In 1981 Bill Manspeaker and Joe Cannizzaro initiated what they hoped would become the world’s worst band. It was born with the lowest of hopes, raised on a series of banned shows. All appeared to be going in the direction Manspeaker and Cannazzaro had hoped. Then one of the band’s members, Maynard James Keenan, became a huge success with Tool. GWAR helped the band out with costume ideas. They received endorsements from Paul Stanley. Their music video “3 Little Pigs” began airing constantly on MTV, and they were nominated for a grammy in 1995.
By the early 90s Manspeaker and Cannizzaro’s dreams of failure and notoriety for suck were dashed, which is a boon for all of the fans they acquired over the years.
Everybody loved them for a different reason. Some people loved to hate them. Some loved them for the live shows, during which the band was pelted with pudding, jello, and whatever food folks could manage to get into the show. Some people, like myself, just loved them.
Green Jelly was the first and only band I ever wrote to when I was young. At the time, I was old enough to get excited about Kiss: Revenge, but still young enough to spend a few hours a week glued to the television set watching Sesame Street on PBS. Still, maturity (relatively speaking) tugged at my thought process, and I couldn’t help wonder what it would sound like to hear Elmo curse repeatedly, or watch Oscar the Grouch fling shit at Telly. My morbid curiosity left me yearning for more. And Green Jelly answered.
Moreover, when I wrote them, they fucking ANSWERED! After a few months of waiting for a response, I was beginning to think that my wait for a reply would be reminiscent of my experience writing to Nintendo Power and writing in to the editor of Super Mario Brothers comics: I would never hear back, and would be left browsing magazines on the shelf at Great American to see if my letter was printed.
Then the letter from Green Jelly arrived.
The letter was hand-written and featured signatures from all the members in the band during that time. I was put on their mailing list and received postcards informing me of their new singles over the next year or so. I managed to procure a copy of their Cereal Killer Soundtrack album which featured their original name before they were sued. Then in 1997 my fucking house burned down and I lost it all. It is probably the only stuff I lament losing. The old letters my female pen pal wrote to me before I sent her a picture and she decided to never write again, they only served to remind me that I had not met her standards. Good riddance to those. The love letters from my ex-girlfriend who cheated on me right before my best friend moved downstate and my house burned down, I didn’t miss those either. But the Green Jello letter, I wish I still had that, and I find myself wondering from time to time if Maynard’s signature graced that page.
The letter arrived around the time that the band hit the pinnacle of its career. Sure, maybe the signatures were fake. Maybe it was written by some fan club president states away in the wee hours of the morning. Still, at the time it rekindled my hope that some bands actually gave a shit what you thought and truly appreciated your support.
And that’s why I still look upon these guys with respect. I admire their self-deprecating style and their bizarro humor. I loved the
fact that they placed just as much emphasis on performance and visual entertainment as they did on their music. And man, do I love curse words and songs about shit! It’ll probably never get old.
In 1992 Kraft Foods sued Green Jello, forcing them to change their name. Their album and their promotional products had to be re-released to reflect the change. Later Kellog decided to jump on the bandwagon and sue as well, because Green Jello had created parody versions of many of Kellog’s cereal mascots, depicting them in lewd situations. In the vein of other corporate assholes, the management for Metallica ALSO sued Green Jello for using a similar riff in one of their songs, even though the lyrics to the song cited the source.
I say screw ’em all. Here’s to you Green Jello!
Oh, and thanks for not suing the creators of Monsturd for ripping off your idea: