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
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Henry Marsh said he was rather 'pleased' at the nomination
booksHenry Marsh's 'Do No Harm' takes doctors off their pedestal
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'

tv
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne plays Stephen Hawking in new biopic The Imitation Game

'At times I thought he was me'

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
One Direction go Fourth: The boys pose on the cover of their new album Four

Review: One Direction, Four

music
Arts and Entertainment
'Game of Thrones' writer George RR Martin

Review: The World of Ice and Fire

books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Bean will play 'extraordinary hero' Inspector John Marlott in The Frankenstein Chronicles
tvHow long before he gets killed off?
Arts and Entertainment
Some like it hot: Blaise Bellville

music
Arts and Entertainment
A costume worn by model Kate Moss for the 2013 photograph

art
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Len Goodman appeared to mutter the F-word after Simon Webbe's Strictly performance

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T makes his long-awaited return to the London stage
musicReview: Alexandra Palace, London
Arts and Entertainment
S Club 7 back in 2001 when they also supported 'Children in Need'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth rejoins Tess Daly to host the Strictly Come Dancing Children in Need special
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan plays Christian Grey getting ready for work

Film More romcom than S&M

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

Review: The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
The comedian Daniel O'Reilly appeared contrite on BBC Newsnight last night

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
The American stand-up Tig Notaro, who performed topless this week

Comedy...to show her mastectomy scars

Arts and Entertainment

TVNetflix gets cryptic

Arts and Entertainment
Claudia Winkleman is having another week off Strictly to care for her daughter
TV
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Children in Need is the BBC's UK charity. Since 1980 it has raised over £600 million to change the lives of disabled children and young people in the UK

TV review A moving film showing kids too busy to enjoy their youth

Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his winning novel

Books Not even a Man Booker prize could save Richard Flanagan from a nomination

Latest stories from i100
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.

    Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

    Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

    Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
    Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

    The last Christians in Iraq

    After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
    Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Britain braced for Black Friday
    Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

    From America's dad to date-rape drugs

    Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

    The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
    Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
    Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

    Flogging vlogging

    First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

    US channels wage comedy star wars
    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

    When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
    Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

    Look what's mushrooming now!

    Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
    Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

    More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

    The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

    Oeuf quake

    Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
    Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

    Terry Venables column

    Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
    Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

    Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

    Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin