Obscure document shines a light on one of Rock’s true pioneers
Eddie Cochran was one of the most unique singer/guitarists of his generation, whose talent seemed to stretch way beyond his years, and a musician who perhaps could claim the title as having single-handedly invented heavy-rock, long before Pete Townsend and Jimmy Page came along. So it’s little wonder that his music proved to be more of a winner in England than in his native America. Jimi Hendrix was also a fan, probably owing to the fact that Cochran wasn’t merely your everyday run of the mill rock musician, but someone who could play the blues, and do a damn fine job of it too.
Eddie Cochran On The Air was first issued in 1972, capturing the guitarist at his rawest and most personable. Taken from live recordings made for the British Television Programme “Boy Meets Girls,” transmitted in January & February 1960, On The Air offers a tremendous window into an era that no longer exists – a period when rock music must have seemed confusing for a generation of parents who had lived through the depression and the horror of the Second World War.
After an introduction by singer Marty Wilde (father of Kim Wilde), Cochran pulls out the stops with an exciting medley of “Hallelujah! I Love Her So”, “C’mon Everybody” and “Somethin’ Else.” He sprints his way through a spirited “Twenty Flight Rock,” wins a few teenage hearts on “Honey Money” and ballad “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You,” before breaking them on “I Don’t Love You No More.”
Apart from Cochran’s musicianship alone, what is also impressive is the sheer variety of musical styles he was capable of performing, whether it be Ray Charles or Chuck Berry. And speaking of Berry, Cochran manages to create a storm (with some help from Gene Vincent) on “Sweet Little Sixteen” and the absolutely cooking “White Lightnin’,” throughout which both guitarists sound like a primitive precursor to Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood.
A superlative rendition of “Summertime Blues” is immediately followed by an energetic reading of old blues standard “Milk Cow Blues,” throughout which the teenage wet-panty crew are definitely in full force, screaming throughout and after every song.
The second side is perhaps less engaging, having been taken from an American radio interview taped in 1957 when Cochran was still only in his late teens, playing several of his teenybopper hits in between. If anything, what it highlights is the difference between the US and UK. In America rock musicians had to be seen as being nice and family friendly, whereas in England, Cochran could clearly be himself and let it rip, without any affectation or pretence. But tragically the nation which loved him was also what killed him. In April 1960, Cochran died in a road accident after having just performed at Bristol’s Hippodrome Theatre.
Eddie Cochran’s death was a great loss, perhaps even greater than Buddy Holly’s (who also perished under tragic circumstances). But at least his music lives on, and celebrated the world over. On The Air provides a precious snapshot of a time when Beatlemania was still a few years away, and music was heard through transistor radios and watched on black and white TV.