Belly was founded by singer-songwriter Tanya Donelly. Donelly was a founding member of the band Throwing Muses, along with her step-sister Kristin Hersh. Donelly was called "the George Harrison of Throwing Muses" due to her role of playing lead guitar but only writing/singing one or two songs per album. After The Real Ramona, fourth album by Throwing Muses, Donelly left the band. She was a founding member of The Breeders along with Kim Deal, playing on the Breeders' debut album Pod and their follow-up EP Safari. Instead of sticking with The Breeders, however, Donelly elected to form her own band.
The original lineup for Belly featured Donelly on guitar and lead vocals, with Thomas Gorman on guitar, Chris Gorman on drums, and Fred Abong (the bassist on Throwing Muses' The Real Ramona) on bass. Donelly wrote all the music, which had the light, poppy sound associated with her Throwing Muses work (as opposed to the more hard-edged compositions of Kristin Hersh). Debut album Star was released in January 1993. The album became a hit, going gold in the United States. "Feed the Tree" became a breakout hit, rising to #1 on the Modern Rock charts and getting heavy airplay on MTV and alternative radio. In 1993 Belly toured with Radiohead and The Cranberries.
Fred Abong left the group after the recording of Star and was replaced with Gail Greenwood. Greenwood's more assertive bass style led to the band adopting a harder, more electric rock sound for their follow-up album King (1995). This may or may not have been the reason why King sold less than half as many copies as did Star. Singles "Now They'll Sleep", "Super-Connected", and "Seal My Fate" did not chart as well as did Star singles "Feed the Tree" and "Gepetto". Belly toured with Catherine Wheel and emerging pop star Jewel, but commercial success proved elusive and in 1996 Donelly broke up the band.
Donelly continued to perform and record, releasing four albums over the ten years following the breakup of Belly, as well as other songs over the Internet. In 2016 Belly announced a reunion after a 20-year hiatus, featuring Donelly, the Gormans, and Greenwood, with shows forthcoming in the United States and the United Kingdom as well as new music.
- Star (1993)
- King (1995)
- Dove (2018)
Miscellany and B-sides
- "Are You Experienced?" (Jimi Hendrix cover), "It's Not Unusual" (Tom Jones cover), "Broken" (on Mallrats soundtrack), "Hot Burrito #1" (Flying Burritos cover), "Sexy S", "Sweet Ride", "Dream on Me", "Trust in Me" (cover of song from The Jungle Book), "Spaceman", "Diamond Rib Cage", "Think About Your Troubles" (Harry Nilsson cover), "Thief", "Baby's Arm", "John Dark", "Judas Mon Coeur", "Lilith", "Hushabye Mountain" (cover of a song from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang),
- Album Title Drop: "Arms of Clay" has the lyric, "Send a dove, I leave it on the sill."
- Amicably Divorced: "Suffer the Fools", in which Tanya sings about dividing property with a partner ("You keep my key and my lazy letters/I'll keep the angel that you bought to watch over me") and moving apart, but still hanging out together ("I'll bring that terrible wine you love").
- Break-Up Song: "Arms of Clay" in which Tanya sings about ignoring messages from her partner, who is shocked by the truth.
- Department of Redundancy Department: In "Slow Dog" Tanya describes the dog's "see-through skin/the kind of skin you can see through."
- Do Not Go Gentle: It's hard to tell with the Word Salad Lyrics, but "Stay" seems like a song about a lover who is facing imminent death.Stay, oh oh oh oh, stay with me
It's not time for me to go
It's not time for me to go
It's not time for me to go
- Do You Want to Copulate?: "King" (the song) eventually gives up the innuendo ("there is a lightkeeper/under the blanket here") and goes straight to "Baby I can't take it/I'd like to see you naked."
- Dream Pop: The dreamy pop sound of Star, with Donelly's high vocals, fit this trope exactly.
- Due to the Dead: This is what "Feed the Tree" is about, namely, paying respects to a grave where a tree is growing."Take your hat off, when you're talking to me/And be there when I feed the tree"
- Enter Stage Window: "Super-Connected" has lyrics like "On your third broken window/With your hair full of glass", and "Better climb in the window/'Cause I'm closin' the door".
- Greatest Hits Album: Despite not having a lot of hits, they still had Sweet Ride: The Best of Belly, which collected their radio singles and some B-sides.
- Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: All three of their album titles are four-letter words.
- Jangle Pop: Jangly guitars, bright, upbeat melodies—it fits.
- New Sound Album: King was noticeably harder than Star, and more studio-polished as well. This has been suggested as one reason why it didn't sell well and the band broke up.
- Ode to Intoxication: "Sweet Ride" is about heroin addiction.
- One-Word Title: For the band, for all three of their albums, and for several of their songs.
- Putting the Band Back Together: After a 20-year break!
- Self-Backing Vocalist: Gail Greenwood can be heard singing once in a while, like at the end of "Red", but usually Donelly takes lead vocal and backs up herself. (Tom Gorman can be heard singing in the background at the end of "Human Child".)
- Shout-Out: "Sexy S" has to be a shoutout to The Beatles, especially since the lyrics mention Sadie.
- "Slice of Life, sliced too thin" is a lyric from "Heartstrings" off of Dove. It's a song about trying to stay in love through the endless routine of marriage.
- Stop and Go: "Full Moon, Empty Heart" comes to a complete stop around the middle before starting up again.
- Translated Cover Version: The B-side "Judas Mon Coeur" is actually a remake of a song from King, "Judas My Heart", with the lyrics translated to French.
- "Untitled" Title: King includes a song called "Untitled and Unsung".
- Word Salad Lyrics: Although she could occasionally make herself clear, most of Donelly's lyrics are this.So he's lying on top again
Just like Gepetto and his doll.
And he's running around again,
And I can't get him out of this house.
And if you bore him,
You lose your soul to me.