My first reaction to buying a Gene Vincent compilation was misguided because all I saw were half of the song titles had the word Bop in it, so I assumed he was just rehashing his one incredible hit, Be Bop A Lula. But since I’ve been reading Mark Lewisohn’s massive tome on The Beatles and appreciating their love of artists like Gene Vincent I had to re-investigate and give him a good listen. Gene is really only known for one song but he has a strong discography of songs that run from classic rockabilly to strong versions of reworked standards like Ain’t She Sweet and Up A Lazy River. Songs like Wedding Bells (Are Breaking up That Old Gang of Mine) are worth the price of any of Vincent’s or 50’s rock compilations. Capitol Records tried to sell Gene Vincent as their answer to Elvis which is totally understandable but Gene was his own man and he had what was a surprisingly strong band, The Blue Caps that wasn’t just a supporting cast as they influenced artists such as The Beatles and Jeff Beck.
Eddie Cochran usually gets mentioned in the same breath as Gene Vincent since they were tragically linked by the car crash that killed Cochran. Cochran is known for Summertime Blues which has to be one of the most influential singles ever cut and Twenty Flight Rock which is a very funny and risque song that somehow made it past the censors since like the man said he was too tired to “rock”. His catalog also reveals a lot of strong singles including a version of Hallelujah, I Love Her So that rivals Ray Charles’ version. Three Steps To Heaven and Little Angel are songs I had never heard before but they already have me hooked just on the first listen. Some of Cochran’s ballads sound a little forced, the breathy tone that was a common practice of the time sounds like he was trying to convey a style that was commercial but not really in his comfort zone. On the flip side, the compilation I bought has a lot of his early country tunes from the Cochran Brothers days which shows a more natural progression from country to rock that rings true.
Both Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran have a wealth of songs worth listening to multiple times and I’m glad that to see that some good quality, inexpensive compilations are available. Both men lived short lives, Cochran died in a car accident at 21, Vincent to an ruptured ulcer at 36 but they managed to create an impressive legacy that is part of the foundation of rock and roll.