George Harrison once said after witnessing one of Eddie Cochran live performances, “yes! That’s it! Rock N’ Roll!” Embodying all that was Rock N’ Roll in the late 50’s, Eddie Cochran was much more than a pretty face and authoritative attitude, he was an outstanding guitarist and music production prodigy that’s inventive sound went on to inspire and shape music for generations to come.
Often revered as one of the rock world’s first guitar hero’s, Cochran began playing sessions for other artists when he was only 15-years old. Much like his musical counterpart, Buddy Holly, Cochran was one of a handful of popular musicians at this time to write his own music. He was also well versed in drums, bass, and piano and acquired the reputation for having played all the instruments on his recordings; something that didn’t happen then and rarely happens now.
As if all of that wasn’t enough, Cochran, alongside Les Paul, became one of the earliest musicians to work in mono on a simple two-track stereo. What this meant is that Cochran taught himself overdubbing, a process where you add other recorded sound or music to a preexisting taped musical track to create a more intricate sound.
Cochran’s edgy music and rebel persona was adored by many, specifically those in Great Britain. During his final tour through England in 1960, Jim Sullivan backed Cochran as member of his band and additional guitarist. All of the Rock N’ Roll solos, soulful blues, and country style guitar finger picking that Cochran brought with him from America was entirely new for Sullivan and audiences attending the shows. This sound created an enormous following for Cochran and an immense hunger from local English musicians to acquire these foreign techniques.
Jim Sullivan passed on Cochran’s style to young UK players including the likes of Jimmy Page, Ritchie Blackmore, and Jeff Beck. Eddie Cochran’s music is linked to the British Invasion and credited for the influence of several musicians that emerged successfully onto the scene.
The initial meeting between Paul McCartney and John Lennon flourished on a shared admiration for Eddie Cochran’s music. When McCartney attended the garden fete of St. Peters Church on July 6, 1957 with friend Ivan Vaughn to watch Lennon’s group, The Quarrymen play, Lennon was belting out the lyrics to Cochran’s “Be Bop a Lula.” Additionally, McCartney impressed Lennon with his rendition of Cochran’s “Twenty-Flight Rock” which as a left hander, he played with the guitar upside down. This occurrence cemented the first two members for what was to become The Beatles.
As a forerunner to Pete Townshend, Jimmy Page, Duane Allman, and Jimi Hendrix, Eddie Cochran’s impact is undeniable. He completely altered the Rock N’ Roll game in regards to sound and production in a sadly short lived career. Eddie Cochran only produced one album and played professionally for six years before his life was cut all too short at the tender age of twenty-one by cause of a car accident. This heartbreaking loss can only be regarded in a positive perception when his accomplishments are celebrated and the shocking understanding of all that he achieved in a short amount of time. Eddie Cochran changed music forever and in return will never be forgotten.