I’ve always loved songs with a sense of humor. That’s what first attracted me to songs like Louis Jordan’s “Saturday Night Fish Fry” and Chuck Berry’s “No Particular Place to Go”. I first heard “Twenty Flight Rock” on Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen’s album “Lost in the Ozones.” The “Commander” also introduced me to two other EVO standards, “Beat Me Daddy Eight to the Bar” and “Smoke, Smoke, Smoke (that Cigarette).” But more about those songs at another time.
“Twenty Flight Rock” is a 1956 song, first performed by Eddie Cochran. It’s about a guy with a girlfriend who lives on the twentieth floor. The building has a “broken-down” elevator, requiring him to walk up the twenty flights. When he gets to the top, he’s “too tired to rock.” This song is EVO’s first foray into playing “Rockabilly.” It was written by Ned Fairchild, with a writing credit given to Eddie Cochran. I should note here that Ned Fairchild is actually Nelda Fairchild. She was a staff writer with a publisher Eddie was working with. The song is always a fun rock and roll song to slip into our set, with a blazing sax solo from Jim.
Here is Commander Cody’s version:
The song has an interesting history. It was one of the songs featured in the 1956 movie “The Girl Can’t Help It” starring Jayne Mansfield and Tom Ewell. Over the years it’s been mentioned as an influential movie for a lot of the British performers who came later in the 60s. Among others, it features music by Little Richard (“Ready Teddy”) and Gene Vincent (“Be-Bop-A-Lula”). In an interview, guitarist Jeff Beck talks about his mother taking him to the film and how he was blown away by Gene Vincent’s guitarist, Cliff Gallup. The Beatles covered many Little Richard songs. John Lennon covered “Ready Teddy” and both John Lennon and Paul McCartney recorded their own versions of “Be-Bop-A-Lula”. Paul McCartney also covered “Twenty Flight Rock”. There is a YouTube video of him playing “Twenty Flight Rock” on an acoustic guitar. He introduces the song as the first song he played for John Lennon as a sort of audition to get him into “The Quarrymen,” who, of course, later became the Beatles. He added, “I think what impressed him most was that I knew all the words.”
My last word is about Eddie Cochran. He died at 21 in 1960. He was traveling in a taxi on a British tour, and the car crashed. He had other hits, including, “C’mon Everybody,” “Somethin’ Else,” and “Summertime Blues.” You can find performances of “Somethin’ Else” by everyone from Tanya Tucker to Syd Vicious to Led Zeppelin. The song “Summertime Blues” is perhaps the most covered and most enduring of his songs. I first heard it by the 1960s psychedelic blues band, Blue Cheer (“Blue Cheer” was a type of LSD and the band was from San Francisco, so what else could they be but “psychedelic”?). The Who has a great live cover on “Live at Leeds.” There are also versions by country singer Alan Jackson and by Jimi Hendrix. Oh, and Rush, who are not known for their covers, has a version. It’s a cross between Blue Cheer’s and the Who’s cover. They’re all worth checking out.
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