This is the second installation of this series, in which great songwriters tell us the songs by other songwriters that they consider truly great.
Our first installation featured Randy Newman, whose song of choice was a Neil Young song, “The Needle and the Damage Done.” (You can read that here.)
For part 2, we turn to E of the Eels, who has chosen a Randy Newman song, “Marie.” The symmetry of this is comforting, especially in these asymmetrical times.
E, aka Mark Oliver Everett, has been writing great and singular songs as The Eels since 1995. Recently his newest Eels album has emerged, Earth To Dora, the title song of which follows all of the following.
E on “Marie,” by Randy Newman.
E: “I heard it the other day and fell into a deep depression because I know I could never write something like that. To me it’s a perfect song; it is so incredibly moving. It’s got that part, “You’re a flower, you’re a river, you’re a rainbow,” which, in any other song, would make me puke. But this is one of Randy’s untrustworthy narrators, and it works because he’s abusive and closed off. But you don’t doubt his love. And this is how he would say it.
It completely brings you into the world of that character because Randy becomes this person completely it’s absolutely amazing writing.
The melody is gorgeous and the arrangement – which, surprisingly – is not by Randy but by Nick DeCaro – is beautiful. The way the strings build up on the peak moments of the song. It’s quite simple but it’s also complex because of what the character can’t put into words.
It kills me every time I hear it, and it gives me goosebumps, which is the goal.
It’s the kind of song with lines like, “You looked like a princess the night we met/with your hair piled up high, I could never forget…” Lines that could be hilarious, but in this context they are very serious. They bring you deep into that world. Yet you accept it at face value. It’s definitely the kind of song that I aspire to write, though I don’t imagine I ever could. If I did I’d probably just retire.”