Sidebar From Record Collector, March 2001


In early 1975, the Electric Eels were dumped out of bathtubs full of amniotic fluid onto a filthy, cold practice-loft floor in a 6th Street warehouse in downtown Cleveland,Ohio. We'd been through the cycle before, since 1972 — born, died and revived enough times to know precisely how to jolt the monster to its feet again. But what about the brain? Was something wrong with it!? Wasn't it becoming obvious that something had to change?

We'd demonstrated for years that we really weren't a 'band' in any sense of a conventional understanding of the term, performing only on the rarest of occasions (preferring to put in as many non-appearances as possible); and when the Eels did play out, it was with differing line-ups — at new venues more unappreciating than the last.

Friends are telling us we're too conceptual, too dada — that we're only growing more fluent in some secret language of Siamese triplets — that we make little sense outside the band. We're hurting our chances (huh?). And so shouldn't we maybe think about changing? If this will be the year of the final performance of the Eels — if it's the last opportunity to record our songs — if we're about to go into the last months of rehearsals before our own untimely demise! — well then shouldn't we finally try to communicate lucidly with an outside world!? Fuck no! — fuck them, who the fuck do they think we are ... Pere Ubu!????

And so, one more time, we struggle to our feet and rise from the birthing stew like a flesh and bone tripod pushing one leg against the other until each of us can make his own way shakily to the Jack Black and Rolling Rock oasis. Ater a few fortifying drinks, we hug. And then near-weeping with that good old-fashioned Eel sentimentality — we will the band to live again! — as it was — as it will forever be.

The electricity comes on — we're the Electric Eels — "wall of sound" chords, surf riffs, big hooks, dance beat — a singles band! But goddamnit — where are the ears!?

I remember this fake juke box label Davy had printed up before we broke up. Was it mere illusion, a half joke, a half hope? — maybe the time was right for us to have a 45 in rotation, huh? No way! Who we kiddin'? — we three kings of irony were — and I mean the weighty, sad shit, not like what passes today.

Guess I'm still mildly fucked-up about it. Where were the ears? Waitin' to have their asses kissed — that's where. By my count more than 12 Eels hit singles got fly-dumped onto postumously released vinyl lps or full-length cds that shoulda rightfully been first packed into Wurlitzers in the 1970s alongside "Angie", "Young Americans" and "Don't Rock the Boat"!

Brian McMahon