Boy, there have been a very select number of people who have had an outsized impact on my musical education and tastes. Some have been lifelong friends. One, I knew for a very brief period, but he made a key suggestion at a critical point in my development and everything changed.
My freshman year at Syracuse, there was a sophomore on our dorm floor named Peter Kates. Peter and his roommate were listening to things I’d never heard of, like Kraftwerk and Godley and Creme. (“Sandwiches of You” jumps to mind as something I heard coming from their room with some regularity.) As a freshman moving from my largely horrible high school records into my infatuation with the Beatles, I had a lot to learn from others, and Peter made a number of recommendations. We kept in touch here and there, and he gave me some tapes of things he thought I would like. We stayed in touch even after he had graduated, and in fact for years he sent Christmas cards, usually pictures of himself with some surprising celebrity that he had met through his radio work. (Dr. Ruth stands out in memory; there may also have been a picture of him with Mr. T).
I think what must have happened was that Pete found out I was into the Ramones, and he must have said something like, if I wanted to know where the Ramones got their riffs, I had to listen to Eddie Cochran. This had to have been 1979. Eddie Cochran was not a name that came tripping off people’s tongues. The rockabilly revival hadn’t really happened. And for whatever reason, for once I listened to musical advice nearly in real time, instead of waiting several years.
In fact, I think this was the first Eddie Cochran record I bought, and I loved it. I was a little familiar with Buddy Holly, a little familiar with ‘50s music that had played on oldies stations and because of the influence of “Grease,” but really didn’t have much of a grasp on this kind of roots rock or rockabilly. Of course, Eddie Cochran was much much more than that, but his sound is definitive. I fell in love with the energy, the sound, the voice right away. Even the cheesy ’50s ballads, I love. But the rockers — wow.
This collection of 20 songs came out only in the UK and Australia in 1979 — so I was surprisingly lucky to have found it. I even have two copies, and I remember why — despite having owned it for years, I ran across another copy in a record store and drew a complete blank. This was one of the seminal records in my collection, one that set of a flurry of activity in a rootsy, rockabilly direction, and yet I forgot that I owned it. Oy. (In my defense, I mostly think of Eddie in relation to a box set I’ve owned nearly as long, and we’ll get to that.)
If you were to own only this Eddie Cochran album, that’d be a pretty good representation of his work. His influence would be hard to overstate — listen to these songs, and you’ll hear it. All the more remarkable is that he was only a solo artist for about four years, producing an astonishing amount of recordings in a very short time, before his extremely untimely death from a post-performance taxi crash in 1960; he was only 21.
On evidence of a price sticker still on one copy, I bought this at my beloved Desert Shore Records in Syracuse, and I paid $9.50 for it. That was a hell of a lot of money in 1979. If this was, as I remember, my first Eddie record, I must have thought a lot of Peter Kates’s recommendation. That was on the pricey end of even new releases then. Given that it was an import, I can’t complain, but I am surprised at my 19-year-old self.