Green Jelly Credit: Robert Bejil

Since 1981, Green Jellÿ (yes, styled with an umlaut over the y) have doggedly pursued one goal: to be the world’s worst band. And by some indications, that title’s not unfounded. How many other groups have burned through more than 400 musicians, a number vocalist and sole original member Bill Manspeaker lists prominently on Green Jellÿ’s Facebook page? How many other groups have been halted less than a minute into a performance on The Gong Show, a fate that in 1987 befell Green Jellÿ just as Manspeaker—wearing a jack-o-lantern mask—looked like he was getting into the groove of “Rock ’n’ Roll Pumpkin?” How many groups have been forced to change the spelling of their name because Kraft pressured them with claims of copyright infringement (they were originally called Green Jello, aka the “worst” gelatin flavor, and they still pronounce it that way)? But these incidents aren’t so much indicative of Green Jellÿ’s badness as much as evidence of their knack for making seemingly bad things work in their favor. And their successes go far beyond just turning their luck: they’ve sold more than two million albums (the 1993 “soundtrack” to their 1992 VHS-released long-form music video “Cereal Killer” went gold), made the upper ranks of the Billboard Hot 100 with a musical version of a classic childhood fable “Three Little Pigs” (which featured Maynard James Keenan, Les Claypool, and Pauly Shore as the voices of the title characters; the Claymation video for it became an unusual staple of alt-rock TV programming), and in 1994 they provided music for the Dumb & Dumber soundtrack and the video games Spider-Man and Venom: Maximum Carnage. Plus, their music isn’t even bad, really: Manspeaker’s gruff vocals, which split the difference between irate speaking and controlled yelling, fit their rudimentary, minimal punk-metal instrumentals; at their height the band fit right into the broad spectrum of radio-friendly alt-rock. Manspeaker put Green Jellÿ on the back burner when he became a dad in the mid-90s; in 2008 his son encouraged him to relaunch the group. If not for the long hiatus I imagine they’d be spoken about with the same reverence as their friends and early mentors Gwar, though Manspeaker appears to revel in the fact that Green Jellÿ’s own cult status allows him to easily connect with his audience. The forthcoming self-released Garbage Band Kids features songs cowritten by fans, many of which were released as singles in 2017.   v

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