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Music / Jellyfish

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Jellyfish are a Power Pop band from San Francisco. The group was founded by childhood friends, vocalist/drummer/multi-instrumentalist Andy Sturmer and keyboardist Roger Joseph Manning Jr. in 1990, from the ashes of Alternative Rock 1980s band Beatnick Beatch. The group image was decidedly retro, a deliberately kitschy, brightly colorful, psychedelic look with gaudy bellbottoms, Dr. Seuss hats, frilly shirts, lollipops and umbrellas, a Flanderization of The Beatles' Yellow Submarine-style fashions meeting a Hanna-Barbera cartoon come to life.

Musically, the band drew from many '60s and '70s influences, particularly in regards to catchy, sunny, singalong pop with playful, intelligent (and often lyrically dissonant) lyrics. Elements of Queen, The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Zombies, The Monkees, The Banana Splits, Electric Light Orchestra, Badfinger, Supertramp and XTC shaped the style of the bandnote , they had their own distinctive style, one which influenced countless Power Pop group following their demise in 1994. Their arrangements were meticulously detailed and their songs catchy.


The band failed to get much success in a mainstream way in the era of Grunge, and they only produced two albums in their short lifetime. They are known for one hit, the Partridge Family-like "Baby's Coming Back", promoted by a Hanna-Barbera-produced Animated Music Video.


  • Andy Sturmer - vocals, drums, keyboards, guitar
  • Roger Manning - keyboards, vocals
  • Jason Falkner - guitars, bass, vocals (1989–92)
  • Tim Smith — bass, vocals (1992–94)

A whole bunch of other session musicians contributed to Bellybutton, while on Split Milk the band were joined by guitarists Lyle Workman, Jon Brion (who also handled some of the arrangements) and bassist Tom Wolk.



  • Bellybutton (1990)
  • Spilt Milk (1993)

Jellyfish provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Band of Relatives: Roger and Chris Manning were in the original lineup, though only Roger got to record with the band.
  • Bookends: On Spilt Milk, "Brighter Day"'s orchestral outro is similar to the beginning of "Hush", at least until the chaotic crescendo comes in.
  • Concept Album: In the liner notes to Spilt Milk's 2015 re-release, Andy Sturmer describes the conceptual idea behind the album as "a series of dreams".
    "The idea was that the album would start with a lullaby; you're being lulled off to sleep and carried in these different dreams, and then you wake up at the end with the alarm clock."
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: "He's My Best Friend".
    My heart's a five leaf clover
    It's Palm Sunday over and over
    I never had the luck of swingers
    Till I was wrapped around your fingers
  • Dead Artists Are Better: Thankfully averted with the band as of 2019, but "The Ghost at Number One" examines this trope lyrically.
  • Domestic Abuse: "She Still Loves Him".
    He lost his temper
    And belted his love across the room
    (She still loves him)
  • Epic Rocking: "Ignorance Is Bliss", written for a Nintendo compilation album White Knuckle Scorin'.
  • Genre Roulette
  • Hurricane of Puns: Clever wordplay galore, courtesy of Andy Sturmer's lyrics.
  • Hurricane of Euphemisms: "He's My Best Friend" describes the protagonist's private parts, with A Date with Rosie Palms thrown in for good measure.
    • From "All Is Forgiven": "Hypocrite, four-flusher, snake in the grass, just a swindler, a wolf in sheep's clothing...LIAR!!"
  • In the Style of...: Often their influences pop out in the form of musical pastiche, but the B-Side "Family Tree" was a deliberate, conscious attempt to write a song in the style of Free.
  • Lead Drummer: Andy was the frontman/co-leader, lead singer, drummer, wrote or co-wrote all of the band's originals and contributed guitar and keyboard parts and co-production. He also drummed standing up in front of the stage.
  • Longest Song Goes Last: Spilt Milk closes with "Brighter Day" (6:12).
  • Lyrical Dissonance: "Bedspring Kiss"; "Now She Knows She's Wrong"; "He's My Best Friend"; "She Still Loves Him".
  • Pull a Rabbit out of My Hat / Nice Hat: For much of the video for "The King Is Half Undressed", Andy Sturmer is singing the song while sitting on a chair with a top hat on. Throughout the video, puppies, kittens, bunnies, and various flora and fauna escape the hat or climb/descend back into it while the rest of the band is singing harmonies and/or juggling, blowing bubbles, staring into pinwheels, and doing other random whimsical activities.
  • Retraux
  • Revolving Door Band: Andy Sturmer and Roger Manning were the only two members to stay the course of the band. Interestingly enough, they were the defacto leaders of the band.
  • Spiritual Successor: Of all musicians, Drake Bell seems to have taken a few cues from Jellyfish on his "It's Only Time" album. Hell, he even goes as far to cover "Joining a Fanclub" on his live concert DVD.
    • Roger Joseph Manning Jr.'s solo albums display a similar sense of pop songcraft, myriad influences and elaborate production as Jellyfish, albeit in a more DIY/lower budget scale.
    • Manning Jr., guitarist Eric Dover and bassist Tim Smith (aka three-quarters of the Spilt Milk touring lineup of 1993-94) would reunite in 2020 as the Jellyfish-like supergroup The Lickerish Quartet, with Jeremy Stacey of King Crimson as the fourth member. Unlike Jellyfish, where Andy Sturmer and Roger Joseph Manning Jr. dominated the band's songwriting and direction, Dover and Smith have more musical input into the band, and share lead vocals with Manning Jr.
  • Villain Song: "Ignorance is Bliss", which is sung from the perspective of Bowser from the Super Mario Bros. video games.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: Found in plenty of their songs - "Sebrina, Paste, and Plato" is near-incomprehensible.