"Gonna Raise a Fuss. . ."
Anyone who ever had to work on a sunny day in the middle of the summer knows the anguish of "Summertime Blues," Eddie Cochran's rock evergreen. The young man just wants to have fun, but life keeps getting in the way—his boss tells him he's got to work late, then his parents aren't happy because he skipped out on work, and when he appeals to his congressman for help, the wise elder says, "I'd like to help you son, but you're too young to vote."
Written by Cochran and his manager Jerry Capehart, the tune took off like wildfire shortly after it was released, in early June 1958. "There had been a lot of songs about summer, but none about the hardships of summer," Capehart told Rolling Stone, adding that the duo knocked the tune out in forty-five minutes the night before it was recorded. The recording helped establish Cochran as a leader of the hard-rocking wing of rockabilly, and stands as an early example of the crafty use of multitracking: Cochran doubled both the acoustic and electric guitars for a thicker sound than was common at the time. Also notable is the presence of Earl Palmer, the great New Orleans session drummer, whose easygoing pulse makes the tune crackle and jump. Though "Summertime Blues" has been covered endlessly, most notably by the Who and Blue Cheer, nobody has improved upon the snap of the original.
The song reached number 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart in late September 1958, and though Cochran had subsequent hits, the singer and guitarist from Minnesota didn't reach his full potential: He was killed at age twenty-one in a car accident while touring England in the spring of 1960. Somethin' Else: The Fine Lookin' Hits of Eddie Cochran makes a case for Cochran as an underappreciated early visionary—an accomplished guitarist and magnetic vocalist whose straight-shooting singles (not just "Summertime Blues" but the equally electrifying "C'mon Everybody" and "Nervous Breakdown") rev with the hot-rodding essence of rock and roll.
Released: 1958, Liberty
Appears On: Somethin' Else: The Fine Lookin' Hits of Eddie Cochran
Next Stop: The Who: Live at Leeds
After That: Gene Vincent: The Screaming End
Book Page: 177