work with Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys. Wilson and Jellyfish had one songwriting session and it was unproductive; Manning described the experience as "utterly surreal". After their sessions with Starr and Wilson, the band was dedicated to making their next album "their masterpiece".
Manning and Sturmer spent about eight hours a day, six days a week writing songs together in Los Angeles between October 1991 and March 1992. Galuten and Puig returned to produce the album with Manning and Sturmer, and recorded the new album over the course of several months. Released on February 9, 1993, Spilt Milk ultimately peaked at number 164 in the US. Its poor sales were attributed to being released during the height of the popularity of grunge.
In 1994, Jellyfish contributed a cover of Harry Nilsson's "Think About Your Troubles" to the tribute album For the Love of Harry: Everybody Sings Nilsson. Jellyfish's contribution was a personal request from Nilsson, who was a fan of the group. He died a year prior to the album's release. The cover was the last song Sturmer and Manning recorded together. By then, the duo had drifted apart musically. Manning remembered that when Sturmer presented a country ballad song for the third Jellyfish album, "I left in tears because I had zero interest in recording it."
After the band broke up, Manning formed the short-lived group Imperial Drag, released a few solo records, and became a touring musician for Beck. Sturmer retreated from the public eye and guarded his privacy, but continued working as a songwriter for cartoons such as Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi, Teen Titans, and Ben 10. He also worked with Mike Viola of LEO; after they finished their collaboration, Viola said that Sturmer left without leaving him any contact information. In 2004, Falkner unexpectedly reconnected with Sturmer at a Los Angeles studio: "He said he'd had a premonition that he was going to see me that day. Then he told me he was sorry for never having given me a chance. I was floored. We exchanged phone numbers, but neither of us has ever used them."
In 2009, Manning stated: "I've remained in contact with everyone [in the band] throughout the years, and we have all moved on musically." In 2014, he said that he had not talked to Sturmer in two decades, and ruled out the idea that he would ever write songs with him again.
- Andy Sturmer – vocals, drums, keyboards, guitar (1989–1994)
- Roger Manning – keyboards, piano, guitar, percussion, vocals (1989–1994)
- Jason Falkner – guitars, bass, keyboard, vocals (1989–1992)
- Chris Manning – bass, vocals (1989–1992)
- Eric Dover – guitar, banjo, keyboard, vocals (1992–1994)
- Tim Smith – bass, vocals (1992–1994)
- Live At Bogart's (2012)
- Radio Jellyfish (2013)
- Jellyfish Comes Alive (1991) (US promo)
- The Scary-Go-Round EP featuring Now She Knows He's Wrong (1991) (UK-exclusive)
- New Mistake EP (1993) (Japan-exclusive)
- The Greatest (1998) (Japan-exclusive)
- Fan Club (2002) (box set of demos, rarities and live performances)
- Best! (2006)
- Stack-a-Tracks (2012) (backing tracks from Bellybutton and Spilt Milk)
|Year||Song||Peak chart positions||Album|
|1990||"The King Is Half-Undressed"||—||19||39||Bellybutton|
|"That Is Why"||—||11||—|
|1991||"Baby's Coming Back"||62||—||51|
|"Now She Knows She's Wrong"||—||—||49|
|"I Wanna Stay Home"||—||—||59|
|"Ignorance is Bliss"||—||—||—||non-album single|
|1993||"The Ghost at Number One"||—||9||43||Spilt Milk|
|"Joining a Fan Club"||—||—||—|
|"Bye, Bye, Bye"||—||—||—|
|"—" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released in that region.|
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