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Eddie Cochran

The saviour and an essential extension to the mid-to-late-50s rockabilly fad, or shamefully ignored by some so-called pop historians (a most recent BBC Four TV documentary “Kings of Rock and Roll” in May 2013 overlooked him entirely), the iconic sharp-dressed man EDDIE COCHRAN was a shining light of the genre, and its most promising star. Had he lived beyond his untimely car crash death in April 1960 (aged only 21), who knows what the James Dean of Rock & Roll might’ve achieved. Still, there can be no denying the class of rebellious teenage anthems such as `Summertime Blues’, `C’mon Everybody’ and `Somethin’ Else’.
Born Ray Edward Cochran, October 3, 1938, in Albert Lea, Minnesota, the young “Eddie” later moved with his Irish parents to Bell Gardens, Los Angeles, in 1951. Four years later, the self-taught guitarist formed The Cochran Brothers, with his older hillbilly friend and future C&W/Nashville songwriter, Hank Cochran (no relation); the pair soon secured a deal with Ekko Records, releasing a trio of 78s: `Two Blue Singin’ Stars’, `Your Tomorrows Never Come’ and `Tired And Sleepy’; seasoned songsmith Jerry Capehart would lead out the duo in early 1956, although their one-and-only platter together: `Walkin’ Stick Boogie’, failed to generate much interest. When Hank bailed, and Capehart became Eddie’s new writing partner (and later manager), things looked promising for 17-year-old Eddie.
Although their first collaboration `Skinny Jim’ flopped for Crest Records, Capehart negotiated a deal with Liberty Records, who, in turn, released COCHRAN’s major label debut, `Sittin’ In The Balcony’. Boosted by a cameo role in the rock’n’roll movie, The Girl Can’t Help It (performing non-hit, `Twenty Flight Rock’), the single became a Top 20 breakthrough in the spring of ‘57. After a couple of other chart flops (`One Kiss’ and `Teresa’) and a few minor hits (`Drive In Show’ and `Jeannie Jeannie Jeannie’), it began to look as if success might pass by the young COCHRAN. Highlighting all of the above, the lad’s only LP issued during his lifetime, SINGIN’ TO MY BABY (1957) {*6}, also registered relatively poor sales; although re-promoted just a few months after his death, it dented the UK Top 20. A second movie vehicle, Untamed Youth, also showcased Eddie, this time he sang `Cottonpicker’.
Scribed with Capehart and originally intended as the flipside to `Love Again’, COCHRAN finally hit pay-dirt and the Top 10 (UK Top 20) with `Summertime Blues’, a lip-curling, deceptively simple, all-time classic, which introduced the leather-clad, rebellious rocker to hordes of screaming female fans. Rock’n’roll’s answer to the ill-fated James Dean, the kid Eddie eventually followed up with two further attitude-stoked nuggets, `C’mon Everybody’ and the Sharon Sheeley/Bob Cochran-penned `Somethin’ Else’ (Sharon was his girlfriend, Bob his brother); twenty years on, a SID VICIOUS-fronted SEX PISTOLS, resurrected both hits in appropriately snotty punk style.
In the interim ’58-’59 period, COCHRAN took part in the Alan Freed/Hal Roach rock’n’roll flick, Go, Johnny Go!, although he had to withdraw from a winter tour alongside his famous friend, BUDDY HOLLY. The tour in question was the ill-fated jaunt that claimed the lives of not just Buddy, but RITCHIE VALENS and the BIG BOPPER; all three tragically dying when their plane crashed on February 3, 1959.
Early the following year, on the strength of his newfound UK success with `Hallelujah, I Love Her So’ (he was now a bigger star in Old Blighty than he was in the States!), Eddie toured around England with co-headliner, GENE VINCENT. Having accepted an extension to stay for further shows, he invited aforementioned girlfriend Sharon to come over for her birthday. However, on April 17, 1960, Eddie, Sharon and Gene were involved in a serious car crash, when their speeding taxi skidded off the road in Chippenham and into a lamp post. While his friends suffered a few broken bones, EDDIE COCHRAN died several hours later in St. Martin’s Hospital, Bath.
A month on, the poignantly titled `Three Steps To Heaven’ (penned by his brother Bob) hit the top of the British charts, while being criminally ignored in his native America. A plethora of material was posthumously issued, most selling well enough to again hit the UK charts; nearly four decades on, his best songs still retain a primal power which successive generations of musicians have strived to capture. For a round-up of all his best numbers, 2008’s THE VERY BEST OF EDDIE COCHRAN {*9}, should compensate anyone who missed out on his classic singles. A true legend, he was finally inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.
© MC Strong 1994-2008/GRD-LCS / rev-up MCS May2013

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