DYING in a flaming plane crash has long been a popular way for famous musicians to check out – think John Denver, Otis Redding, Richie Valens, Buddy Holly, Aaliyah – but only Eddie Cochran has died in a taxi.
Whippersnappers among you might wonder who Cochran was, but even you youngsters would recognise his hits Summertime Blues and C’mon Everybody.
In the late 1950s he was a big deal, a hugely talented hunk – ominously described as “James Dean with a guitar” – who could play multiple instruments and even wrote his own songs. George Harrison was a big fan and Jimi Hendrix requested Cochran be played at his funeral. If you haven’t heard of them, please just move along.
In April 1960, Cochran had just finished a long wintery tour of England with friend and fellow rocker Gene Vincent.
Understandably, they couldn’t wait to leave. With no late-night trains, a taxi – a Ford Consul Mark II as it happened – was called to take Cochran and three others to London; just outside the town of Chippenham the driver took a wrong turn into oncoming traffic, panicked, spun and hit a concrete pole.
Vincent broke several bones and the other occupants walked away largely unharmed, but Cochran was thrown into the roof and then out the door, landing on a grass verge.
Witnesses said the impact sounded like a plane crash, and Cochran died later that day in a hospital in Bath from his brain injuries, aged just 21.
Appropriately for Cochran, the Ford Consul Mark II, complete with tail fins and a bench seat, was an attempt by the Brits at imitating the 1950s gasguzzling beasts that all the Americans looked so cool in.
The first cop on the crash scene was one David Harman, who retrieved Cochran’s undamaged Gretsch guitar.
Legend has it he used it in the lockup to learn to play, later changing his name to Dave Dee and having a string of hits in the 1960s.