Thursday, April 02, 2009

Mr. E's Beautiful Blues

If you haven't gotten your hands on Things the Grandchildren Should Know, the debut book by EELS frontman Mark Oliver Everett, DO IT NOW! Everett's (aka 'A Man Called E' or 'E') memoir is a touching masterpiece, one marking his survival of losing his entire family, while also crafting out an impressive career as a singer/songwriter. I absolutely fell in love with this book, so much that I read it one day.

Everett's Dad was physicist Hugh Everett III, who founded the quantum mechanics theory as we know it, and at 19, Everett found his father lying dead in his bed after a heart attack. His sister Elizabeth endured years of schizophrenia, and committed suicide in 1996, while Everett's mother Nancy, died of lung cancer two years later. Sadly, his cousin Jennifer Lewis perished during the September 11th attacks in 2001, for she was a flight attendant on the plane that struck The Pentagon.

Despite experiencing more than his fair share of emotional turmoil, Everett achieved critical success with the EELS' debut album, 1996's Beautiful Freak. Quirky first single, "Novocaine for the Soul" was a buzz at MTV, college radio and mainstream alternative radio. (That song reminds me of my freshman year at Michigan State University so much ... it blared from nearly every dorm room at East Wilson Hall that fall). Everett has gone on to release a host of great albums, including Electro-Shock Blues (1998), Souljacker (2001), Shootenanny! (2003), and Blinking Lights And Other Revelations (2005), and my favorite, Daisies of the Galaxy (2000). His music has also appeared in film (Yes Man, all three Shrek movies, American Beauty) and television (Queer as Folk, Homicide: Life on the Street, Scrubs).

While reading this book, I was reminded of my conversation with Everett in spring of 2000, and even then, Everett was super cool. He was boyishly sweet, yet with a fun twinge of sarcasm. We joked about the kids who went ape-shit and set fire to Woodstock the previous summer. Everett was playful in his remark, which was something along the lines of "drunk kids should stay out of the mud."

No one should be forced to be the last of the family line before the age of 50. But in this book, it's Everett's candid sense of humor, both wry and charming, that leaves you with a sense of hope.

Thanks to this book, I got reacquainted with the beautiful music of the EELS. His simplistic lyrical candor is incredibly loaded, it tugs at everyone's heartstrings. Mark Oliver Everett is just and honest-to-goodness good guy, and one who consistently delivers incredible music in this hyper-sensitive and shifty music world.

Do yourself a favor and fall in love with Things the Grandchildren Should Know. It'll warm your heart.

**EELS' seventh LP, Hombre Lobo: 12 Songs of Desire, is slated for a June 2 release via Vagrant Records. First single, "Fresh Blood," will available on iTunes with the B-side "Devil's Dog" April 28.

[Mark Oliver Everett photo courtesy of]

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  • Grabbed this book from the library and read it in a single day as well ... Very, very interesting read, and knowing so much about his family and his life really does add a lot of depth to the Eels music.

    By Blogger Gary, at Wednesday, April 8, 2009 at 11:47:00 AM EDT  

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