Cult Fave Jellyfish Feted By Box Set

Excerpted from the magazine for

A year ago, listening to Bruce Brodeen outline his plans to fete early-1990s power-pop act Jellyfish might have left one thinking the Not Lame Recordings chief was a tad insane.

At the time, he was taking out a second mortgage on the equity of he and his wife's house to produce a four-CD, $60 collection of -- get this -- rarities and live tracks for a long-defunct band that never really sold that many copies of the two (yes, only two) albums it released. But it gets better: Even when Jellyfish had Buzz Bin videos on MTV and was enjoying moderate radio airplay with such songs as "Baby's Coming Back" and "The King Is Half-Undressed," the group still didn't register on most people's radar.

But now, a few months after finally issuing "Fan Club: From the Rare to the Unreleased... And Back Again," Brodeen and EMI's Kevin Flaherty -- who brought the project to Brodeen's tiny Fort Collins, Colo., independent label -- are looking downright brilliant.

Brodeen has shipped all 7,000 copies he has manufactured thus far, and he has orders for what will be his third pressing of the set. He has already made his money back and paid off the loan, and both he and Flaherty are able to revel at least momentarily in the success of a project that has taken them years to realize.

Brodeen, a fan himself -- you'd sort of have to be, he notes, to take on such a project -- counts Jellyfish (with the Posies and Matthew Sweet) as one of three of the best and most influential power-pop acts of the past 15 years. It's an argument based on the one time he caught the band live, at the Roxy in West Hollywood, Calif. "They were the best pop band that I've ever seen live by an exponential separation between the next runner," he says. "It's just not even comparable. Anybody who ever saw this band just never forgot."

After issuing two albums for Charisma -- "Bellybutton" in 1990 and "Spilt Milk" in 1993 (Nielsen SoundScan puts combined U.S. sales of the albums at 269,000, though that number is surely higher, as the first title was released one year prior to the launch of SoundScan) -- and significant lineup changes, Jellyfish disbanded in 1994, largely because singer/drummer Andy Sturmer was feeling less and less comfortable in the spotlight, keyboardist/vocalist Roger Manning says.

Since then, the myth of Jellyfish seems to have grown larger than the colorfully dressed band ever was. That's because the critically celebrated band's fans -- albeit a relatively small army -- are religiously devoted to the group.

Of the collection, Manning says, "They did an amazing job. Even though I was involved, I was even surprised when I actually got it. It's really gratifying, because there were so many scraps, especially the demos and unreleased material. I know how rabid I am for certain groups and anything they've ever done in their past, good or bad; and one thing I will say for the Jellyfish era, the fans that got into it, they were like Deadheads almost. I mean, they were completely rabid. And I'm just really happy to be able to share that with those people."

Excerpted from the Dec.28, 2002, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the members section.

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