Posts Tagged ‘Mark Oliver Everett’

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E.

Let’s begin with my favorite E story. A few years ago he was asked to provide a quote for the dust jacket to Kurt Cobain’s posthumously published diaries. He complied, providing this quote:

Please don’t do this to me after I kill myself.”

Needless to say, the blurb wasn’t used. Still, it helps provide a glimpse into the mind of a man called E.

But let’s go back to the beginning, at least for me. I guess it started with the voice. Soulful, sad, carrying with it a kind of a plaintive desperation if you will. A friend of mine (’twas a man called Goose, a legend in his own right) had given me a mix tape that had “Susan’s House” on it back in 1996 and I was instantly intrigued. So began my introduction and fascination with E and his group, the Eels.

For those in the know, the Eels are essentially one man, the aforementioned E, whose given name is Mark Oliver Everett. E plays piano, guitar, drums, and virtually every other instrument you can think of. He’s known critically for his innovative combination of instruments and musical styles. He’s had his share of traumatic life events to say the least. He found his father dead in his bed when he was 19. His sister, who he was very close to, committed suicide in 1996, and his mother lost a long battle to cancer in 1998. He also lost several close friends during this time. Enough you say? Not quite. His cousin, Jennifer Lewis née Gore, was a flight attendant on the plane that struck the Pentagon during the September 11, 2001 attacks. So, E is the last surviving member of his family. The tragedies in his life have contributed to his musical style that includes mortality’s toll, mental illness, and loneliness. And as I said, the mournful, hoarse voice lends itself perfectly to his lyrics and musical tone. Not to fear though, his catalog includes upbeat and uplifting songs as well, a lot focusing on survival. As he sings on E’s Tune:

Life’s just an ugly mess,

The angry souls in such distress,

But there’s a time when moments can be sweet,

And it feels like someone’s smiling down on me.

Sometimes it feels like I’m all alone, (Most of the time actually I am alone)

That’s all right, don’t give up now I’m almost there.

Never fear though, as Everett can rock with the best of them. If proof is needed, check out Souljacker Part 1, Rags to Rags, or Saturday Morning. If you’re worried that E’s stuff lacks an edge, give a listen to It’s a Motherfucker, not to be confused with Fucker. The former is an angst-filled homage to his dead mother (I’m not kidding), the latter a whimsical look at an ex-girlfriend (wait for the surprise ending).

Interesting tidbit – E’s dad was Hugh Everett III. He was a mathematician and quantum theorist, notable for formulating the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics in 1957. You know, parallel universes and whatnot. Let’s just say a dummy he wasn’t. E, on the other hand, flunked freshman Math. He channeled his talents in another direction.

E’s early work included two solo albums, A Man Called E (1992) and Broken Toy Shop (1993). The latter were finely crafted pop gems unleashed in the middle of the grunge uprising, thus they went basically unnoticed. They were also recorded before E’s loss of his mom and sister so they are certainly lighter in mood. Note: E also released an independent album in 1985 called Bad Dude in Love, which I’m currently trying to locate on the interweb. When I find it you’ll have a full review.

After those two early albums E formed the Eels. He chose the name Eels because he wanted his “E” work to sit beside his “Eels” work in the CD bin at the record stores. Only later did he realize groups like The Eagles would separate the two. Oops. The Eels discography includes ‘Beautiful Freak” (great album cover) (1996), “Electro-Shock Blues” (1998), “Daisies of the Galaxy” (2000), “Souljacker” (2002), “Shootenanny!” (2003), “Blinking Lights and Other Revelations” (2005), Hombre Lobo (2009), End Times (2010)  Tomorrow Morning (2010) Wonderful Glorious (2013) and The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett (2014). Some notes on each, for your perusal:

  • “Beautiful Freak” – Includes the singles “Novacaine for the Soul“, “Susan’s House” and “Your Lucky Day in Hell“. The album is influenced by several musical styles, including grunge and hip-hop. A smooth and flawless studio recording.
  • “Electro-Shock Blues” – This album deals with a lot of pleasant subjects including suicide, death, and cancer. It’s a very dark album. I mean, with songs like “Elizabeth on the Bathroom Floor”, “Going to Your Funeral”, and “The Medication is Wearing Off”, how could it not be? Still, incredible stuff, with some unbelievable black humor. An album straight from E’s broken heart.
  • “Daisies of the Galaxy” – If you’re going to buy one Eels album, this would be the one to get in my opinion. As E stated, “if Electro-Shock Blues was the phone call in the middle of the night that the world doesn’t want to answer, then Daisies of the Galaxy is the hotel wake-up call that says your lovely breakfast is ready.” Great album that includes the hidden track “Mr. E’s Beautiful Blues”. You know, the one with the lyric “Goddamn right it’s a beautiful day.” That one. Another cool tidbit –  the piano E used on this album was the same one Neil Young used on “After the Gold Rush.” Sweet.
  • “Souljacker” – Definitely a heavier feel and more rock-orientated sound on this one. The opening song, “Souljacker, Part 1” is apparently about a serial killer, as E sings, “22 miles of hard road, 33 years of tough luck, 44 skulls buried in the ground, Crawling down through the muck, Oh yeah.” To lighten things up, the song also includes lyrics about incest and a kid planning to kill people at his school. Cool. Check out “Dog-Faced Boy” as well.
  • “Shootenanny” – E stated that there needed to be a word to describe the act of when a guy goes on a shooting rampage. His suggestion was to say the guy went on a “shootenanny”. What can I say, the man’s brain is in a different place. Again, the album is a little rougher, possibly because it was recorded in only 10-days. A personal favorite? An absolute gem called “Rock Hard Times.”
  • “Blinking Lights and Other Revelations” – The Eels first double album, it contained 33 tracks and featured contributions from Tom Waits, Peter Buck of R.E.M. and ex-Lovin’ Spoonful leader John Sebastian. A highlight is Wait’s crying like a baby on the song “Going Fetal.” Trust me, you gotta hear it to truly appreciate it. The Alternative Press said of the album, “A devastatingly beautiful collection of songs, and in some circles, it could be the best album released this year.” And how about this from Entertainment Weekly, “Everett finally delivers the absolute stone masterpiece fans have always known lurked inside his dour heart.” I know, I know, it’s Entertainment Weekly. But still . . .
  • “Hombre Lobo” – Hombre Lobo is desribed as a “concept album about desire.” Long story, but it was also inspired by E’s facial hair. Like I said, long story. I also might add that the album is about a werewolf. I kid you not. Anywho, this album has more of a stripped-down feel than his previous stuff, and as always it’s solid work. Having said that, my favorite song is probably “My Timing is Off“, a mellower tune. If you want harder-edged stuff, lend an ear to ‘Prizefighter” or “Tremendous Dynamite.”
  • “End Times” – This album centers around divorce and aging. I know, not exactly uplifting themes, huh? Having said that, my favorite song on the album is “Little Bird“, an achingly sad song about, well, a little bird . . . and another love lost.
  • “Tomorrow Morning” – This CD actually has a more uplifting feel to it, rare for my boy E. Let’s face it, optimistic he usually ain’t. For a sampling, give a listen to “Spectacular Girl” or “The Man.”
  • “Wonderful Glorious” – A lot like his previous offering, this album is a collection of harder songs, but ultimately more uplifting. I love “On the Ropes.”
  • “The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett” – This one immediately became an all-time favorite of mine upon its release. Just an amazing collection of songs, including the incredible “Where I’m At” and “Parallels.” Instant classic.

The Eels released a few other albums, including the live “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” and “Eels With Strings” as well as an E offshoot album “I Am the Messiah” that he recorded under the name MC Honky. That one was an experience in experimentation that needs to be heard to comprehend because I can‘t begin to describe it. Give a listen to “Like a Duck” for a crazy-ass sampling. There’s also a compilation CD called “Essential Eels – Meet the Eels” that I would pass on if I were you. Instead let me make a 4-CD Super Mix for ya.

You can click here to see the band’s official website. Also, there was BBC documentary about E and his father (E is huge in England) called “Parallel Worlds, Parallel Lives” that you can see a snippet of on YouTube.

Well, there you go. A little background on my favorite band of the 90’s, 00’s, and 10′s. I hope you learned a little and might just give The Eels a listen and a chance. As I mentioned, I will happily burn for anyone who asks an Eels Mix. I’m always eager to spread the word.

*Random Encounter: I was in Cleveland to catch The Eels at The Odeon, and I was cruising down the street in a cab that afternoon. Suddenly, a buddy of mine said, “Hey, is that him?” “Who?”, I wittily asked. “E”, he said. Well, it sure enough was. He was walking down the sidewalk, hoodie over his head, head down, all by his lonesome. I ordered the cab to stop, jumped out, and ran up to him, scaring the living hell out of him in the process (I can be just a little scary if you don‘t know my sparkling and engaging personality). After he realized I wasn’t a madman, we had a short and pleasant conversation. Again, a nice moment for me.

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As most of my regular readers know, I’m a huge Eels fan. I’ve written several mark-oliver-everett-eelsarticles about them, including Mark Oliver Everett: A Man Called E. I have to say it’s a must-read for anyone who likes The Eels or is merely curious about them. E is truly an amazing guy. I also had The Eels listed at #3 in my acclaimed All-Time Greatest Bands: My Top 10 blog, just below my beloved Beatles and R.E.M.

With this in mind, and after much deliberation and narrowing of my choices, I’ve whittled my list down to 10 songs. Click on the song title to give it a listen. You won’t be disappointed. Let us commence . . .

E’s Tune

A beautiful song that’s always struck a chord with me. The lyrics are both sad and hopeful. I love it and never get tired of hearing it.

Life’s just an ugly mess
The angry souls in such distress
Still there is a time when moments can be sweet
And it feels like someone’s smiling down on me . . .

Mr. E’s Beautiful Blues

This was actually a hidden track at the end of “Daisies of the Galaxy.” Probably E’s most well-known song, and I dare ya to resist the catchy melody.

The clown with the frown driving down to the sidewalk fair
Finger on the trigger let me tell you gave us quite a scare

Uh huh, God damn right it’s a beautiful day, uh huh.

Last Stop: This Town

Great, odd little song about dying and some other things. Very unique in it’s arrangement and sound. Classic E.

Why don’t we take a ride away up high through the neighbourhood?
Up over the billboards and the factories and smoke?
I’m gonna fly on down for the last stop to this town
I’m gonna fly on down and fly away on my way . . .

It’s a Motherf***er

Get past the title ya prudes, and appreciate this song for what it is –  a beautiful, hauntingly tragic song about lost love.

It’s a motherfucker
Getting through a Sunday
Talking to the walls
Just me again
But I won’t ever be the same
I won’t ever be the same . . .

Rock Hard Times

This song came along at a certain time in my life, and it felt like E was speaking for me. I still remember the first time I heard it. Great song, clearly written from the heart.

As if I cared ’bout the little minds
In the little heads of the herd
There’s nothing you could dream
Would be more absurd.
And everybody knows these are rock hard times.

You’ll Be The Scarecrow

This song is a message to a loved one, a message that E wants to convey before he passes away. Remember when Dorothy says to the Scarecrow at the end of The Wizard of Oz, “I think I’m going to miss you most of all”? That’s what the title refers to. Gorgeous song.

You were the special one
Something we shared
The one that I’ll miss the most
The one who cared

So when I come around for my goodbyes . . .
You’ll be the scarecrow.

 

Mistakes of My Youth

This song is a look back at one’s life and hoping it’s not too late to change. It’s incredibly touching and really hits home with me.

In the waning days ahead
I gotta look back down the road
I know that it’s not too late
All the stupid things I’ve said
And people I’ve hurt in my time
I hope it’s not my fate
To keep defeating my own self
And keep repeating yesterday
I can’t keep defeating myself
I can’t keep repeating
The mistakes of my youth . . .

Susan’s House

A narrative about a guy walking down the street and observing what all is around him – and much much more.

Going over to Susan’s house
Walking south down Baxter Street
Nothing hiding behind this picket fence
There’s a crazy old woman smashing bottles
On the sidewalk where her house burnt down two years ago
People say that back then she really wasn’t that crazy . . .

Souljacker, Part 1

Quite simply a song about killers. Pretty chilling lyrics actually, and it also happens to be a great rocker.

22 Miles of hard road
33 Years of tough luck
44 Skulls buried in the ground
Crawling down through the muck
Oh yeah . . .

Wooden Nickels

A pretty simple but lovely song about a lost love that never turned out the way it was supposed to. Who can’t relate to that?

And you may not think much of me now
But I think so damn much of you.

Don’t take any wooden nickels
When you sell your soul
A devil of a time awaits you
When the party’s over
You’re on your own . . .

Special mention must go to Novocaine for the Soul, Rags to Rags, Saturday Morning, Friendly Ghost, Fucker (not to be confused with It’s a Motherfucker), Let’s Ruin Julie’s Birthday, Lick Your Boots, Nowheresville, Little Bird, Ugly Love, and Where I’m Going.

Do yourself a favor and click on the links, man. Do it!

I read a quote today that got me to thinking, which is always a dangerous proposition. But we’ll get to the quote later . . .

Every once in awhile I’ll hear a student (or somebody else for that matter) say something along the lines of, “The Beatles were overrated,” or “The Beatles are for old people.” For the love of God, I once had a kid tell me that his dad told him that The Beatles were “the first boy band.” Sigh. I took a breath, counted to 10 and backed slowly away, muttering horrific and terrible things about said father.  Anyway, I usually just attribute such gibberish to the fact that people are ignorant or simply haven’t really listened. And I mean REALLY listened. For if you HAD listened, you’d know that almost all music we hear today was influenced in one way or the other by The Beatles. There is simply no denying that fact.

I could write a book on this, but I’ll simply argue that The Beatles advanced popular music more in their short lifespan (basically 1960 to 1970) than popular music has advanced since then (1970 to almost 2016). I’d be happy to debate this with you.

The music is the main thing. of course, but when you take into effect their influence and impact regarding style, album covers, and videos it’s a no-brainer. Yep, The Beatles are credited with making the first music video for “Rain” in 1966. Some say “Helter Skelter” was the first speed metal song as well. Hell, the guitar feedback at the beginning of “I Feel Fine” was a first, and they were also the first band to “sample” other artists. Their list of firsts is way too long to list here, but if you want to see them go to the website An Amazing List of Beatle Firsts. ‘Tis impressive indeed.

But on to the quote I mentioned earlier. I’m currently reading a book by Mark Oliver Everett, founder and creative genius behind The Eels. Today I came across this quote:

“Kids know what’s going on. They always respond to The Beatles, for instance. Doesn’t matter when they were born, they always seem to respond. Show me a kid who innately doesn’t like The Beatles and I’ll show you a bad seed.” 

That’s not only true, but it reminded me of my son Kip and something he told me when he was around 3-years old. We were in the car going somewhere and he asked me to put in a Beatles CD, which we often did. For some reason I asked him why he liked The Beatles and their music so much. His response?

“It makes me happy.”

Well, there ya go. In its simplicity, it was the perfect answer.

Bottom line? If you don’t like The Beatles please don’t tell me. I’ll just think horrible things about you, your judgement, your character, and your intelligence. And that’s not good.

What can I say? If you feel that way, it’s best just to let it be. And for those of you about to argue that The Beatles were overrated? Here ya go . . .

 

Early Mark Oliver Everett, now of The Eels.

Note: The Shoestring of the Day can be anything. Great lyrics, videos, movie scenes, photos, whatever fits the mood.  Today’s rock lyric comes from my man Mark Oliver Everett of The Eels.

Got a sky that looks like heaven

Got an earth that looks like shit

And it’s getting hard to tell where

What I am ends

And what they’re making me begins.

Climbing to the Moon” – The Eels (Mark Oliver Everett)