After studying at Nottingham Trent University, Jones became involved with an experimental theatre company, Dogs in Honey, in Sheffield in the late 1980s, writing songs for productions.
Amassing over 400 home demo recordings, produced in his and other people's homes, he gained a publishing contract with Chrysalis Music in 1994. However, he was unable to gain a recording contract, and self-financed the release of 5,000 copies of an album under the name Baby Bird, I Was Born a Man, comprising 13 of the best from his collection of home demos.
The LP was a lo-fi indie affair, with voice, guitar, keyboards and drum machine recorded on 4-track tape recorder. The reception for the record was extremely positive after it was picked up by the British radio DJ John Peel, leading quickly to a decision to release, over a period, four further albums of demo recordings and to form a band in order to tour.
During the second half of 1995, Stephen toured relentlessly with Huw Chadbourne (keyboards), Robert Gregory (drums), John Pedder (bass) and Luke Scott (guitar), and released two further collections of demos Bad Shave and Fatherhood (a fourth album, The Happiest Man Alive was released in early 1996). At this time, Stephen as a solo artist retained the name Baby Bird, whilst the work of the band was distinguished by the name Babybird.
By the end of the year, a decent public following had been built up, as well as quite considerable excitement within the press and music industry. Babybird were signed to Echo Records (a division of the Chrysalis Group), and the first "proper" single, a full-band recording of "Goodnight", which had appeared in demo form on Fatherhood, was eventually released in the summer of 1996, becoming a minor chart hit in the UK.
The second single, "You're Gorgeous", reached number 3 in the UK singles chart in October 1996, and was also one of the biggest selling singles of the year, going on to chart around the world. This remains the song for which Jones, and Babybird, are best known.
However, it presented a much more commercial face to the public in comparison to Jones' previous work. The early demo albums won Jones great credibility with those who heard them, but had not reached a wide audience (each one being a one-off pressing). Arguably, the commercial sound and success of "You're Gorgeous", which received massive exposure by comparison, made it hard for many to take Jones seriously as an indie artist. Essentially, what he was best at was no longer what he was best known for.
The album Ugly Beautiful was released to a warm reception, but was not the unmitigated critical triumph that some had anticipated from Babybird's first studio-recorded album. The album produced two more hit singles, "Candy Girl" and "Cornershop". Shortly after Ugly Beautiful, a fifth album of demos was released - Dying Happy, a perhaps pointedly non-commercial selection.
Babybird returned in 1998 with There's Something Going On, preceded by a single, "Bad Old Man". The album was a modest success and was followed by further minor hits, "If You'll Be Mine" and "Back Together".
The 2000 album Bugged was well-received critically. However, sales were poor and the two singles from it, "The F-Word" (later the theme tune to a UK TV cookery show of the same name) and "Out of Sight" barely dented the charts. Babybird were dropped by their record label soon after. A third single from the album "Fireflies/Getaway" was released on Animal Noise records, but sold few copies. The band subsequently split.
In the following years, Jones returned to where he had started - releasing albums of demos (under his own name) to a small but appreciative audience. This time round he produced two albums of instrumental music designed to help him develop a career in film music. Stephen Jones 1985-2001 was released in 2001, and Plastic Tablets came out in 2003. Stephen created the soundtrack for the film Blessed in 2004.
Between the two instrumental albums, Stephen collaborated with the Manchester-based dance artist Aim on a single, "Good Disease", and worked on an album of demo songs. This became the hip-hop influenced Almost Cured of Sadness, on Sanctuary Records. Again, Stephen was to score a critical success, but legal problems over samples delayed its release. It and the single "Friend" received little promotion and sold few copies.
In October 2005, a posting on the official Babybird website announced that the band had reformed. The subsequent album was called Between My Ears There Is Nothing But Music.
Jones has recently been working on a new solo project entitled 'Death of the Neighbourhood' . The eponymous debut album, a 32 track 2-disc CD set was released on November 10, 2008 on ATIC Records. The album features "Cokeholes", which was released as a three track single on October 27, 2008. ATIC Records - Death of the Neighbourhood OUT NOVEMBER 10th 2008
Stephen Jones has produced two works of fiction, The Bad Book in 2000 and Harry and Ida Swop Teeth (also the title of a Babybird b-side) in 2003. He also collaborated with DED Associates, who have designed many of his CD covers, on a 2000 art book Travel Sickness.
"Snake Caves" / "Lemonade Baby" (Gorgonzola Records, October 1995)
"Drunk Car" (Easy! Tiger Records, July 1999)
Compilation tracks and guest appearances
"Larry Bright" (on Mortal Wombat EP, Fierce Panda Records, October 1995)
"Alan Ladd" (on Volume 15, Volume Records, February 1996)
"Plastic Diamond" (with All Seeing I on Pickled Eggs and Sherbert, FFRR, September 1999)
I Was Born a Man (Baby Bird Recordings, July 1995)
"I'll just say that I Was Born A Man is the only record I've heard this year with lyrics worth remembering and music that's impossible to forget, because I'd rather you listen to it than me talking about it." - Melody Maker
"...whatever ultra-naff low-fidelity keyboard tinklings he undertakes; he carries with him incredibly touching pieces like Dead Bird Sings that create, in the middle of this tank top of a record, an altogether different kind of sadness." - NME
Bad Shave (Baby Bird Recordings, October 1995)
"...unique, customised but never self-indulgent or irritatingly inaccessible. It's as off as it's beautiful, as rich as it's lo fi... imagine Ray Davies emerging, blinking and bearded, Howard Hughes like, after years in the darkness and you'll have some idea of the deeply, deeply English yet marvellously, utterly alien world of Baby Bird." - Melody Maker
Fatherhood (Baby Bird Recordings, December 1995)
"...a mixture of whimsy, egotism and madness with a good bit of talent stirred in...his puzzled world-view is unique. He fills the 20 tracks with strangenesses. Weirdly wonderful." - The Guardian
"Fatherhood is another unpredictable and magical journey through the thoughts of Stephen Jones, a man who is clearly in love with sweet melodies and the millions of ways you can fuck them up...you might find the whole experience as cigar-puffingly satisfying as becoming a dad." - The Independent
The Happiest Man Alive (Baby Bird Recordings, April 1996) #127
"...an oblique sadist of spectacular talent. The Happiest Man Alive has an entire central nervous system of its own. It's a Frankenstein's monster of an album, gruesome and miraculous, stitched together from what would appear to be fragments of a dozen different psyches lodged inside one head." - Melody Maker
Dying Happy (Baby Bird Recordings, November 1996)
"Halfway between songs and instrumentals, some of the tracks on Dying Happy just don't work at all, but some of them are riveting." - The Times
The Original Lo-Fi (Sanctuary Records, November 2002)
"The five albums in question form a song-cycle tracking the life-cycle from birth to death. The sheer wealth and diversity of music crammed into this tiny box makes it an absolute bargain." - The Independent
"The Original Lo-Fi should cement Baby Bird's reputation as one of the finest experimental pop artists of his time...Written, performed, and produced as only Stephen Jones is capable of, the songs compiled on The Original Lo-Fi are easily among the finest musical confections of a generation." - Allmusic
"Goodnight" (Echo Records, June 1996) #28 UK
"You're Gorgeous" (Echo Records, September 1996) #3 UK
"Candy Girl" (Echo Records, February 1997) #14 UK
"Cornershop" (Echo Records, May 1997) #37 UK
"Bad Old Man" (Echo Records, April 1998) #31 UK
"If You'll Be Mine" (Echo Records, July 1998) #28 UK
"Back Together (remix)" (Echo Records, February 1999) #22 UK
"The F-Word" (Echo Records, March 2000) #35 UK
"Out of Sight" (Echo Records, May 2000) #58 UK
"Getaway" / "Fireflies" (Animal Noise, September 2000)
"Lighter N Spoon" (popup records Hamburg, April 2008)
"Bad Twin" (on The Avengers OST, Atlantic Records, August 1998)
Ugly Beautiful (Echo Records, October 1996) #9
There's Something Going On (Echo Records, August 1998) #28
Bugged (Echo Records, June 2000) #104
Best of Babybird (Echo Records, February 2004)
Between My Ears There's Nothing But Music (Echo Records, September 2006 and popup records Hamburg, February 2008)
Stephen Jones solo discography
"Good Disease" (with Aim, Grand Central Records, June 2002)
"Friend" (Sanctuary Records, June 2003)
"We Make All the Flowers Grow" (with Luke Scott on Total Lee, a Tribute to Lee Hazelwood, City Slang Records, June 2002)
Blessed (Warner Bros. Records, 2004)
Stephen Jones 1985-2001 (Easy! Tiger Records, October 2001)
"This isn't the best introduction to Stephen Jones. Nonetheless, '1985-2001' is another interesting dispatch from the no-frills renaissance man." - NME
Almost Cured of Sadness (Sanctuary Records, March 2003)
"He was always an affecting songwriter as well as an extremely able band frontman, but it is these solo lo-fi tinkerings that really provide the keys to his soul. His latest LP is a delight, an effortless charmer on which the childlike sweetness of his voice perfectly serves 19 deceptively simple songs that together make a series of multi-textured gems." - The Times
Plastic Tablets (Delf Music, September 2003)
"This vast collection of poignant, evocative instrumental work - like soundtracks for imaginary movies — reminds you why there was so much fuss about him." - Daily Telegraph
Stephen Jones fiction
The Bad Book (IMP Fiction, London, March 2000)
"Veering imperiously between maudlin monochrome and exuberant technicolor, he proves as adept with narrative and metaphor as he is with choruses and couplets." - The Times
Travel Sickness (Die Gestalten Verlag, Berlin, September 2000)
"...maximalism at its most memorable and unnerving. Find it." - I-D Magazine
Harry and Ida Swop Teeth (IMP Fiction, London, April 2003)
"Nightmarish and weird, but unsettlingly compelling" - BBC