Friday, January 24, 2020


OK, OK, a bit obvious, but I can think of a dozen and two thirds reasons why it has legs aplenty, perhaps even enough for two crabs. Plus, and here is the bonus, it gives the opportunity to celebrate one Connie 'Guybo' Smith. Who he? What, aw, c'mon (everybody), SWIDT.

No, of course I didn't know either, a gap in my and, possibly,  your encyclopaedic I am now happy to fill.
Twenty Flight Rock, or 20 Flight Rock as it looks better, was a rock'n'roll/rockabilly banger that first made its appearance in 1956 film, The Girl Can't Help It, a film to celebrate the emergence of teenagers as a viable sub-group of society and a market for the cinema to exploit. Naturally, music and sex were the selling points, the latter in the form of twin peaks, not the film, actress Jayne Mansfield. As in most such films, the plot is the usual mess of wannabe stars, svengalis and shattered dreams. Or thereabouts. The plot doesn't really matter, it is really all about the music, the OST littered with soon to be idols like Little Richard, Gene Vincent, Fats Domino and, of course, Eddie Cochran.

Following the success of the film, Cochran put out the song again, re-recorded, to be a bit more polished than the raw barnyard trio version in the film, where the instrumental might had been voice, guitar, bull fiddle and a cardboard box. A 2nd guitar and backing vocals were added for the newer version, which is, inevitably, not a patch on its predecessor. Apart from Cochran, the other one constant was Guybo. A boyhood chum of Cochran, he played various stringed bass instruments alongside him for most of the early classic years, and was on the farewell tour of the UK, that ironically became just that, as Cochran was killed in a road traffic accident. Guybo lost his place in the sun, but continued to be a reliable source of detail around these formative days, popping up in documentaries. Hell, he even has a facebook page, if somewhat quiet of late.

Arguably the Cochran legacy gained no small boost from his death: nothing like the early burn of a free spirit to grant status as an icon. This happened perhaps more in the UK than at home, as, unlike many of his compatriots yet or ever to grace these shores, the british Teddy Boys took especially to Cochran, likewise to, injured in the same crash but surviving, Gene Vincent. (But let's face it, these cool dudes looked one whole lot more street than much of their R'n'R compadres.)

The song has lived on in many versions. True, most do nothing fancy with it, regurgitating the basics and, give or take an occasional sax, leaving at that. Indeed, think of any revivalist band treading the boards between now and then, yup, they'll do it, whether anodyne chart teds, Showaddywaddy, or genuine believers like the Stray Cats. But a few bear mention. Legend has it that it was the song used by Paul McCartney to serenade John Lennon, as the latter recruited the former to what, in time, became the Beatles. No recordings of that remain, bar this near decade later studio eavesdrop, but McCartney has oft included it in live performances. I prefer this version, however, from the Beatles in Hamburg biopic, Backbeat, where the story and the song see to come together.

Rivals the Stones, always IMHO a sturdier torch holder of the R'n'R essence, had to show that anything they did was better, an easier task given the Beatles being long gone by this 1981 performance.

But all this rock and roll credibility forgets this is essentially a rockabilly song, the country hick version, no les potent for its lesser sophistication. So who better than Commander Cody to give a (slight, very slight) country twist.

Perhaps the closest in spirit to 1956 and The Girl Can't Help It is this final clip, the effervescent energy of Leith identical twins, Craig and Charlie Reid, aka the Proclaimers, bursting through the grooves.

Rock the joint!