Saturday, April 17, 2010


A whole frightening half century has passed since the death of Eddie Cochran on April 17th 1960. And if anyone disputes that Eddie wasn’t a primary founding father of punk, it’s pistols at dawn, pilgrim. Back in 1974 I wrote the following for the NME…

“EDDIE COCHRAN'S death on the Easter weekend, 1960, had all the hallmarks of a perfect legend. A car speeding through the night between dates on his extended British tour... in the back of the car, Gene Vincent sprawled unconscious ... in the front, Cochran, Sharon Sheeley – the shadowy earth-mother of early sixties rock who not only hung out with the stars, but also made sure that she co-wrote songs with them – and the chauffeur, sitting side by side. Just outside of Bristol, a front tire blew on the limousine and it spun into a lamppost. Vincent was jerked out of the back seat and broke his collarbone. Sharon Sheeley and the driver were unhurt – but Cochran apparently went through the windscreen. He was seemingly badly injured but alive when the ambulance came. On arrival at the hospital, however, he was dead.”

I went on…

"COCHRAN'S LYRICS alone could single him out as one of the great innovators of rock and roll – they caused one critic, whose name I forget, to dub him "The White Chuck Berry". Of all the early rockers it was really only Berry and Cochran who were able to inject some kind of coherent social realism into their lyrics – simple consumer stuff... the problems of getting laid, not getting laid, being broke or having wheels. It may not have been terribly significant but it was far in advance of much of the nursery rhyme jive that had gone before. Where Chuck Berry's song had a cultural base among urban blacks, Cochran’s were solidly small town, white and teenage. He could not get no satisfaction. He dad wouldn't let him use the car. His folks were heavy on him having a party – and when he finally got round to feeling up some little yummy in the back seat of the family Galaxie, the cops came by to shine flashlights on him. Easy for any young male suffering from acne and puberty instantly to identify with the Cochran persona. His recording technique was adventurous and unorthodox for the period. He rejected the idea of full back-up band and worked, as a rule, with just his bass player, Connie Smith. The drum sound was frequently improvised – he was particularly fond of over-amplified shoe-boxes and tambourines. With a satisfactory rhythm track down he would then push the primitive equipment for the time to its limits by overdubbing as many guitar multiples as would hold up. After that, he'd put on the vocals. To achieve this on a fifties stereo machine that makes the present-day home Revox looked like something out of NASA, was no mean feat.” (Click here for the whole thing posted on Rock’s Back Pages Yahoo Music Blog, if you can be bothered because it be complicated. When you get to RBP, hit the purple Y-Music button. Then hit “blogs.” Then hit “all blogs”, and then scroll down the list until you see mine.)

Click here for Keith Richards saying it all
Click here for Eddie
Click here for mo’ Eddie (check the guitar solo.)
Click here for Eddie’s Blues
Click here for Heinz (and Joe Meek)

(Thanks to HCB)

The secret word is Legend


hcb said...

Berry and Cochran both probably pulled some of their lyrical cleverness and social perspective from Leiber and Stoller, don't you think? They weren't rockers in the performance sense, but it's a short hop from Yakety Yak and Charlie Brown to Summertime Blues.

hcb said...

So I finish writing the above, turn on the tube and see Elvis doing a little hula dance before being tortured by mama Angela Landsbury in an oedipal scene hardly a half beat (and one year)away from Manchurian Candidate.

A strange notion in the film, Elvis being presented as a rich chip off the old block, trying to make his own way away from his Thurston Howell heritage.

A chamber of commerce upper-crust woman in Memphis once admitted to me, in a van full of Australian journalists, that the snoots hated, and continued to hate, Elvis for being so important to tourism and such a huge part of the city's profile. Once white trash, always white trash. She hadn't lost her sneer.