Song 97 – Summertime Blues

SONG: Summertime Blues

ARTIST: Eddie Cochran

YEAR: 1958

Listen to it here: 


“Summertime Blues” was co-written by Eddie Cochran, who first performed it, and his manager Jerry Capehart. The song is about the struggle between a teenager, his parents, his boss, and his congressman during the summer. It’s full of resentment for having to take a job in order to earn some pocket money, for not being able to go on a date with his girlfriend because his boss keeps scheduling him to work late. The protagonist decides then to feign illness to get out of work, but then his parents won’t let him use their car due to laziness. Finally, he considers visiting the United Nations to complain about his situation, but finally he settles on writing to his congressman, who brushes him off since he’s too young to vote. 

In the original recording (from March 28, 1958), Eddie Cochran recorded both the vocal and bass vocal portions, played all the guitar parts, and added the hand clapping. Alongside him was a bassist and a drummer. 


Ray Edward Cochran was known in his short life for his 1950s teen angst songs, his experimentation with multitrack recording, distortion, and overdubbing, and the fact that on many of his tracks, he sang, played piano, guitar, bass, and drums. Cochran was involved in music from an early age, playing in his school band and teaching himself bass. His school band career was cut short as he quit high school after one year to work as a session musician.  He then started his songwriting career with his to-be manager, Jerry Capehart, who helped him secure a recording contract with Liberty Records. 

In 1956, Eddie Cochran’s solo artist single was released – it featured a song called “Skinny Jim” which is now regarded as a rockabilly classic. This opened the door to some movie appearances as well in that same year. In 1957 Cochran released his only studio album, which contained very few rock and roll songs as his label was trying to sway him away from the genre. 

The next year, 1957, Cochran found his stride, releasing “Summertime Blues”. There followed a few more hits in his lifetime, but most of his musical output was released posthumously. In early 1959, two of Cochran’s friends, Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens, were killed in a plane crash while on tour. Cochran was badly shaken by their deaths and developed a morbid premonition that he would also die young. Shortly after their deaths, he recorded a song in tribute to them, “Three Stars”.

The next year, 1960, Cochran was on tour in the UK. He and his friend Gene Vincent had just finished performing at the last of their concerts at the Bristol Hippodrome and were in a taxi heading back to London. The cab driver lost control of the vehicle and crashed into a concrete lamppost. All of the occupants of the vehicle (Cochran, Vincent, Cochran’s fiancee, and his tour manager, as well as the driver), were taken to hospital, and Cochran succumbed to his injuries. He was 21 years old.


Eddie Cochran lent his bass vocals to several Gene Vincent albums, and other artists during his time as a session musician. 


Poor poor Eddie Cochran.  He’s another one of those promising young musicians killed at a ridiculously young age that we never got to see their full potential.  But this tune is eternal!  Yet ANOTHER one that I’ve heard a bajillion times!  I feel like this song is the spiritual cousin of Yakety Yak – the woes of teenage life, wanting to hang out with friends but damn those chores and part time jobs!  One thing that I really noticed on a hard listen was there’s not really drums in this song – hand claps, some sort of thump on some beats, very rhythmic acoustic guitar.  Despite the lack of percussion section, this song is high energy and a lot of fun!  Cochran’s voice here is pretty Elvis Presley-esque and definitely lighter on the vocal reverb compared to some of the previous songs we’ve reviewed from the ‘50s.  I think Eddie had chops though, and it would have been really interesting to hear what he would have done into the 60s – would he have moved in the same direction as the Beatles, Stones and other British Invasion groups or faded into obscurity?  Anyway, I like this song and think it’s a great addition to any summertime playlist.


This song graces the oldies stations ALL the time, and I’ve never really REALLY listened to it. It’s definitely catchy and it kind of sounds like one of those songs that’s crafted to be a hit: there’s some novelty, it’s upbeat with an easily memorized hook, and hand claps. It’s also maybe the beginning of the teen angst song, which has definitely changed from this pretty antiseptic one to something completely different. But, back to this song. I like Eddie Cochran’s voice in concept – I think he’s using some sort of affect in this song to help popularize it, and it sounds like his just plain old voice is probably quite smooth. He definitely puts his all into the song, the lyrics, and the novelty, and his vocal range seems like nothing to sneeze at as well. I like how present the bass is in the song, which is fairly rare for this time, and he’s also gone back to acoustic guitar (I think…..oh god, Kelly, just delete this if I’m wrong!), but plays it fairly aggressively for what it is. The lyrics are just silly, but I could totally see how teens of the time would go nuts for a song that speaks to them in some way. It’s pretty cheesy, but I don’t hate it. I DO hate the ending. Again, what’s with people finding what they want to get into a song, but then not how to get out of it? You can’t just stop like that and say “tada”! At the very least, tack on a cha cha cha or lean into a fade out or something! But I digress. This harmless song is still fun to listen to, and that counts for something in my mind!

Average mark out of 10:

Holly: 7/10

Kelly: 8/10

Other notable versions of this song:

Alan Jackson turns this into a country song by changing almost nothing:

Brian Setzer, who played Eddie Cochran in the “La Bamba” movie:

The Who turns it into a Who song:

Listen with us!

Link to 1,001 Songs to Hear Before You Die spotify playlist:

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