You can tell, from the Queen-esque guitar opening, that “Joining A Fan Club” has set the dial for “epic.” This is such a wonderfully overblown song, completely over-the-top at almost all times and very much in the spirit of Freddie Mercury’s old band in their prime – The harmonies at 1:14 leading into the guitar, for example – without sounding like a slavish recreation. Put this is actually a reconstruction of all manner of pop history; the bassline is McCartney from Revolver-era Beatles, the harmonies are as Beach Boys as Queen, and stealing the strings from “When You Wish Upon A Star” at 1:55 is… well, just kind of inspired, really. By the time you get to the freakout at the bridge. There’s some element of glam rock in there, too (The saxophone I read as oddly David Bowie-esque for reasons that don’t actually make sense to me, I admit), and overall the entire thing just feels like four minutes of rock opera that sum up almost everything I could possibly want in a pop song. Why this isn’t something that everyone knows and adores is constantly a bafflement to me.
Still: At least some people have covered it, where you’d least expect it.
The album this song came from – Bellybutton – came out in… 1991, perhaps? And it was the soundtrack to my last year of high school, discovered via a tape-cassette given to me by a friend. This was my introduction to power-pop, I think, and this song was my introduction to Jellyfish. It’s got everything that I would end up loving about the band, from the humor in the lyrics (“She dots her ‘I’s with a smiley face/A work of art, in all but taste”) to the four-part harmonies and the jangly guitars, and I remember that I was hooked within seconds of hearing it for the first time. Maybe I heard it on the radio at first? I heard it and wanted to listen again, immediately, and then again and again and again. To this day, I want to be able to sing like the band sounds like in this song. I want to be able to make music like this all the time.
Firstly, I can’t believe that I’ve not actually done a Jellyfish one of these, yet. Secondly, I can’t believe that I’m including this song in a series where I’m speeding through songs, instead of spending a ridiculous number of words on it (Seriously! The bassline! The harmonies – or three part vocal with the “There’s a party at the pearly gates/How does it feel/To be the only one” section, which I still just love! The fun bitterness of the lyrics! The pretty damn perfect evocation of the Beach Boys’ sound, a la Pet Sounds! Come on, people), but… this song always reminds me of my second week of college, finding the single in HMV and knowing that it’d be hours until I could go home and play it, hear it for the first time. The weird, thrilling sensation of this faux illicit material burning into my mind as I sat and tried to concentrate on whatever drawing lesson was happening that afternoon, just thinking to myself “I really want to hear the new Jellyfish song, dammit…!”