Cochran was 19 when he recorded this. It was a big hit with his teenage fans, who could relate to the lyrics about being held back by society (and parents). Cochran got an image as a rebel with a guitar, and his legend was secured when he died two years later while riding in the back of a taxi. He was often compared to James Dean, who was 24 when he died in a car accident.
Cochran wrote this with Jerry Capehart, a songwriter who was good friends with Cochran and helped him get a record deal. Capehart explained the inspiration for this song in Rolling Stone magazine's Top 500 songs issue: "There had been a lot of songs about summer, but none about the hardships of summer." With that idea and a guitar lick from Cochran, they wrote the song in 45 minutes.
This was supposed to be the B-side of "Love Again," which was written by 17-year-old Sharon Sheeley. It was clear that this was the bigger hit, but Sheeley eventually became Cochran's girlfriend. She was in the car when it crashed and killed him in 1960.
Sheeley provided the hand claps on this. She really wanted to do it, but had trouble getting the rhythm. Eddie helped her out by showing her how to clap.
This was Cochran's breakthrough hit. His previous singles didn't do very well, but this gave him a lot of exposure and established him as a star.
Cochran's record label were trying to turn him into a crooning teen idol, which was why this was originally going to be B-side to the ballad "Love Again."
This song was a big influence on George Harrison. He had a picture of Cochran and wanted the same kind of guitar.
Many artists with a rebellious image have recorded this over the years, including Joan Jett, T Rex, The Who, Van Halen and The Stray Cats. Then again, it has also been covered by Olivia Newton-John.
When Rush performs this in concert, the crowd sings the lines "No dice son, you gotta work late," "You can't use the car 'cause you didn't work a lick," and "I'd like to help you son, but you're too young to vote."
Jeff - Haltom City, TX
The Who performed the song as a staple of their concerts from 1967 to 1976, with intermittent appearances thereafter - they played it at Woodstock in 1969. A version from their 1970 album Live at Leeds was released as a single, peaking at #38 in the UK and #27 in the US. It was the only Who hit not written by Pete Townshend.
This gets a mention in Stephen King's 1986 novel, It. The song plays on the radio just before Pennywise the evil clown takes over the airwaves to threaten Richie Tozier. The lyrics are also used to introduce "Part 2: June of 1958."
This was used in these TV series:
Vinyl ("Pilot" - 2016)
The Indian Doctor ("The Arrival" - 2010)
The Wonder Years ("Summer" - 1993)
And in these movies:
Summer Of Sam (1999)
This Boy's Life (1993)
That Night (1992)
La Bamba (1987)
American Hot Wax (1978)