On my radar: Mark Oliver Everett’s cultural highlights

The Eels frontman on a biography of Vampira, a Pixar triumph and the glory of Bobbie Gentry

Singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Mark Oliver Everett, 58, is the frontman of alternative rock band Eels and is also known by the stage name E. Since 1996, Eels have released 13 studio albums including the acclaimed Beautiful Freak, Electro-Shock Blues and Blinking Lights and Other Revelations. Eels won best international breakthrough act at the 1998 Brit awards, while a 2007 BBC documentary about Everett and his father, physicist Hugh Everett III, won a Royal Television Society award. He lives in Los Angeles. The new Eels album, Extreme Witchcraft, will be released on 28 January and they tour the UK from March.

Glamour Ghoul: The Passions and Pain of the Real Vampira, Maila Nurmi, by Sandra Niemi

1. Book

Glamour Ghoul: The Passions and Pain of the Real Vampira, Maila Nurmi by Sandra Nurmi

I really like biographies, because I’m interested in the possibilities of human life and what people have been through. I stumbled upon this book about the first American TV horror host, Vampira – she was portrayed in the Tim Burton film Ed Wood. It was written by her niece and it’s fascinating and full of jaw-dropping moments. For example, she ends up getting pregnant with Orson Welles’s child, but never tells him and gives the child up for adoption. The child had no idea his father was Welles until Vampira’s niece contacted him as a 50- or 60-year-old.

2. Documentary

Get Back (Disney+)

The Beatles in the studio.
The Beatles in the studio. Photograph: TCD/Prod.DB/Alamy

I was very sceptical about this, from all the hype around it – I am an extreme Beatles nerd. There is nothing I know more about than the Beatles and I just thought this was going to be a glossing over of history. I’m happy to say that Peter Jackson proved me completely wrong – it’s incredible. I don’t know how no one else thought to do this for 50 years. It was really interesting to me just how sweet and agreeable John Lennon was through the whole thing. And, of course, when Ringo admits to farting, that’s a highlight.

3. Movie

Coco (Pixar, 2017)

A scene from Coco.
A scene from Coco. Photograph: Pixar/Disney/Allstar

One of the great things about the Get Back documentary was, as a father of a four-year-old, I was excited that there was finally something on Disney+ for Dad to watch. One of the other things I discovered there was the movie Coco, which I was late coming to. I’ve now seen it probably 100 times with my son and I’m still not sick of it. It’s particularly in my wheelhouse because it’s about life and death and manages to connect the two in a beautiful, really moving way. I honestly think it’s one of the best movies ever made.

4. YouTube

Brittany Howard NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert

Watch Brittany Howard’s Tiny Desk Concert.

I was aware of Brittany Howard’s music and I liked her songs that I’d heard. And then I stumbled upon her Tiny Desk Concert and it’s stunning. It’s as good as music gets, in my book. You’ve got to watch this and listen to the first song, Stay High – it’s an amazing, spine-tingling performance. It’s got that unspeakable magic: it’s gospel-like, super soulful and what it’s saying is a beautiful sentiment, said in a way that no one’s really said before.

5. Graphic novel

The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist by Adrian Tomine

Panels from The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist by Adrian Tomine.
Panels from The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist by Adrian Tomine. Photograph: Adrian Tomine/Drawn & Quarterly

Graphic novels were a huge influence on me in the early days of the Eels. This is a really beautiful autobiographical book and it’s simultaneously really funny and cringeworthy because Tomine depicts a lot of embarrassing stories about himself. He’s very open and honest, and it also has some really moving parts and will probably make you cry at some point. My favourite genre: funny and heartbreaking. He’s really great at being completely honest about being an artist, to having some renown and navigating people knowing who he is or not knowing him.

6. Box set

The Girl from Chickasaw County: The Complete Capitol Masters by Bobbie Gentry

Bobbie Gentry.
Bobbie Gentry. Photograph: Pictorial Press Ltd/Alamy

Bobbie Gentry is an amazing, somewhat unsung artist. This box set has all seven of her albums – the last one was in 1971 – plus tons of unreleased stuff. She is one of the few people who said: “I’m going to go away” and meant it. She really knew what she was doing in every area: singing, songwriting, choreography. She was often producing her music but didn’t get credit for it. I think the reason she quit and disappeared was because she was a woman who wasn’t being taken seriously in the music industry. She probably just got fed up with it and said: “Nah, I don’t need this.”


Kathryn Bromwich

The GuardianTramp

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