Gene Vincent

“In March [1960]…they had seen Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran at the Liverpool Empire and their rawness impressed them greatly.”

-From Chet Flippo’s book, Yesterday

The “influence” conversation often stops at The Beatles. It seems that everyone was influenced by The Beatles. Aptly so. But who influenced The Beatles?

One influence was a one hit wonder named Gene Vincent, who gained attention in the music industry as an answer to Elvis. I don’t mean either of those things derogatory towards Gene Vincent; the guy is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But that was his lot as a performing, recording musician.

And he influenced arguably the biggest, greatest band that will ever be.

“Be-Bop-A-Lula” was his primary hit song, released by Capitol Records in June 1956. The song was recorded at Owen Bradley’s studio in Nashville.

Vincent could never quite get all of the pistons firing at the right time, a normal thing in the music industry. But through his early role in the ever-evolving formation of rock and roll, his legacy was set.

Mick Farren wrote an article about Vincent called “Gene Vincent – The Genesis of the Dark Side,” which I came across in the book, The Mammoth Book of Sex Drugs & Rock ‘N’ Roll. From that piece…

“It was essentially [Jim] Morrison that smoothed the way to Gene’s appearance at the Toronto rock ‘n’ roll Revival Festival that would be mythologised by the one time only appearance of John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band. The original plan was that Gene should have been backed by the Doors, but, because of scheduling problems, he came on instead with Alice Cooper’s band whose pre-metal guitar rock was actually better suited to his style. At the end of an emotional “Be-Bop-A-Lula,” Lennon came on stage and embraced a weeping Gene. In the movie of his life, this should have been the final triumphant moment, the redemption at the end of the third act. Unfortunately life is never quite as idealised as the movies, and Gene went on to do one more, totally disorganised tour of Europe on which he was all but incapable of performing, before he returned to Los Angeles to die.”

Vincent passed away at the age of 36.


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