Sickness strikes, but they’re real troupers
(9 April 1960)
JACK GOOD takes a look at the Vincent/Cochran Package
It is often assumed that the race of dedicated troupers in the theatre is a dying one, and that the new generation of rock ‘n’ roll singers have no respect for the traditions of the stage. Nobody who knows the backstage story of the Vincent/Cochran package show could accept this. I have never known such a loyalty to the maxim that “the show must go on”.
I arrived in Manchester on Saturday afternoon and visited Gene and Eddie, hearing they were unwell. I found them both in bed. Gene had not recovered from an attack of pneumonia followed by pleurisy. Eddie was suffering from insomnia, and terribly strained eyes.
Looking at them, I found it hard to believe that they would be able to do their two shows that evening.
The programme read like a sick parade. I did not enjoy the prospect of seeing the show . I was wrong. They were superb.
Eddie Cochran was amazing. Far from showing signs of strain, he seemed even more dynamic than I have ever seen him. And how he used those blood-shot eyes. For the first twelve bars of his act he crouched with his back to the audience, while the Wildcats - greatly improved - whipped up a storm. Then on the first words of “What’d I Say”, Eddie swung round to face his audience and there was a gasp. He was wearing light tan leather trousers, a turquoise shirt and a shining silver waistcoat.
But the gasp was because he was wearing dark glasses! And it looked fabulous and outrageous. And what a great play he made out of taking them off after his opening song. This beat everything for turning a disadvantage into an advantage.
Making the greatest use of his rocks-and-gravel voice, Cochran is the toughest, ruggedest exponent of rock. How he makes the music swing. He punches it over like a singing Rocky Marciano, and the whole audience was knocked out.
Then at last came Gene Vincent. Pain-wracked as he was, both from his chest, and his leg, for the umteenth time in plaster through his iron brace breaking, Gene drove himself and his audience unmercifully.
Dressed in black from top to toe, Gene is like a demon possessed by the beat. His face pours with sweat, his face is contorted to an agonised smile, his huge eyes staring at a vision only he can see. Vincent is the most extraordinary eccentric and terrifying spectacle on the stage today.
The volume of the screams, together with that of the band, drowned Gene’s voice, which is - the final contradiction, in this mass of contradictions - a soft, fluid and beautiful instrument.
But it didn’t matter. To watch him was enough…and knowing how ill he was, for me it was too much.
( quoted in full)