Anatomy of a Song: Mark Oliver Everett, aka E of EELS, on “Last Stop: This Town”
EELS-Royal Albert Hall Concert Film and Live Album Out now via E Works/[PIAS]
Jul 16, 2015
A song is a chance overlapping of countless variables in an artist's life. Anatomy of a Song is a place where those variables can be dissected and examined. In this edition, Mark Oliver Everett, aka E of EELS, discusses the track "Last Stop: This Town." The song first appeared on EELS' 1998 released second album Electro-Shock Blues, but it's also featured on the band's new live album and film, EELS—Royal Albert Hall, which is out now via E Works and [PIAS]. Read on as Everett writes about how "Last Stop: This Town" was inspired by the passing of his sister.
"Last Stop: This Town" was originally on the EELS' Electro-Shock Blues album. We resurrected it on our 2014 tour and now it's part of our new Royal Albert Hall film and album. It's a tricky thing revisiting songs from that Electro-Shock Blues. I'm not always in the mood to go back to that part of my life, but playing this song last year felt good. It didn't feel mournful. It was healing.
It was written just after I'd returned from my sister's funeral in Hawaii. I lived in this weird little house in Echo Park, and my landlady, a very old woman named Francis, lived right next door. I had told her I was leaving town for a few days, but I didn't say anything about my sister dying or why I was going on the trip.
The day I returned, Francis saw me getting out of the taxi in front of my house and she came over to my door immediately after I'd walked in. "Um, E... I don't know if you know this about me, but I see apparitions." I didn't know this.
"And I thought you should know that while you were gone I saw a young woman walk into your house."
Initially this frightened me. Francis had no idea my sister had just committed suicide and she's telling me she saw the ghost of a young woman walk into my house. In an effort to get to sleep and feel less spooked that night I imagined that it was my sister coming by for a friendly goodbye, that it wasn't something to think of as scary. That my sister and I had a real connection and it didn't have to end. That I could still feel that connection by singing about her and from her point of view. And that I could give her an artistic voice and let people know what it was like for her. It worked. I wasn't spooked any more. I was inspired. Just thinking about it now gives me goosebumps.
We made a song about my sister stopping by to say goodbye, and I still like the song. The version we do on the Royal Albert Hall album is very different to the original version, but the bones of the song are still there. My sister's bones.
[A more detailed account of this and other tales can be found in Everett's book Things the Grandchildren Should Know.]
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