Mark Oliver Everett, a man called E, released Blinking Lights & Other Revelations in 2005 under his modern Eels moniker, receiving monstrously good reviews and universal praise for his troubles. The retrospective double album was followed up by the poignant 2007 autobiography Things The Grandchildren Should Know, earning its author equally widespread praise in literary circles.
So it’s funny, then, that with all that looking back he’s managed to bypass a fairly significant milestone: his first official LP release, 1985’s Bad Dude In Love. And what trouble it’s been to track it down! Nevertheless…
I sat with mouth agape as Bad Dude In Love started. Primarily because simply hearing it marked a triumph for myself and the legion of Eels fans who spent an abnormal amount of energy tracking it down, but also because the album itself is so…unexpected? But in a good way! With the same wealth of affection that Beatles fans listen to Please Please Me, I sat transfixed by the earliest product of Everett’s career. It’s not the powerhouse effort a polished career musician would create, but the raw materials are there and shine promisingly. Rough diamonds are still diamonds.
Okay, I confess: considering later recordings like the stunning Electro-Shock Blues (best album of the ’90s, by the way) and the modern rock smash “Novocaine For The Soul”, hearing BDIL was a pretty big curveball. The album shares a lot of qualities with Everett’s later early ’90s solo albums A Man Called E and Broken Toy Shop, but while those albums are more seasoned, Bad Dude In Love takes those pop-oriented hooks and goes certifiably ape-nuts by comparison. So for a long time I played catch-up to the idea of unmitigatedly poppy tracks like “Everybody’s Tryin’ To Bum Me Out” and “History Baby”. So wrought with chirpy melody and sometimes lurching between choruses, the songs could easily have collapsed into a small pile of silliness, yet damned if they didn’t prove to be durable, highly entertaining songs! And for every half-goofy track like “Bad Dude In Love”, there are sincere, touching songs like “Eunice”.
It’s been well demonstrated that Bad Dude In Love is no longer Everett’s idea of a good time. In a 2000 interview, Chris Sneidern, an acquaintance of Everett in 1994, said of the album, “The record to get, apparently, is the Mark Everett record, it’s called the Mark Everett something… ‘Cool Dude’ record or something. It’s one of those things that if you were to show it to him he’d flip, he’s apparently not comfortable with it.” In 2005 the album appeared for auction on eBay and was quickly pulled from the site. Granted, we can’t know Everett’s real attitude toward the album, nor do we know how the LP was pulled from auction, really, but the reviewer can be excused for thinking, while this is a fantastic release, it might be something worth keeping off the public radar when you’re trying to pump up your indie cred.
Everett’s love of Prince is apparent on Bad Dude In Love. There’s a great funky groove in most of the tracks, laden with keyboard and synth-tastic fun. Purple Rain had come out just the year before, and while BDIL lacks the million-dollar production resources of that album, it takes more than a passing swipe at its style. Less Prince-like but still inspired is the Elvis Presley cover “Burnin’ Love” which, without much effort, manages to best the King’s version by a mile. The album as a whole has a very positive, smiling outlook. The songs are almost all about girls, which makes sense coming from a 22-year old guy. There are a couple of Motown covers too. Given the time and place of recording (Falls Church, Virginia, 1985), it’s a great success and fits in very well.
Everett would soon leave for the West Coast and great success after a few years of trouble. His songwriting chops were honed and his musical vision would mature impressively. His American audience would grow but not keep pace with his international success. And whether he appreciates it now or not (and I suspect he does), it began with a pokey little album called Bad Dude In Love. There’s nothing I’ve heard in his most recent albums that I couldn’t find in some primitive form on BDIL.
And I mean that in the best way possible. I have the highest regard for this album both as a rare artifact and a most enjoyable listen.
Track by track:
- “Everybody’s Tryin’ To Bum Me Out”: Not an early version of the Eels’ “Flower”, as was previously suspected. Instead, a quasi-bluesy, chorus-reliant, blue collar anthem. A hell of a lot of fun, too, and dig that spiritual piano-driven resolution!
- “Gotta Get Out Tonight”: Everett grew up in northern Virginia, and his vocals show that sometimes. I don’t think it’s physically possible for me to pronounce “out” like that.
- “History Baby”: Lisa Germano and Butch aside, Everett’s never had much use for backup vocals, so it’s interesting to hear the Ever-ettes backing him up on most of these tracks. Veering toward schmaltzy, they still add a great element to an already full-to-bursting production.
- “Too Busy Thinking About My Baby”: A Marvin Gaye cover, the first of two Motown songs on Bad Dude In Love. Lacks the soaring pace of the original, but still charming.
- “Eunice”: My grandmother’s middle name was Eunice, so while the song is endlessly pleasant, my mind’s eye sabotages it for me personally. Still, it’s perhaps the best song on the album by a mile.
- “I Just Wanna Be With You”: A very touching piano-driven ballad, a niche Everett would corner on later albums. This is the most serene song on an otherwise overexcited album; a great respite.
- “Bad Dude In Love”: Okay, it should be pointed out that the album and its title track are firmly tongue-in-cheek. Any song with synth trumpets better be, or I take back all the nice things I said.
- “The Girl In My Neighborhood”: A cute, quirky crush song for the girl next door.
- “Burnin’ Love”: Every bit as cheesy as Elvis’s, but with more soul.
- “Ain’t Braggin'”: As close to R&B as Everett could get without covering more Motown. In severe need of Temptations-style back-up vocals, but very good. “She’s got the hips you’ll only find in magazines”–best line on BDIL.
- “I Can’t Get Next To You”: The second Motown cover. Bizarrely entertaining, with Everett taking on each vocal part himself and doing surprisingly well in the process.
Special note: Contact me if you have a copy of this album for sale. I’m in a buying mood.
Extra special note: Infinite thanks to Edgar and the crew at www.eels.nl, not to mention everyone else in the community that made this happen.