Saturday, July 9, 2005

50 years ago: “Rock Around the Clock” launched the rock era

We’re Gonna Rock Around the Clock

Bill Haley & His Comets

Writer(s): Max Freedman/Jimmy DeKnight (see lyrics here)


First Charted: May 10, 1954


Peak: 18 US, 12 HP, 18 CB, 14 HR, 3 RB, 15 UK, 16 (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): 20.0 US, 1.44 UK, 25.0 world (includes US + UK)


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 72.33 video, 60.60 streaming

Awards: (Click on award for more details).

About the Song:

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.” While arguments can be made for multiple songs as the beginning of rock and roll (check out the DMDB list of the top 100 rock-n-roll origins songs), “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.

Although he started as a yodeler (!), Haley converted to rock when he saw its effect on audiences RS500 covering covers of “Rocket 88” and “Rock the Joint” in 1951 and 1952. TC 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. BR 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

Haley “brought a country and western swing flavour to the R&B changes so that it sounded like sophisticated hillbilly music (admittedly and oxymoron).” TC His version fcused 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. In addition, Haley’s teen idol appeal was limited. He was plump, balding, and over thirty, so his teen idol appeal was limited, but as Haley said, “‘I started it all. They can’t take that away from me.’” HL He explained, “We premiered this music…We put country and western together with rhythm and blues.” TC

Initially, the record company didn’t know what to do with it, calling the single a “novelty foxtrot.” SF However, 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. The song was revived in 1974 as TV series Happy Days’ opening theme


Resources and Related Links:

  • DMDB Encyclopedia entry for Bill Haley
  • original post on Facebook
  • BR Fred Bronson (2007). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (4th edition). Billboard Books: New York, NY. Page 1.
  • TC Toby Creswell (2005). 1001 Songs: The Great Songs of All Time. Thunder’s Mouth Press: New York, NY. Pages 517-8.
  • HL Michael Heatley and Spencer Leigh (1998). Behind the Song: The Stories of 100 Great Pop & Rock Classics. Page 186.
  • JA David A. Jasen (2002). A Century of American Popular Music: 2000 Best-Loved and Remembered Songs (1899-1999). Routledge: Taylor & Francis, Inc. Page 165.
  • KL Jon Kutner and 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 and John Javna (1986). Behind the Hits: Inside Stories of Classic Pop and Rock and Roll. Page 171.

First posted 7/9/2010; last updated 4/17/2021.

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