102. ‘Three Steps to Heaven’, by Eddie Cochran

And we’re back down to earth with a bump, after the era/career/life defining ‘Cathy’s Clown’. Which is ironic, given the title of this next number one…

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Three Steps to Heaven, by Eddie Cochran (his 1st and only #1)

2 weeks, from 23rd June – 7th July 1960

Now there, Are three, Steps to heaven… Just listen, And you will, Plainly see… The guitars click and twirl and sound for all the world like a Buddy Holly B-side – the sickly little brother of ‘Heartbeat’, perhaps. And as life, Travels on, And things do go wrong… Eddie Cochran is crooning away here in a manner that would make Perry Como proud. Just follow, Steps one, two, and three…

Now, I might not be as familiar with Eddie Cochran as I am with certain other rock ‘n’ rollers; but I do know that he was a rock ‘n’ roller. He was one hell of a rock ‘n’ roller. But if you were to base your impressions of him on his sole UK #1, you might think Eddie C. was a mere pap-peddler, a run-of-the-mill teen idol singing a cutesy ‘How To Guide’ for love. There’s nothing wrong with this song, as such, but there ain’t much that’s great about it either.

What are those three steps to heaven, then? You’re dying to know, aren’t you? Step one, You find a girl you love… Uh-huh… Step two, she falls in love with you… OK… Step three, you kiss and hold her tightly… And that’s it? Yeah that sure, Seems like heaven, To me… Oh Eddie, if only it were that simple.

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I’ve already mentioned that the rolling, clockwork guitars sound very Buddy Holly-lite – and this might have a lot to do with The Crickets acting as Cochran’s backing group here (and scoring their 2nd, albeit uncredited, chart-topper in the process) – but that’s not this record’s only link to ‘The Father of Modern Pop Music’. Eddie Cochran, like Buddy when he scored his only solo #1, was dead by the time this topped the charts. Two months earlier, during a UK tour, the taxi in which he had been travelling blew a tire and smashed into a lamppost. He was thrown from the car, after valiantly covering and saving his fiancé, and died in hospital the following day. He was just twenty-one. Considering that his two previous singles had stalled at #22, I think it’s safe to assume that this record was being bought as a memorial as much as it was for the actual music.

I’m torn… It’s great that a star as influential at the birth of rock and pop as Eddie Cochran got his moment in the record books. But there are so many better ways to remember him than this twee little ditty. There’s the teenage angst of his breakthrough hit ‘Summertime Blues’, the classic riff from ‘C’Mon Everybody’, or the steaming proto-punk of ‘Somethin’ Else’ (which would be turned into a proper-punk hit by Sid Vicious some twenty years later).

It’s comparable, in a way, to the fact that Chuck Berry scored his one and only UK #1 with ‘My Ding-A-Ling’. Which really winds some people up. But – and I’m sticking my neck out here – I think that ‘Three Steps to Heaven’ being Eddie Cochran’s biggest hit is the real travesty. At least my ‘My Ding-A-Ling’ was bawdy, smutty, silly, funny… It is rock ‘n’ roll, for all that it is also a dumb nursery-rhyme. This? Well this song commits a far worse crime in my book. The crime of being bland! And I, donning my judge’s cap for a moment here, order this record to be removed from my sight. Forever. Next!