Song of the Week – Summertime Blues; Eddie Cochran, Blue Cheer, The Who, Guitar Wolf

Ignored             Obscured              Restored

Today’s post is yet another in my “Evolution” series.

Sixty-five years ago, Eddie Cochran released the evergreen “Summertime Blues.”  Originally intended as the B-side to Cochran’s “Love Again” it captured the zeitgeist of the late ‘50s rebellious American teenage life.  It rose to #8 on Billboard’s Hot 100 in the summer of 1958.

San Francisco’s hard rock group Blue Cheer made the song their own when they released the unlikely single in 1968.  Given the ear-splitting volume that Blue Cheer’s music was meant to be played at, their version reached a surprising #14 on Billboard’s Hot 100.  I remember watching them perform on Dick Clark’s American BandstandBandstand was well known for having their guest performers lip-synch.  The band clearly isn’t playing live (they have no vocal mics, although drummer Paul Whaley seems to be pounding the skins) but as a 12-year-old kid, I was very impressed with the giant wall of Marshall stacks they had behind them as props.

The Who also included “Summertime Blues” in their setlist.  They recorded studio versions of the song, but they didn’t see the light of day until the late ‘90s and early aughts on expanded CD releases of Odds and Sods and The Who Sell Out.  But their seminal version from Live at Leeds (1970) managed to reach #27 on Billboard’s Hot 100.  The Who also performed “Summertime Blues” at Woodstock which will have its 54th anniversary in mid-August.

That makes 3 top 40 versions of the song!

In 1999, Japanese Punk Rock band Guitar Wolf, released their own version of “Summertime Blues.”  The fact that they are singing the lyrics in an undecipherable form of Japanglish only adds to the charm of their recording and is true to the spirit of teen defiance that was captured in the Cochran original.

Enjoy… until next week.