This chapter from my long-threatened book The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1) previously appeared in different form as part of a longer post. This is how it will appear in the book (IF it’s included in the book’s final draft).
An infinite number of tracks can each be THE greatest record ever made, as long as they tak turns. Today, this is THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE!
EDDIE COCHRAN: Somethin’ Else
Written by Sharon Sheeley and Bob Cochran
Produced by Eddie Cochran
Single, Liberty Records, 1959
Power pop’s point of origin remains a point of contention for many of its fans. Some insist that power pop was a reaction against prevailing musical trends in the ’70s, and therefore nothing recorded before the Beatles‘ 1970 break-up can be called power pop. I don’t agree with that at all. Power pop is a genre, a sound; claiming that sound can’t exist prior to a specific date reduces it to nostalgia, some kind of retro move, and I reject that notion. Power pop existed in the ’60s. Pete Townshend coined the phrase around 1967, and the Who‘s early records embody the power pop ideal. The Kinks. The Creation. The Nazz. I think the label also applies to some of the Beatles’ singles, and I pinpoint “Please Please Me” as power pop’s Ground Zero.
While I still don’t think that the great rockin’ pop stuff from Buddy Holly, Phil Spector, or the Beach Boys quite qualifies as power pop–it all strolls amiably, but doesn’t LEAN FORWARD with the urgency I expect from power pop–it’s difficult to dismiss the power pop bona fides of Eddie Cochran. Cochran’s “Summertime Blues” is really close, its stroll balanced by legit power chords and seething teen frustration. (The Who did a fantastic cover of “Summertime Blues” on the Live At Leeds album, and Blue Cheer bludgeoned it into a distinctive proto-metal hit single, but I don’t think either of them topped our Eddie.) The party anthem “C’mon Everybody” is maybe a further half-step removed, but “Nervous Breakdown” and especially “Somethin’ Else” provide concrete evidence of pre-Beatles power pop.
Leaning forward as forward can be, “Somethin’ Else” is simultaneously earnest and horny. Written by Cochran’s girlfriend Sharon Sheeley and his brother Bob Cochran, the song combines joy and frustration seamlessly and winningly, acknowledging that it’s a bummer when you can’t afford a cool car, but concluding (as someone once wrote) that the wheels don’t really matter as long as you get the girl. She’s sure fine-lookin’, man. WOW! She’s somethin’ else!
No less an avatar of rebellion than Sid Vicious did a surprisingly faithful cover of “Somethin’ Else,” released under the Sex Pistols‘ aegis but recorded after the group had already taken its final holiday in the sun. Sid’s version should have been awful, but it was actually pretty damned good. And it was either his version or a live performance by the Flashcubes that introduced me to the song.
But Eddie, man. Eddie. He was somethin’ else indeed.
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