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"Last Kiss" is a song released by Wayne Cochran in 1961 on the Gala label. It failed to do well on the charts. Cochran subsequently re-recorded his song for the King label in 1963. It was later revived by J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers,Pearl Jam, and several international artists, including the Canadian group Wednesday, with varying degrees of success. The song was one of several teen tragedy songs from that period.
- 2 "Original Version" by Wayne Cochran, Joe Carpenter, Randall Hoyal & Bobby McGlon (1961)
- 3 J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers version
- 4 Pearl Jam version
- 5 Other cover versions
- 6 References
The singer borrows his father's car to take his beloved sweetheart out on a romantic date (on a rainy night). Coming across a stalled car in the road the singer swerves to the right to avoid it, losing control and crashing violently in the process. The crash renders both the singer and his girlfriend unconscious. The singer later regains consciousness and finds several people at the scene of the accident, but was able to find his girlfriend, still lying unconscious. When the singer cradles his girlfriend lovingly in his arms, she regains partial consciousness, smiling and asking the singer to "hold me, darling, just a little while." The singer then gives his sweetheart what would be their "last romantic kiss" as she fades into death and enters the afterlife.
In the song's chorus, the singer vows to be a good boy so that he may reunite with his dear sweetheart when his time comes, believing she has made it into Heaven.
James Lafayette Tarver was inspired to write "Last Kiss" after his daughter Carol Ann died in a train/car collision in Grand Prairie Texas in 1960. He shopped his song to numerous publishers, who subsequently stole it by adding orchestration and rearranging it, as was common back then.  In the summer of 1961 Wayne Cochran singing vocals with Joe Carpenter on the guitar, Bobby Rakestraw on bass and Jerry Reppert playing the drums traveled to the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgiawhere they recorded the original version of "Last Kiss" on the Gala Label. When Gala printed the labels for the 45's, the names of Joe Carpenter, Randall Hoyal and Bobby McGlon as cowriters were left off. Wayne Cochran never had Gala change the label to include the other four names and to this day Cochran is the only one of the four to have ever received credit for writing the song "Last Kiss".
It has been long rumored that the song was supposedly based on an auto accident that killed sixteen-year-old Jeanette Clark, who was out on a date in Barnesville, Georgia on December 22, 1962, the Saturday before Christmas. She was with a group of friends in a 1954 Chevrolet. J. L. Hancock, also sixteen, was driving the car in heavy traffic and while traveling on Highway 341, they collided with a log truck. Clark, Hancock, and another teenager were killed, and two other teens in the car were seriously injured. However, this could not be the source of the song, since the song was written and recorded in the summer of 1961.
On September 18, 1961 Billboard Music Week printed a review of the song "Last Kiss" and gave it 3 stars but said nothing about the song itself in the review.
However, when the same publication reviewed the B-side of "Last Kiss" — a song called "Funny Feeling" written by Joe Carpenter and Milt (Pete) Skelton — they gave it 4 stars and said, "Blues, chanted in relaxed style, with a funky guitar backing. Derivative but a good job."
|Single by J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers|
|from the album Last Kiss|
|B-side||"That's How Much I Love You"|
|Recorded||1964 in San Angelo, TexasAccurate Sound Co.|
|Genre||Rock and roll, Teen tragedy|
|Writer(s)||Wayne Cochran, Joe Carpenter, Randall Hoyal & Bobby McGlon|
|Single by Pearl Jam|
|from the album Lost Dogs|
|B-side||"Soldier of Love (Lay Down Your Arms)"|
|Released||June 8, 1999|
|Format||CD single, Cassette, Vinyl|
|Recorded||September 19, 1998 atConstitution Hall, Washington, D.C.|
|Writer(s)||Wayne Cochran, Joe Carpenter, Randall Hoyal & Bobby McGlon|
|Pearl Jam singles chronology|
"Last Kiss" caught the attention of record promoter Sonley Roush. Roush brought the song to a group that he managed, J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers, with the idea of having them cover the song. The drummer for J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers was unavailable for the recording session so they used Wayne Cochran's drummer, Denny Jewell. On a concert trip to Ohio the band's car collided with a truck, killing Roush and severely injuring Wilson. In 1964, J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers had the first real commercial success with the song. The cover was released in June 1964 and reached the Top 10 in October. It eventually reached number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts, and also earned the band a gold record.
The Last Kiss album cover shows Wilson kneeling over the young woman portraying the dying girl. Supposedly, first printings of the cover showed blood trickling from the girl's face but was air-brushed out.
The song was re-released (Virgo 506) at the end of 1973 and reached #92 in January 1974, spending a total of 5 weeks in Billboard's Hot 100. Coincidentally, J. Frank Wilson's version re-charted only 5 weeks after the version by Wednesday charted.
"Last Kiss" was also covered by the American rock band Pearl Jam for the 1999 charity album No Boundaries: A Benefit for the Kosovar Refugees. It would also appear on the group's 2003 rarities album Lost Dogs.
The idea to cover "Last Kiss" came about after vocalist Eddie Vedder found an old record of the song at the FremontAntique Mall in Seattle, Washington. He convinced the rest of the band to try out the song and it was performed a few times on the band's 1998 tour. The band eventually recorded the song at a soundcheck at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. and released it as a 1998 fan club Christmas single. The band spent only a couple of thousand dollars mixing the song. Bassist Jeff Ament said, "It was the most minimalist recording we've ever done."
In the following year the cover of "Last Kiss" began to be played by radio stations and was ultimately put into heavy rotation across America. By popular demand the cover was released to the public as a single on June 8, 1999, with all of the proceeds going to the aid of refugees of the Kosovo War. The cover was also featured on the 1999 charity compilation album, No Boundaries: A Benefit for the Kosovar Refugees. The song helped earn around 10 million dollars for Kosovo relief.
The cover would end up reaching number two on the Billboard Hot 100. This remains Pearl Jam's highest position on theBillboard Hot 100. It peaked at number four on the Top 40 Mainstream. The song peaked at number five on the BillboardMainstream Rock Tracks chart and number two on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart. The "Last Kiss" single has been certified gold by the RIAA.
Outside the United States, the single was released commercially in Australia, Austria, Japan, Mexico, South Africa, and the United Kingdom. In Canada, the song reached the top ten on the Canadian Singles Chart and became the band's highest charted song in Canada, and later it charted on the Canadian Rock Top 30 chart where it reached number four and stayed there for two weeks. "Last Kiss" also reached number 22 on the Canadian Year End Rock Top 50. "Last Kiss" reached the top 50 in the UK. "Last Kiss" peaked at number one on the Australian Singles Chart. It reached the top 80 in the Netherlands and was a moderate top 20 success in New Zealand.
Christopher John Farley of Time stated, "It's a spare, morose song with Vedder's voice warbling lovelorn over a straight-ahead drum beat. Going back to basics has put Pearl Jam back on top." Regarding the cover, guitarist Stone Gossardsaid, "You can try album after album to write a hit and spend months getting drum sounds and rewriting lyrics, or you can go to a used record store and pick out a single and fall in love with it." Pearl Jam included "Last Kiss" on the 2003 B-sides and rarities album, Lost Dogs, and on the 2004 greatest hits album, rearviewmirror (Greatest Hits 1991–2003).
Pearl Jam first performed its cover of "Last Kiss" live at the band's May 7, 1998, concert in Seattle, Washington at ARO.space. Live performances by Pearl Jam of "Last Kiss" can be found on various official bootlegs and the Live at the Gorge 05/06 box set.
- "Last Kiss" (Wayne Cochran) – 3:15
- "Soldier of Love (Lay Down Your Arms)" (Buzz Cason, Tony Moon) – 2:54
|Australian Singles Chart||1|
|Canadian RPMSingles Chart||1|
|Canadian RPM Rock/Alternative Chart||4|
|US Billboard Hot 100||2|
|US Modern Rock Tracks||2|
|US Top 40 Mainstream||4|
|US Adult Top 40||5|
|US Mainstream Rock Tracks||5|
|US Top 40 Tracks||6|
|US Top 40 Adult Recurrents||15|
|New Zealand Singles Chart||19|
|UK Singles Chart||42|
|Dutch Singles Chart||77|
|End of year chart (1999)||Position|
|U.S. Billboard Hot 100||23|
|Canadian RPM Singles Chart||23|
|Canadian RPM Rock Chart||22|
The song has a long tradition in Latin American popular music. The most popular version was recorded in 1965 for the mexican singer Polo, (ex-member of Los Apson) with the title of "El Último Beso" in Spanish, this spanish version has been covered by several bands: Los American's, Los Johnny Jets, Los 007, Los Doltons, theColombian singer Alci Acosta recorded a cover of "Last Kiss" that became a hit in his country.
Meadow Ryann covered this on her debut cover album, Wings.