Cochran was an innovative and highly influential artist with his material covered by many including; The Clash, The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Van Halen, Tom Petty, Rod Stewart, Motorhead, Humble Pie, UFO, T.Rex, The Stray Cats, Brian Setzer, Cliff Richard, The Who, The Beach Boys, The Beatles, Blue Cheer, Led Zeppelin, The White Stripes, The Sex Pistols, Rush, Buck Owens, Tiger Army, Dion, Simple Minds, Guitar Wolf, Paul McCartney, Alan Jackson, Rory Gallagher and Jimi Hendrix, etc.
Eddie Cochran arrived in the UK in January 1960 to join a tour with Gene Vincent who had already been on the road since before Christmas (he’d actually appeared in Kingston where I’d caught the tour at the Granada cinema). It was promoted by Larry Parnes and the support acts and musicians were all young rock’n’rollers that Parnes had under contract. These included at various times along the tour – Billy Fury, Joe Brown, Georgie Fame, Vince Eager and Johnny Gentle. It was a long tour with a punishing schedule and the British winter was not something that California resident Cochran was used to. So by the time they rolled up at the Bristol Hippodrome on Monday 11th April for a week long residency, Eddie and his girlfriend, Sharon Sheeley, were looking forward to returning to the USA immediately afterwards. After the final show on Saturday 16th April, Eddie wanted a lift back to London with Johnny Gentle who had driven himself to Bristol, but the car was full. There were no more trains at that time of night, so a taxi was called. Sometime after 11.00pm, a Ford Consul driven by George Martin (not of Beatles), with Eddie, Gene, Sharon and tour manager Pat Tompkins, set off for London. These were pre-M4 days and Martin set off on the A4, but went off road looking for a short cut. It appears that as the car sped out of Chippenham trying to get back on the right route, Martin lost control on the bend at Rowden Hill (then a notorious accident black-spot) and spun backwards into a concrete lamppost. The impact sent Eddie up into the roof and forced the rear door open, throwing him out onto the road. After the car had come to a halt, Martin and Tompkins were able to walk away from the wreckage uninjured, but Gene and Sharon, along with Eddie, were lying on the grass verge. Gene had broken his collarbone, but fortunately for Sharon, she only suffered shock and bruising. However, Eddie’s injuries would prove fatal.’ Geoff Barker