April 12, 2018

45 RPMs 22: Bill Haley & His Comets ~ (We're Gonna) Rock Around the Clock

45 rpm vinyl record
photo by Styrous®

In the spring of 1954, Haley and His Comets left Essex Records for New York-based Decca Records. Their first session, on April 12, 1954, yielded Rock Around the Clock, which would become Haley's biggest hit and one of the most important records in rock and roll history. The song was written by Max C. Freedman and James E. Myers (the latter under the pseudonym "Jimmy De Knight") in 1952.     

photographer unknown

The song was originally the B side of the record; the A side was Thirteen Women (And Only One Man In Town). The success of Rock Around the Clock is attributed to its use in the soundtrack of the film Blackboard Jungle (link below), which was released on March 19, 1955. The song, which was re-released to coincide with the film, then shifted to the single's A-side, rose to the top of the American musical charts that summer and stayed there for eight weeks, the first rock and roll record to do so.        


According to the official record sheet from the session, the musicians on the famous recording are :
The original arrangement of the song bore little resemblance to the version recorded by Haley, and was in fact closer to a popular instrumental of the day called The Syncopated Clock (written by Leroy Anderson). I've never heard this version but I have a feeling it is like a cover made by the Belgian pop group, Telex. which is interesting but the guts of the song are not there (link below). The verse melody of Rock Around the Clock does bear a very close similarity to that of the first hit by Hank Williams, Move It On Over, from 1947.                 

Haley and his Comets began performing the song on stage (Comets bass player Marshall Lytle and drummer Dick Richards say the first performances were in Wildwood, New Jersey at Phil and Eddie's Surf Club), but Dave Miller, his producer, refused to allow Haley to record it for his Essex Records label (a feud existed between Myers and song writer Miller). Haley claimed to have taken the sheet music into the recording studio at least twice, with Miller ripping up the music each time.   

Rock Around the Clock was chosen from the collection of Peter Ford, the son of Blackboard Jungle star Glenn Ford and dancer Eleanor Powell. The producers were looking for a song to represent the type of music the youth of 1955 was listening to, and the elder Ford borrowed several records from his son's collection, one of which was Haley's Rock Around the Clock and this was the song chosen. In 2004 the song finished at #50 in AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs survey of top tunes in American cinema.        

In 1974, the original version of the song returned to the American charts when it was used as the theme for the movie American Graffiti and a re-recorded version by Haley was used as the opening theme for the TV series Happy Days during its first two seasons. In the UK, the song again reached the top 20 and as of 2013 remains the only non-Christmas single to have done so on five separate occasions.       

Queen Elizabeth II & Bill Haley - 1979
photographer unknown

Rock Around the Clock is often cited as the biggest-selling vinyl rock and roll single of all time. The exact number of copies sold has never been audited; however, a figure of at least 25 million was cited by the Guinness Book of World Records in its category "Phonograph records: Biggest Sellers" from the early 1970s until the 1990s. A frequently used piece of promotion regarding the song is that it is said to be playing somewhere in the world every minute of the day.              
Viewfinder links:       
Blackboard Jungle         
Pink Floyd        
YouTube links:       
Bill Haley & His Comets ~      
         Rock Around The Clock
         Thirteen Women    
Telex ~ Rock Around The Clock     
Leroy Anderson ~ The Syncopated Clock
Hank Williams - Move it on Over               

'It's very hard to tell what made me first decide to play the guitar. Rock Around the Clock by Bill Haley came out when I was ten, and that probably had something to do with it.'

Styrous® ~ Thursday, April 12, 2018

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