Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Grumpy Old Men Songs #2: Things The Grandchildren Should Know

Mark 'E' Everett is only 9 years older than me, so not especially an old man... but grumpy, he's been doing an excellent job at for years. He's got plenty of good reasons for that, as revealed in his autobiography 'Things The Grandchildren Should Know', which I wrote about almost ten years ago on a blog long since shut down. I still have the keys though, so here's my review of that book from ten years past...

Things The Grandchildren Should Know is the most honest and touching and human rockstar autobiography I've ever read. But then I didn't really expect anything else from Mark 'E' Everett of the Eels (curiously, after many years avoiding the definite article when naming this band, I find Everett himself has no such qualms), a songwriter who's made a career out of refusing to compromise or play the record company game.

Beyond his maverick career, Everett's life is fascinating for a number of reasons. As chronicled in a recent BBC documentary, his father, Hugh Everett III, was the scientist who developed the many worlds theory of quantum physics... he's basically the chap who came up with parallel realities. Unfortunately, Everett Senior's theories were largely discounted in his own lifetime and have only been taken seriously in the years since his death. 

Then there's the tragedy. E's life is full of it. From finding his father dead and seeing a plane crash in the street outside his house... to his sister's suicide on the verge of the Eels first world tour... to his mother's subsequent death from cancer... to the death of his cousin and her husband, flight attendants on one of the planes that hit the Pentagon on 9/11. 

Despite all this, the tone of Things The Grandchildren... is resolutely positive. Yes, E shares with us the darkest moments of his life, and the bitterness and anger he feels over the way he's often been mistreated by the music industry machine, but this doesn't ever come across as whiney or self-pitying. He's completely aware that despite all the negative moments in his life, he's also been lucky enough to make a living doing something he loves - writing and performing music. 

There's a recurring theme to the Eels' music that I've mentioned before on this blog. It's about finding the positive in even life's darkest moments, and it crops up again and again in songs like 'Mr. E's Beautiful Blues', 'Hey Man, Now You're Really Living' and 'Rotten World Blues'. After reading Mark Oliver Everett's story, I think it's fair to say this sentiment - like everything else in E's art - comes straight from the heart. 

I reckon all this makes E the sweetest Grumpy Old Man you could ever hope to meet, and that's perfectly encapsulated in this song, the "theme tune" to his life story...

2. Eels - Things The Grandchildren Should Know

I'm turning out just like my father
Though I swore I never would
Now I can say that I have love for him
I never really understood
What it must have been like for him
Living inside his head
I feel like he's here with me now
Even though he's dead

Eels have a new album out this week which I'm enjoying very much and I'll no doubt write about in more detail soon. Here's the single in case you haven't heard it.


  1. It is a great book, isn't it? - good to read your excellent review too. To be so un-self-pitying and yet to have lived through all the tragedy he has was really inspiring. I hadn't heard the new single so thanks - classic, timeless Eels. Not sure I'd buy any more by them now but was glad I saw them twice and found the live performances and his charisma on stage to be incredibly special.

  2. You know how everyone is suing each other because they may or may not have stolen a note or two from an old song? Well, I’m a forgiving person. Having just heard the single, I’m not going to take E to court for swiping my life’s story. This one hits home. I saw the eels open for Lush in the spring of 1996. That feels like two lifetimes ago.


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