Things the Grandchildren Should Know, By Mark Oliver Everett

Rock'n'roll: not exactly quantum mechanics, is it? For Mark Oliver Everett, front man and mastermind of the ever-changing ensemble known as The Eels, this may well not be the case. "E" is the son of the late physicist Hugh Everett, originator of the "many worlds" theory of quantum physics, a reclusive genius who died when E was 19. His death commenced the cycle of deaths which form the staging-posts which, as much as the common markers of albums recorded, tours performed and band members arriving and leaving, create the milestones of the personal history recounted drily and wittily in this somewhat unusual musical autobiography.

Rock autobiogs have been thick on the ground over the past year or two, what with Slash (oceans of vodka, mountains of heroin, bandmates from hell), Ronnie Wood (cheeky-chappie anecdotage, self-deprecating braggadocio), Eric Clapton (if this doesn't give you the blues, nothing will) and The Police's Andy Summers (a thoughtful account of a never-ending musical education). Everett's, however, is in a different class from his fellow guitar-stranglers', partly because he became an indie cult hero rather than a global superstar, and partly because his unique sensibility is as apparent in his prose as in his music.

On the face of it, his story conforms to a standard rockbiz archetype. Introverted teenage misfit catches music bug, moves to Big City (Los Angeles), works series of stultifying jobs for several years while stockpiling demo tapes, claws his way to his first record deal by dint of luck and persistence. Then he bounces from record company to record company, overcoming corporate scepticism, gradually garnering critical acclaim and commercial success while making as few concessions as he can to marketing departments and mass media, eventually welcomed as a peer by such members of rock's awkward squad as Tom Waits, Van Morrison and Neil Young.

So far, so normal. Yet here was a kid whose family was so dysfunctional that when he was 10, his favourite music was John Lennon's scarifying first solo album. The first to discover his father's corpse, he loses everybody close to him: his scatty, alcoholic mother dies as the first Eels album, Beautiful Freak, is about to be released. As time passes, he loses his beloved, troubled sister (as affected by their parental difficulties, but without the artistic outlet into which E channelled his turmoil), the band's trusted road manager and, weirdest of all, an air-stewardess cousin and her similarly-employed husband, both serving on one of the planes hijacked on 9/11.

"Just living another day," he writes, "has always felt like some kind of success to me." He knows that he was not created in God's image "unless God is a hairy ectomorph with bad posture". Even the title of this book – shared with an Eels song – is mordant: E is unmarried and childless. "I'm gonna go straight to grandchildren," he tells an interviewer. "With grandchildren, you just see them on the weekend. Then you get the rest of the week to yourself." This book isn't just for devotees. Even those unfamiliar with, or indifferent to, Everett's work will still vicariously enjoy meeting him, and getting sorted for Eels and wit.

Charles Shaar Murray's books include 'Crosstown Traffic' (Faber)

Little, Brown £14.99 (228pp) £13.49 (free p&p) from 0870 079 8897

Arts and Entertainment
Blackman: Landscape of children’s literature does not reflect the cultural diversity of young people
booksMalorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
'Eminem's recovery from substance abuse has made him a more potent performer, with physical charisma and energy he never had before'
musicReview: Wembley Stadium ***
Arts and Entertainment
‘Dawn of Planet of the Apes’ also looks set for success in the Chinese market

film
News
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight

tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face

books
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from How To Train Your Dragon 2

Review: Imaginative storytelling returns with vigour

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland and Jena Malone in Mockinjay: Part 1

film
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
A waxwork of Jane Austen has been unveiled at The Jane Austen Centre in Bath

books
Arts and Entertainment
Britney Spears has been caught singing without Auto-Tune

music
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips

music
Arts and Entertainment
Gay icons: Sesame Street's Bert (right) and Ernie

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Robin Thicke and actress Paula Patton

music
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be shot in the same studios as the Harry Potter films

books
Arts and Entertainment
Duncan Bannatyne left school at 15 and was still penniless at 29

Bannatyne leaves Dragon's Den

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The French economist Thomas Piketty wrote that global inequality has worsened

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck plays a despondent Nick Dunne in David Fincher's 'Gone Girl'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty (L) and Carl Barât look at the scene as people begin to be crushed

music
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

    How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

    A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
    The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

    The evolution of Andy Serkis

    First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

    Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
    Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

    Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

    Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
    Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

    Blackest is the new black

    Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
    Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

    Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

    From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
    Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
    Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

    Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

    The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
    Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

    Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

    The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

    Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

    Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

    Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

    The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
    The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

    The Open 2014

    Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?