White Rabbit Records - Blog

2023 Albums Thing 199 - Jellyfish “Bellybutton”

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Jellyfish should have been MASSIVE and the fact that they weren’t is yet more proof, were anymore needed, that the great masses of the record buying public wouldn’t recognise greatness if it walked up to them, birth certificate in hand, saying “Hello, I’m Greatness, pleased to meet you”, but those that know, know.

They released just 2 albums, “Bellybutton” and 1993’s “Spilt Milk”, less than 90 minutes of music in total. I’ve listened to both albums (and the demo’s and the live recordings and the instrumental versions) so often there is barely a note I don’t know intimately. Both albums are utterly faultless. This is intricately constructed pop music but constructed with a sprinkle of fairy dust that sets it head and shoulders above almost everything of its time and just as much that has come after it. Ya had enough of the superlatives yet ? It’s honestly that good. They also looked fantastic, like psychedelic, cartoon Victorian street urchin extras from the Wizard of Oz!

I’m pretty sure I first heard this album on a record company pre-release cassette that was being handed around the tour bus on a Wonder Stuff US tour. We were all blown away by it. TWS sound engineer Simon Efemey told us later that Jellyfish had all been at a Stuffies show in San Francisco, oh what might have been if those two musical forces had got their heads together.

“Bellybutton” is a beautifully crafted, scintillatingly executed thing of melodic wonder. Equal parts American sunshine pop, Kansas, Crosby Stills and Nash, Player, Queen, ABBA, Supertramp, Psychedelic Rock, The Monkees and The Chocolate Watch Band, all woven together perfectly by producer Albhy Galuten, the man most famous for creating the first drum loop, on the Bee Gees “Stayin’ Alive”. Every song is a highlight, it would be impossible to pick out just one, but I will…

Jellyfish’s debut single was “The King Is Half Undressed”, a glorious thing made of wobbling keyboards, shimmering guitars and thunderous drums with a chorus to kill for. Then at 2 minutes and 22 seconds in, they fall into a dreamy multi-part harmony vocal interlude before they all come crashing back into the chorus. We went to see them at a long gone club in Birmingham, Goldwyns, in 1991, we were so excited. As the gig progressed singing drummer Andy Sturmer introduced “The King Is Half Undressed”. I remember thinking “I bet they don’t do the 4 part harmony bit” and wondering if they did, would they do it like Queen did the operatic bit in “Bohemian Rhapsody”, by playing a pre-recorded section and then the band picking it back up ? Well, they didn’t do a Queen, they did it, live, absolutely pitch perfectly and it bought the house down, quite incredible. Oh and the video for the single has a Whippet puppy in it and anyone who knows me knows why I love that.

This is a very recent addition to my collection, this week in fact, and the first time I played it I realised it was my first time hearing it in a non-Digital format (apart from that record company cassette) and my word, not only are the songs faultless this record SOUNDS magnificent. As I said earlier if you know Jellyfish then you know. If you don’t know them, please do me the favour of trusting me, go treat your ears and listen to either, preferably both, of their albums. I honestly envy you hearing them for the first time.

The King Is Half Undressed - https://youtu.be/AgdgptaBma8?si=VAd5MGhN1Q-TTNiy

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