Happy birthday, rock and roll! On July 9, 1955, Bill Haley & the Comets hit #1 on the Billboard singles chart with “Rock Around the Clock”. In honor of that occasion, this blog entry is an excerpt from the Dave’s Music Database book The Top 100 Songs of the Rock Era 1954-1999.
While multiple songs claim they birthed rock-n-roll, “Clock” is generally regarded as the place keeper that separates the pre-rock era from the rock era. As the best selling rock record of all time, KL it makes for a more than suitable launching pad.
The song focused more on the bass and drums than the melody, KL making for a song with youth appeal in an era dominated by adult contemporary fare. Initially, the record company didn’t know what to do with it, calling the single a “novelty foxtrot.” SF
Although he started as a yodeler (!), Haley converted to rock when he saw its effect on audiences. RS500 In 1953, Freedman, a 63-year-old Tin Pan Alley writer, and Myers, Haley’s agent, reworked the blues number “My Daddy Rocks Me with a Steady Roll” for Haley. SJ Dave Miller, who signed Haley to Holiday Records, wouldn’t let him record it because he disliked Myers. BR1 Sonny Dae & His Nights tackled it in October 1953, SF but it flopped. Haley got another shot when he jumped to Decca and “Clock” landed on the B-side of novelty song “Thirteen Women.” SF
“Rock Around the Clock” as featured in ‘The Blackboard Jungle’
When featured in the movie The Blackboard Jungle, its rioting teen audience trumpeted it as their theme for alienation and hostility. SJ Billboard’s Top 40 chart was only a few months old SF when this went #1, making it a signpost for the birth of rock-n-roll and top 40.
Haley’s music was more country-oriented and he was plump, balding, and over thirty, so his teen idol appeal was limited, but Haley has said “‘I started it all. They can’t take that away from me.’” HL The song was revived in 1974 as TV series Happy Days’ opening theme.
“Rock Around the Clock” as featured in ‘Happy Days’
Resources and Related Links:
- the Dave’s Music Database book The Top 100 Songs of the Rock Era 1954-1999
- DMDB music maker encyclopedia entry for Bill Haley & the Comets
- BR1 Fred Bronson (2007). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (4th edition). New York, NY; Billboard Books. Page 1.
- HL Michael Heatley/Spencer Leigh (1998). Behind the Song: The Stories of 100 Great Pop & Rock Classics. Page 186.
- KL Jon Kutner/Spencer Leigh. (2005). 1000 UK Number One Hits. Page 35.
- RS500 Rolling Stone (2004). ”The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.”
- SF Songfacts.com
- SH Arnold Shaw (1974). The Rockin’ ’50s. Page 138.
- SJ Bob Shannon/John Javna (1986). Behind the Hits: Inside Stories of Classic Pop and Rock and Roll. Page 171.