I remember watching videos in 1990 and seeing “The King is Half-Undressed” by the band Jellyfish. It was like something right out of the late 60s, the band in multi-colored clothing, top hats, and parasols. Great music, harmonies, tambourines, a magic hat, a shower of bubbles, cherries, and hula hoops – what more could you want?
I called my friend Donnie and was describing what I had seen and, as usual, he said it was a single from their album, “Bellybutton” that he already had and that I would love – he was right. I immediately purchased the CD and was awed by the tri-fold cover with photography by Peter Darley Miller.
Though often noted as Beatlesque, the San Fran quartet takes its inspiration from a different generations of pop greats, from Harry Nilsson to Squeeze, from the Zombies to ELO, from Emitt Rhodes to Prefab Sprout – the band was more likely to listen to artists inspired by the Fab Four, rather than the Beatles themselves.Blurt Magazine
Jellyfish was formed in San Francisco in 1989 by songwriters Andy Sturmer (drums, vocals) and Roger Manning (keyboards, vocals). Their first, power-pop masterpiece, “Bellybutton” was released July 27, 1990, on Charisma and was recorded at Schee Studios, Studio 55, and Ocean Way Recording.
Vinyl Side A
(all songs written by Sturmer and R. Manning – unless noted)
|1.||“The Man I Used to Be”||4:33|
|2.||“That Is Why”||4:16|
|3.||“The King Is Half-Undressed”||3:46|
|4.||“I Wanna Stay Home”||Sturmer||4:06|
|5.||“She Still Loves Him”||4:30|
Vinyl Side B
|6.||“All I Want Is Everything”||Sturmer||3:44|
|7.||“Now She Knows She’s Wrong”||2:35|
|9.||“Baby’s Coming Back”||Sturmer||2:57|
While the first Jellyfish album’s eye-popping cover art and the band’s absurdly whimsical wardrobe pushed the Summer of Love style, there’s nothing remotely psychedelic about the music contained within. The disparity was unfortunate, because Bellybutton is a fine debut, a pleasant—occasionally wonderful pastiche of pop icons from the Beatles to Squeeze via 10cc, the Beach Boys and Badfinger.Trouser Press
Several singles were released for the “Bellybutton” album. “The King is Half-Undressed” reached #19 on Billboard, “That is Why” reached #11, “Baby’s Coming Back” reached #62, and “I Wanna Stay Home” reached #59 on the UK charts. An extended play was released in support of Bellybutton, titled The Scary-Go-Round E.P. which reached No. 49 on the UK Singles Chart.
A home video, called “Gone Jellyfishin'” was released on VHS. It included the promo videos of “Bellybutton”, “The King is Half-Undressed”, “which was nominated for Best Art Direction at the 1991 MTV Video Music Awards, “That Is Why” and “Baby’s Coming Back”. It also included a very funny clip of the band stopping by McDonald’s for a snack. The band’s music videos were heavily aired on MTV. “Bellybutton” was recorded at Schnee Studios in North Hollywood. Falkner performed the majority of the bass tracks on the album; the group was also accompanied by Steven Shane McDonald. The album was produced by Albhy Galuten (who achieved fame for his work producing the Bee Gees’ album Saturday Night Fever) and engineer Jack Joseph Puig.
- Andy Sturmer – lead and backing vocals, drums, guitar, keyboards
- Roger Joseph Manning Jr. – keyboards, piano, harpsichord, vocals
- Jason Falkner – guitar, bass, backing vocals
- Chris Manning – “Band Witchdoctor and Mime”
- Steven Shane McDonald – bass on “All I Want Is Everything”, “Now She Knows She’s Wrong” & “Baby’s Coming Back” (Courtesy of Redd Kross)
- John Patitucci – bass on “The Man I Used To Be”, “I Wanna Stay Home” & “Bedspring Kiss”
- Tommy Morgan – harmonica
- Chuck Findley – trumpet
The album is full of vibrant songs full of wit and invention. According to Roger Manning, the album was meant to sound “somewhere between Queen and the Partridge Family”. This is one of the greatest power pop albums of all time.
- Charisma was a British record label founded in 1969 by former journalist Tony Stratton-Smith. He had previously acted as manager for rock bands such as The Nice, the Bonzo Dog Band, and Van der Graaf Generator. Gail Colson was label manager and joint managing director.