Summertime Blues (1958)

Eddie Cochran

Written by Eddie Cochran and Jerry Capehart
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Summertime Blues Eddie CochranWell, I’m gonna raise a fuss
I’m gonna raise a holler
About a working all summer
Just to try to earn a dollar
Well, time I called my baby
Try to get a date
My boss says, no dice son
You gotta work late

Sometimes I wonder
What I’m a gonna do
But there ain’t no cure
For the summertime blues

 

Eddie Cochrane’s original “Summertime Blues”

One thing you can count on. The performers from the 1950s and early 60s looked like Rock-N-Rollers. And they were so young when they reached stardom it’s surprising the guys needed to shave or the girls were old enough to carry purses.

Summertime Blues monumentEddie Cochrane, whose life was cut short at 21 in 1960, epitomized the rugged, yet well-dressed idea of a male music star. When he hit the stage and whaled on his guitar, though, watch out.

By the time “Summertime Blues” came out in 1958, young Eddie already had notched hits with “Skinny Jim,” “Drive In Show” and the spellbinding Rockabilly classic, “Twenty Flight Rock.” (Covered or played in concert by just about everyone.)

The Who’s legendary live cover of “Summertime Blues”

“Summertime Blues” ascends miles above Rockabilly without losing sight of its roots in that twangy, slangy music. The casual, off-the-beat hand-clapping, Cochran’s teen lamentation vocals, the jokey basso profundo tossed in as the “voice of adulthood” and the danceable, light-lick guitars and jumpy bass make it one of Rock’s founding tunes.

There’s nothing terribly deep in the song, but it captures the whipsawed feeling teenagers often have as they long to break loose from constraints often arbitrarily thrust upon them. Summer vacation isn’t really a vacation, the car is unavailable, the significant other wants to go have fun, you can’t vote, and you’re desperate. So…

Summertime Blues 45I’m gonna take two weeks
Gonna have a fine vacation
I’m gonna take my problem
To the United Nations
Well I called my congressman
And he said, whoa
I’d like to help you son
But you’re too young to vote

Sometimes I wonder
What I’m a gonna do
But there ain’t no cure
For the summertime blues

Summertime Blues EddieSharonCochran died in April of ’60, a bit more than a year after his friends Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens went down in the infamous plane crash in Iowa. His girlfriend, Sharon Sheeley (left with Eddie) and another teen heartthrob, Gene Vincent, were in a London taxi when it experienced a high-speed blowout. Sheeley had provided the handclaps for “Summertime Blues” and was a minor songwriting phenom for a while in the ’50s and early ’60s.

Sheeley and Vincent tell it that as the car careered out of control, Cochran threw himself across his lover girl, saving her, but getting thrown from the car in the process.

What would have happened to Cochran’s career is naturally a mystery, as it is for all the recording artists who headed for the big studio in the sky. But… If there’s a Rock-N-Roll heaven, you know they have a helluva band.

mangoids
  • The Who’s version on Live At Leeds is the definitive cover version of “Summertime Blues.” The song is made for their power chords, for Keith Moon’s drum attacks, and John Entwistle’s forehead-vein-popping bass-line. It is electrifying and sounds fresh as a cosmic daisy four decades later.
  • Blue Cheer, Rush and Springsteen all do terrific interpretations. Why country mainstreamer Alan Jackson attempted it will remain a mystery for time to unravel.

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