Somethin’ Else – Eddie Cochran
..lookee here, what’s all this ?
After a few weeks in LSE Halls Of Residence in Fitzroy St, walking down to the LSE across Bloomsbury most days, I discovered my local cinema – The Other Cinema on Tottenham St, a few hundred yards from my front door. I worked there tearing tickets for about 2 years, and payment was in free tickets. The Other Cinema was a collective and included Steven Woolley and Dominique Green amongst its illuminati. That year I saw Pontecorvo’s Battle Of Algiers, Godard’s Pierrot Le Fou, and most of Fred Wiseman’s incredible output among other delights – but it folded after about 2 years, only for The Scala Cinema to open in its place, run by Steve, with Paul Webster and I think Don McPherson too. I remember Lee in the projectionists box because he wore black cowboy boots and, like me, played the saxophone. I ended up working in the coffee bar downstairs on Saturday for the all-nighters, 11pm – 7 am. For money probably this time. I served coffee, cake and amphetamines to the hollow-eyed delinquent regulars. While the Other Cinema was worthy and political, intellectual and left-leaning, The Scala was transgressional and lurid, cheesy and often banned. They showed films all night that no one else would. Thundercrack, Pink Flamingos, Salo, Eraserhead, The Wild Ones, The Girl Can’t Help It, Performance were favourites and often shown; spaghetti westerns, biker films, blaxploitation, arthouse, grindhouse, Russ Meyer, Borowczyk, Laurel & Hardy, Visconti and Fritz Lang reeled out til dawn when the legions of the undead had to face, blinking and reluctant, the cold hard reality of a Sunday morning and a Tottenham Court Road fry-up.
Monthly poster is from after the Scala moved to King’s Cross in 1982
The audience would be at least as interesting as the film programme. Saturday nights would be the tribal gathering – film nerds, actors, auteurs, popstars, insomniacs, psycho-billies, anarchists, Chilean refugees, skinheads, the dirty-mac brigade, new romantics, the properly psychotic. …All the animals come out at night – whores, skunk pussies, buggers, queens, fairies, dopers, junkies, sick, venal. Someday a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the streets…. sorry got carried away there…. but we had punks, queers, bikers and junkies, and Barry who never told me his last name, lived in a squat on Warren Street and shaved his face within an inch of it’s seven layers of skin. He’d arrive looking sharkesque with his permanently slicked black hair and über-shaved sharpened face and would drop off a large 1000-pill bag of blues back in the kitchen where no-one was looking four a quid, and I’d sell them from behind the bar. 3 for a quid. I ate the profits. I mean everyone was speeding. Everyone. I certainly was. You couldn’t smoke in the cinema, but you could in the all-night cafe. Everything was underground appropriately enough, a pit of cheerful drunken tribal youth popping in and out of the cinema, to the cafe, hanging on the Space Invaders machine or the jukebox.
Ah the jukebox. Yes.
Best one in London. Everyone knew it. I’m sure John at the Hope & Anchor would disagree but The Scala jukebox had the most eclectic mix of singles on there from cajun rock to the post-punk Pop Group, Loretta Lynn to James Brown, and – my pop life number 22 – Eddie Cochran all the way from California 1959 and sounding fresher than anything else on the damn jukebox with Somethin’ Else, like a teen reb cross between Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash.
What I’d call a bangin’ tune. A rockabilly punk shuffle. A slice of utter youth attitude, never been done better since. Proof of course is in the Sid Vicious cover, recorded for The Great Rock n’ Roll Swindle in 1978 which doesn’t approach the excitement of the Cochran record, but nevertheless has a certain nihilistic swagger. Vicious was dead by Feb ’79 of heroin. Eddie Cochran died in a car crash in Wiltshire on April 16th 1960. Gene Vincent and girlfriend Sharon Sheely who’d co-written Somethin’ Else survived. Like his friend Buddy Holly, his recorded output, though slight, casts a huge shadow over all recorded music since. All you have to do to understand why his influence is so large is to listen to the song.