Writer(s): Eddie Cochran, Jerry Capehart (see lyrics here)
First Charted: July 21, 1958
Peak: 8 US, 11 CB, 8 GR, 13 HR, 11 RB, 18 UK, 10 CN, 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)
Sales (in millions): --
Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 3.0 radio, 4.1 video, 81.99 streaming
Click on award for more details.
About the Song:
Eddie Cochran was born in Oklahoma City in 1938. He was killed in a car accident in 1960 at 21 years old. Despite his short career, he became a rock ‘n’ roll icon, helped by “the fact that he looked the part more perfectly than anybody but Elvis.” DM He started out recording country and rockabilly songs with the unrelated Hank Cochran SS before teaming with songwriter Jerry Capehart. They scored a top 20 hit in 1957 with “Sittin’ in the Balcony” but then struggled to come up with another hit.
At a session in March 1958, the came up with the idea for the song. As Capehart said, “There had been a lot of songs about summer, but none about the hardships of summer.” SF Cochran sings about the woes of having to get a job to have pocket money, missing out on a date with his girlfriend because his boss schedules him to work late, and his father attacking his son for laziness and subsequently not letting him use the car.
Cochran recorded the song that May with the intent for it to be the B-side of “Love Again,” a song composed by seventeen-year-old Sharon Sheeley, Cochran’s eventual girlfriend. His record company wanted to promote him as “a crooning teen idol,” hence the choice of the ballad as the A-side, SF but it was “Summertime Blues” which became the hit. “Like many of the best songs of the rock ‘n ‘ roll era, ‘Summertime Blues’ was a success thanks to its simplicity and honesty.” TB This was a teenage anthem when “teenagers were still docile.” HL
One of the signatures of the song is the overdubbed bass voice Cochran takes on to simulate out-of-touch adults like his father, boss, and Congressman. SS The voice was inspired by the Kingfish character on radio show Amos ‘n Andy and the overdubbing technique had been pioneered by Les Paul. “The record’s multitracked percussion and guitar sounds accentuate its impact.” SS
That “killer acoustic guitar riff is the heart and soul of the song.” SS Author Dave Thompson called Cochran’s “the riff maker” and noted his influence on “Jimmy Page, Pete Townshend and the next generation.” DT “Would Pete Townshend have created ‘My Generation’ if it wasn’t for this song?” HL
The song has been covered by Blue Cheer (#14 US, 3 CN, 1968), Johnny Chester (#30 AU, 1959), Johnny Hallyday (#1 in France, 1975), Alan Jackson (#1 CW, 1994), Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, Olivia Newton-John, Rush (#30 AR, 2004), Brian Setzer, T-Rex, and the Who (#27 US, 38 UK, 1970).
First posted 4/5/2023; last updated 4/14/2023.