For someone who died at the tender age of 21, Eddie Cochran’s contribution to rock ‘n’ roll was considerable. Born on October 3, 1938, by the age of 14 Cochran was already playing in local C&W groups after the family moved to Los Angeles. But after seeing Elvis Presley perform, he quickly decided to switch directions, incorporating the newly emerging rockabilly style in his playing. After releasing first single, “Skinny Jim”, he soon signed to Liberty Records and even made a cameo appearance in the film The Girl Can’t Help It (apparently the producers wanted Elvis but couldn’t afford him), on which he performed the self penned “Twenty Flight Rock”. Clearly, Cochran possessed too much talent to fail, and by the late ‘50s had become an international star, thanks predominately to the million selling teenage opera of “Summertime Blues” (often covered by The Who), the very song which opens this excellent 40 song compendium, issued in 2005, which includes all his classic numbers, along with obscure rarities and even demos.
Apart from the afore mentioned songs, we have the proto-hard-rock of “Somethin’ Else”, the endearing “Three Steps To Heaven”, “Three Stars” (dedicated to Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and Big Bopper, who perished in a plane crash), and ballad “Sittin’ On The Balcony”. Cochran was also a great interpreter of other people’s material, most notably Chuck Berry’s “Cut Across Shorty”, “Long Tall Sally”, a raucous “Blue Suede Shoes” and an inspired “Hallelujah, I Love Her So” (by Ray Charles).
The sheer diversity of Cochran’s material is truly quite staggering for a musician so young (many of these tunes were recorded when he was still in his late teens). And if one considers that he either wrote or co-wrote the majority of what’s presented here makes it even more incredible.
“C’mon Everybody” is a bonafide classic, as is “Nervous Breakdown” (containing some hilarious lyrics), and the energetic “Jeanie, Jeanie, Jeanie” (covered by The Stray Cats). Although the compilation does contain its fair share of songs that are unlikely to appeal to many teenagers today (most of whom have probably never heard of Cochran anyway). Tunes such as “Lonely”, “Am I Blue” and “Cherished Memories” are just downright daggy, but then in the ‘50s rock ‘n’ roll had no specific formula to speak of, so just about any style was up for grabs, be it country, doo wop, R&B, or blues. And speaking of blues, Cochran’s cover of “Milk Cow Blues” is superb, proving he had indeed the ability and instinct to perform that particular art form had he have chosen to pursue it. The only complaint one could make is the omission of “Eddie’s Blues”, an instrumental it could be argued was a precursor to heavy metal.
Tragically, Cochran was killed in a car accident on April 17, 1960, in London, after a successful tour with Gene Vincent (who was also in the same vehicle). Putting an end to one of rock ‘n’ roll’s most unique and promising of talents.
One could easily imagine Eddie Cochran, who would have still been young enough by the late ‘60s, performing at Woodstock, or jamming with The Who – or perhaps even Hendrix, who was also a fan. Unfortunately we’ll never know. Perhaps he may have given up music completely and moved back to live in Minnesota, where he was born, or gone on to become a famous studio engineer. The only fact we can be sure of, is that Cochran’s legacy remains one of the most important and influential out of all the early rock ‘n’ rollers. A musician who pioneered recording techniques (as limited as they were in those days), in particular the use of guitar and vocal overdubs, something uncommon until a few years later as studio technology developed and improved.
The Best Of Eddie Cochran is essential listening for not only long time fans (the remastering is excellent by the way), but also for newcomers. No rock collection would be complete without it.