Last Kiss

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For other uses, see Last Kiss (disambiguation).
"Last Kiss"
Single by Wayne Cochran
B-side "Funny Feeling" Written by: Joe Carpenter and Milt (Pete) Skelton
Released 1961
Format Vinyl
Recorded 1961 in Athens, Georgia on UGA's Campus, (original version)
1963 in Macon, Georgia (re-recorded version)
Genre Rhythm and blues, teen tragedy
Label Gala (original version - 1961)
King (re-recorded version - 1963)
Writer(s) Wayne Cochran, Joe Carpenter, Randall Hoyal & Bobby McGlon

"Last Kiss" is a song released by Wayne Cochran in 1961 on the Gala label. It failed to do well on the charts.[1] 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. The song's opening lyrics mirror the opening lyrics of Septimus Winner's "Der Deitcher's Dog".

The song's story[edit]

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.

Original Version[edit]

By Wayne Cochran, Joe Carpenter, Randall Hoyal & Bobby McGlon (1961)

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, Georgia, where they recorded the original version of "Last Kiss" on the Gala Label. When Gala printed the labels for the 45s, the names of Joe Carpenter, Randall Hoyal and Bobby McGlon as co-writers were left off.[citation needed] 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 based on an auto accident that killed 16-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 16, was driving the car in heavy traffic and while traveling on U.S. 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, because it was recorded in the summer of 1961.[citation needed]

On September 18, 1961, Billboard Music Week printed a review of the song "Last Kiss"[2] and gave it three 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 four stars and said, "Blues, chanted in relaxed style, with a funky guitar backing. Derivative but a good job."[3]

J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers version[edit]

"Last Kiss"
Single by J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers
from the album Last Kiss
B-side "That's How Much I Love You"
Released June 1964
Format Vinyl
Recorded 1964 in San Angelo, Texas Accurate Sound Co.
Genre Rock and roll, Teen tragedy
Length 2:25
Label Josie
Writer(s) Wayne Cochran, Joe Carpenter, Randall Hoyal & Bobby McGlon
Producer(s) Sonley Roush
"Last Kiss"
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 at Constitution Hall, Washington, D.C.
Genre Alternative rock
Length 3:16
Label Epic
Writer(s) Wayne Cochran, Joe Carpenter, Randall Hoyal & Bobby McGlon
Certification Gold (RIAA)
Pearl Jam singles chronology
"Last Kiss"
"Nothing as It Seems"
No Boundaries: A Benefit for the Kosovar Refugees track listing
"Last Kiss"
(Track 1)
"Baba" (live) (Alanis Morissette)
(Track 2)

"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 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.[4] 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 No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts,[5] 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 No. 92 in January 1974, spending a total of five weeks in Billboard's Hot 100. Coincidentally, J. Frank Wilson's version re-charted five weeks after the version by the Canadian group Wednesday charted.

Pearl Jam version[edit]

"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.[6] It would also appear on the group's 2003 rarities album Lost Dogs.

Origin and recording[edit]

The idea to cover "Last Kiss" came about after vocalist Eddie Vedder found an old record of the song at the Fremont Antique Mall in Seattle, Washington.[7] 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.[8][9] The band spent only a couple of thousand dollars mixing the song.[10] Bassist Jeff Ament said, "It was the most minimalist recording we've ever done."[9]

Release and reception[edit]

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 also was featured on the 1999 charity compilation album, No Boundaries: A Benefit for the Kosovar Refugees.[11] The song helped earn about $10 million for Kosovo relief.[10]

The cover would end up reaching No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. This remains Pearl Jam's highest position on the Billboard Hot 100. It peaked at No. 4 on the Top 40 Mainstream. The song reached No. 5 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks chart and No. 2 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart. The "Last Kiss" single has been certified gold by the RIAA.[12]

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 10 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 No. 4 and stayed there for two weeks. "Last Kiss" also reached No. 22 on the Canadian Year End Rock Top 50. "Last Kiss" reached the top 50 in the UK. "Last Kiss" peaked atop 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 said, "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."[6] Regarding the cover, guitarist Stone Gossard said, "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."[13] 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). The rarities album's title Lost Dogs may refer to the subject of Winner's song "Der Deitcher's Dog", a dog that cannot be found, despite its description.

Live performances[edit]

Pearl Jam first performed its cover of "Last Kiss" live at the band's May 7, 1998, concert in Seattle, Washington, at[14] 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.

Track listing[edit]

  1. "Last Kiss" (Wayne Cochran) – 3:15
  2. "Soldier of Love (Lay Down Your Arms)" (Buzz Cason, Tony Moon) – 2:54

Chart positions[edit]

Peak positions[edit]

Chart (1999) Position
Australian Singles Chart[15] 1
Canadian RPM Singles Chart[16] 1
Canadian RPM Rock/Alternative Chart[17] 4
US Billboard Hot 100[18] 2
US Modern Rock Tracks[18] 2
US Top 40 Mainstream[19] 4
US Adult Top 40[19] 5
US Mainstream Rock Tracks[18] 5
US Top 40 Tracks[19] 6
US Top 40 Adult Recurrents[19] 15
New Zealand Singles Chart[20] 19
UK Singles Chart[21] 42
Dutch Singles Chart[22] 77

End of year charts[edit]

End of year chart (1999) Position
U.S. Billboard Hot 100[23] 23
Canadian RPM Singles Chart[24] 23
Canadian RPM Rock Chart[25] 22

Other cover versions[edit]

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 translated by the Mexican Tv Director and tennis teacher Omero Gonzalez, this Spanish version has been covered by several bands: Los American's, Los Johnny Jets, Los 007, Los Doltons, the Colombian singer Alci Acosta recorded a cover of "Last Kiss" that became a hit in his country.

The band Wednesday's version reached #34 on Billboard in 1974.

In 2011, Trent Dabbs recorded a cover of "Last Kiss" for the hit television series The Vampire Diaries in Season 2 Episode 18: "The Last Dance".

Meadow Ryann covered this on her debut cover album, Wings.

Cœur de Pirate covered the song for the soundtrack of the 2014 season of the Canadian TV show, "Trauma".


  1. ^ "Best Of '99: Author Of Pearl Jam's Biggest Hit Has God To Thank". July 12, 1999.[dead link]
  2. ^ Last Kiss (Page 77)
  3. ^ "Funny Feeling", Page 72, continued on page 77, from Google Books
  4. ^ Matthew, Brian. "Sounds of the 60s". BBC Radio 2. September 26, 2009.
  5. ^ "Last Kiss by J. Frank Wilson And The Cavaliers".
  6. ^ a b Farley, Christopher John. "Last Kiss". Time. July 19, 1999.
  7. ^ Cohen, Jonathan. "The Pearl Jam Q & A: Lost Dogs". Billboard. 2003.
  8. ^ Rosen, Craig. "Pearl Jam's 'Last Kiss' Becomes Band's First No. 1 Single". Yahoo! Music. July 1, 1999.
  9. ^ a b Stout, Gene. "Pearl Jam's Ament has smaller fish to fry at festival". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. July 30, 1999.
  10. ^ a b (2003) Album notes for Lost Dogs by Pearl Jam, [CD booklet]. New York: Sony Music.
  11. ^ "The Unofficial Pearl Jam FAQ".
  12. ^ "Gold and Platinum Database Search". Retrieved 2007-02-12. 
  13. ^ Anderman, Joan. "Wisdom of Pearl". The Boston Globe. May 24, 2006.
  14. ^ "Pearl Jam Songs: "Last Kiss"".
  15. ^ "Pearl Jam - Last Kiss (single) (12663)". Retrieved 2007-06-11. 
  16. ^ "Top Singles - Volume 69, No. 21, September 13, 1999". RPM. Retrieved 2008-03-07. 
  17. ^ "Rock/Alternative - Volume 69, No. 16, August 09 1999". RPM. Retrieved 2007-03-07. 
  18. ^ a b c "Pearl Jam Artist Chart History". Billboard. Retrieved 2007-04-28. 
  19. ^ a b c d "Pearl Jam – Billboard Singles". Allmusic. Retrieved 2007-06-11. 
  20. ^ "Pearl Jam - Last Kiss (song)". New Retrieved 2007-07-17. 
  21. ^ "Chart Log: 1994-2006". Retrieved 2007-06-11. 
  22. ^ "Dutch Single/Album Chart / Pearl Jam / Longplay". Retrieved 2008-02-19. 
  23. ^ "Billboard Top 100 - 1999". Retrieved 2010-08-28. 
  24. ^ "Top Singles - Volume 70, No. 8, December 13, 1999". RPM. Retrieved 2010-10-20. 
  25. ^ "Rock/Alternative - Volume 70, No. 8, December 13, 1999". RPM. Retrieved 2010-10-20. 
Preceded by
"If You Had My Love" by Jennifer Lopez
Australian ARIA Singles Chart number-one single
(Pearl Jam's cover version)

August 1 – September 18, 1999
Succeeded by
"Mambo No. 5" by Lou Bega