demo, Gone but not forgotten, Hard-to-find, studio outtakes

The Making Of A Great Compilation Tape…

Stubborn kind of fellow. Marvin Gaye sang a song with the same title but to all intents and purposes he could be talking about himself. Fed up with the non-stop rollercoaster of  Motown promotion and hard-sell and at the same time defying the orders of label boss Berry Gordy (who wanted instant hit after hit), he set up camp for the best part of a year recording what many of us consider to be his masterpiece, ‘What’s Going On’.

I expect most of you here to know about the socio-political overtones in the lyrics, about how at the time (1971) such things were no-go for someone in Gaye’s world of work. You could argue that Marvin pushed open all sorts of doors with ‘What’s Going On’. Certainly, Stevie Wonder’s political work was just around the corner, but Marvin was one of the first mainstream million-selling artists to start writing this sort of stuff. Nowadays anyone from Take That to Leona Lewis can have a political conscience, but Marvin’s work was truly groundbreaking. What makes it all the better was that he cajoled, coerced and conducted the Funk Brothers into playing the grooviest music imaginable. Political music doesn’t have to be flat and one dimensional. Billy Bragg, sit up and listen when I’m talking to you.


Marvin cajoles, coerces and conducts the Funk Brothers

Listen to this. An instrumental (with the odd leaked Marvin backing vocal thrown in at the end) ‘rhythm ‘n’ strings’ version of the title track of ‘What’s Going On’. Listen to that bassline! Listen to those vibes! The clipped guitar! The finger clicks! The sweeping strings! The bongos, man! THIS IS MUSIC!

Marvin took the same approach to recording a couple of years later when writing ‘Let’s Get It On’. An album dedicated to love, sex and all that sort of stuff, you could be forgiven for thinking that it might sound like a slushy mess if you’ve never heard it. Far from it. Like the album before, Gaye pushes the Funk Brothers to their limits (and they have some seemingly never-ending limits) and makes another belter of an album.

I was always in denial about ‘Let’s Get It On’ as an album. Nothing could ever match up to ‘What’s Going On’ and I thought it was slushy romantic crap the first time I heard it. Played it once then filed it away. Then I heard the title track again, at the end of ‘High Fidelity’ when Jack Black’s band sing it. Instant re-appraisal. Jack Black turned me back on to ‘Let’s Get It On’! S’true!

Listen to the original studio demo of ‘Let’s Get It On’. A bit rougher round the edges than the version Jack Black loves but smooth enough to suggest something might happen upstairs sometime soon. Actually, it’s very smooth. Flutes, piano, backing vocals, wah-wah’d guitar, saxophone. This is one lush demo. I like my demos to feature a wee bit of studio chat and the odd bum note here and there. This one is no different. Except I’ve never heard the Funk Brothers never play a bum note, ever. Even on a demo.


Marvin hears that all-too-familiar squeak of the bedsprings from the upstairs neighbours and decides to write ‘Let’s Get It On’.

‘Running From Love’ was an instrumental that never Marvin quite managed to find a complete set of lyrics for, so never made the final cut of the album. Shame, as this version with fuzzed intro makes it sound like some long-lost Blaxploitation theme. The other version is slicker and smoother and would make great incidental music on a chocolate advert. Ideal, indeed, for gettin’ it on. With Valentine’s Day but a few days away, what better present to give your loved one than a CD of these downloaded beauties? And if he/she thinks it’s the worst present in the world…ever, then you’ve got to ask yourself if they’re really worth the effort.



Let me put you in the picture,

let me show you what I mean. Ian Brown is the flattest singer in the world, ever. When he starts to sing, and I use the term ‘sing‘ in the loosest terms, you couldn’t get one of John Squire‘s plectrums between the arse of his flared Joe Bloggs and the Spike Island toxic sludge. But you knew that already.


Stone Roses, 1993

So kudos to Simon Dawson. He’s the anonymous genius who mixed ol’ monkey boy’s flat-as-a-pancake vocals into the rough polished diamond that is The Second Coming, the Stone Roses long-in-the-making second (and final) album. Why Dawson isn’t mentioned in the same breath as Nigel Godrich or John Leckie or any of those other indie-producing wunderkinds is anyone’s guess. If I was in a band and looking for that Led Zeppelin plays Sly Stone’s Greatest Funk Hits sound, he’s the man I’d be looking for.


Reni & Mani do a Brown

As a band, the 3 non-singing musicians can really play. Listen to this, the vocal-free rehearsal track that became ‘Daybreak‘.  8 minutes long at the fade-out and not an overdub within earshot. Or listen to this, John Squire and Reni jamming on effect-heavy guitar and drums. Like, cosmic man! They can really play. But. Add the vocals and you get this. The 1993 demo of ‘Love Spreads’ sounds like heavy funk soup. It was my favourite record when it came out. I played it to death. I’ve never played the demo to death, though it is something of a curio. But the demo version lets you appreciate the lengths Simon Dawson had to go to at the controls in order to get the whole thing sounding fantastic.

In more innocent times, I used to de-tune my guitar to open G, grab an empty botle of Stella as a rudimentary slide and freak out in front of the mirror as I played along loudly to ‘Love Spreads’. In actual fact, all you need to do is drop the thick ‘E’ string to a ‘D’, get yourself a decent £5 slide and play along to the tab below. S’easy, man!



John Squire, Glasgow Green

A wee ned punched me full in the face at this gig. Sore, yes, but not as painful as the bootleg I have of the show. Those flat vocals. Ouch!

Cover Versions, Hard-to-find

Retro thrift shop fashion transvestites

Jellyfish were great. Power pop for the pre-Nirvana teeny boppers. Tunes by The Beatles. Backing vocals and guitar solos by Queen. Clothes by Hanna Barbera. Modern day insipid retro tunesmiths like The Feeling would give their stripey trousers and kerrrrazzzeee facial hair to be able to write half a tune as masterful as ‘Now She Knows She’s Wrong’. They must listen in jaw-dropping awe to ‘Bellybutton’ or cry over their copy of ‘Spilt Milk’ at least once a week.

Jellyfish-eye lens

Jellyfish only made the aforementioned 2 albums before splitting. I never got to see them live although I think they once played King Tuts. My pal’s band played a few shows with them in America and told me that for all the day-glo Californian sunshine and love image they projected, they were really a right grumpy bunch of selfish unfriendly bastards. Especially Andy Sturmer, the singing drummer. Fans of the Trashcan Sinatras may recognise the line, “There’s an anecdote about an argument with the singer from Jellyfish.” It’s a good anecdote too…

Baby’s Coming Back video shoot

Nowadays, the various musicians that made up the band can be heard on a multitude of off-shoots and side projects (including, but not exclusively Imperial Drag, The Moog Cookbook, Umajets, TV Eyes) all on a MySpace site near you. There’s actually too much music to investigate beyond Jellyfish, and I’ve never tried to (!) The 2 albums plus the 4CD Australian box set ‘Fan Club’ are all I need. The demos and live cuts below are taken from the long-deleted and hard-to-get box set. 

The Man I Used To Be

Calling Sarah (with ‘She Loves You’ “Yeah Yeah Yeah“‘s)

All I Want Is Everything

Baby’s Coming Back

Now She Knows She’s Wrong

interview on 91X, San Diego

No Matter What (Badfinger cover, live)

Jet (Wings cover, live)

(Flower) power chords

Still needing more? Can’t get enough of Jellyfish? How about this? Right click on the picture below, ‘save as…’ and print it off. Voila! Your very own official Jellyfish colouring-in page, taken from the promo coloring-in book (note American spelling) from 1990. Make them as sunny day-glo Californian or as grumpy as you want.