Rock Around The Clock

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"Rock Around the Clock"
Rock Around the Clock.jpg
"Rock Around the Clock" 45" single
Single by Bill Haley and His Comets
B-side "Thirteen Women (And Only One Man in Town)"
Released May 20, 1954 and again in May 1955
Format 45 rpm, 78 rpm, 33 rpm, 45 rpm maxi single, CD single, Cassette single, music download
Recorded April 12, 1954, Pythian Temple studios, 135 West 70th Street, New York City
Genre
Length 2:08 (see length variations)
Label Decca
Writer(s) Max C. Freedman
James E. Myers (as Jimmy DeKnight)
Producer(s) Milt Gabler<
Bill Haley and His Comets singles chronology

"Chattanooga Choo Choo"/"Straight Jacket"
(1954)
"Rock Around the Clock"
(1954)
"Shake, Rattle and Roll"
(1954)

Peaked @ #1 on July 9, 1955
Peaked @ #39 on May 25, 1974

There is some dispute over what was the first rock song ever recorded (The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame says it's Rocket 88, which Haley covered in 1951), but this is indisputably the first rock song to top the charts, and generally considered the beginning of the "Rock Era," at least for chart purposes.

At the time, Billboard magazine compiled charts in three different categories: Best Sellers in Stores, Most Played By Disc Jockeys, and Most Played in Juke Boxes - many songs like "Rock Around The Clock" topped all three and were a consensus #1. Elvis had his first chart-topper in 1956 with "Heartbreak Hotel," and rock music made steady gains from there, but to give you some idea of what the charts looked like before Haley hit the pinnacle, the 1955 #1s that hit before Haley were by Joan Weber, The Fontane Sisters, The McGuire Sisters, Bill Hays, Perez Prado, Georgia Gibbs and Les Baxter. This was written in 1953 by a Philadelphia songwriter named named Max Freedman (who was nearly 60 years old), and by James Myers, who was a local musician and song publisher, who published it under the name "Jimmy De-Knight." In addition to owning half the composer credit on the song, Myers had 100% of the publishing. Haley wanted to record the song, but Dave Miller, who owned his label Essex Records, refused because of a dispute over the publishing. Myers then placed the song with a veteran Country act called Sonny Dae and His Nights, and their version was released in 1953 to little acclaim. In 1954, Myers helped Haley leave Essex records and sign with Decca; as part of their agreement, one side of every single Haley recorded had to be a song from Myers' catalog, and the first one they picked was "Rock Around The Clock," which was originally released as the B-side of a Dickie Thompson song called "Thirteen Women," which was about a nuclear bomb that leaves just one man and 13 women alive.

"Rock Around The Clock" first appeared on the charts on June 3, 1953, selling 75,000 copies and convincing Decca to pick up Haley's option. Haley then recorded a successful cover of the Big Joe Turner song "Shake, Rattle And Roll," and on March 25, 1955, "Rock Around The Clock" was featured in the movie Blackboard Jungle, which gave it a surge in popularity and prompted Decca to re-release the single. This time, the song surged to the top of the charts, entering the Top 40 on May 14, 1955 and hitting #1 on July 9, where it stayed for eight weeks. Haley first recorded this song on April 12, 1954 at his first session for Decca Records. Haley went to New York to cut his first Decca session. Musicians were: Billy Williamson on steel guitar, Johnny Grande on piano, Joey d'Ambrosio on tenor sax, Danny Cedrone on lead guitar and Marshall Lytle on bass. A session drummer, named Billy Gussack played on this recording. Haley recorded the song a few other times, but this recording was the original single. The term "Rock 'n' Roll" was a relatively new way of describing music when this came out. A lot of early "Rock" was based on the blues, and was far too racy for most white listeners. Many white singers made careers out of sanitizing R&B records for pop appeal, but Haley added a country/swing element to his covers that kept a lot of the edge. When Elvis came along, he did the same thing, transforming R&B songs like "Hound Dog" without sucking the life out of them. Many listeners had never heard of "rock and roll" when this was released, so the record company had a hard time describing the song. The label on the single called it a "Novelty Foxtrot." Haley's guitarist Danny Cedrone played pretty much the same solo on "Rock Around The Clock" that he did on Haley's 1952 cover of the Jimmy Preston "Rock The Joint," which was a big break for Haley, selling over 150,000 copies, and established the swinging blues style he would use on his famous hit. This was the original opening theme song for the TV show Happy Days. The song was re-released in 1974 to capitalize on its new popularity, and charted at #39 in the US. In 1976 theme was changed to "Happy Days." In the UK, this was the biggest-selling single of the '50s. Elton John took a swipe at this in his song "Crocodile Rock." Elton thought this was kind of overrated, so he put a line in about how they were doing the Crocodile Rock while the other kids were "Rocking 'round the clock." Haley was never able to duplicate the massive success of "Rock Around The Clock," but he did have a few more hits in the '50s, including "See You Later Alligator" and "The Saints Rock 'N Roll." Haley is a key figure in the evolution of rock music, helping transform the sound out of Country music, but he couldn't sustain his early success. Elvis stole his thunder, and Haley recorded many substandard songs because wanted to cut tracks owned by his publishing company. He remained somewhat popular overseas, but lawsuits and financial problems took their toll on the singer, and he died in 1981 at age 55. Bill Haley and His Comets were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. According to Rolling Stone in their "100 Greatest Guitar Songs" issue, Comets guitarist Danny Cedrone was paid $21 for his work on this track, which became a classic rock solo. Unfortunately, he died in a fall months after he recorded it. >> There is a different snare drum pattern on each verse. >> In 1956, Bill Haley and the Comets starred as themselves in a low-budget movie called Rock Around The Clock, where they performed nine songs. The film was far from scandalous, but was targeted to teenagers and caused a stir among theater owners who feared bad behavior. Possibly spurred on by these reports, there were incidents of dancing in aisles and other breaches in etiquette that helped fuel the perception among many adults that rock music would lead to mayhem in America's youth.

Music video

Lyrics

One, two, three o'clock
Four o'clock rock
Five, six, seven o'clock
Eight o'clock rock
Nine, ten, eleven o'clock
Twelve o'clock rock
We're gonna rock
Around the clock tonight

Put your glad rags on
Join me, hon
We'll have some fun
When the clock strikes one

We're gonna rock
Around the clock tonight
We're gonna rock, rock, rock
'Til broad daylight
Gonna rock, gonna rock
Around the clock tonight

When the clock strikes
Two, three and four
If the band slows down
We'll yell for more

We're gonna rock
Around the clock tonight
We're gonna rock, rock, rock
'Til broad daylight
Gonna rock, gonna rock
Around the clock tonight

When the chimes ring
Five, six, and seven
We'll be right in seventh heaven

We're gonna rock
Around the clock tonight
We're gonna rock, rock, rock
'Til broad daylight
Gonna rock, gonna rock
Around the clock tonight

When it's eight, nine
Ten, eleven too
I'll be going strong
And so will you

We're gonna rock
Around the clock tonight
We're gonna rock, rock, rock
'Til broad daylight
Gonna rock, gonna rock
Around the clock tonight

When the clock strikes twelve
We'll cool off then
Start a rockin' round the clock again

We're gonna rock
Around the clock tonight
We're gonna rock, rock, rock
'Til broad daylight
Gonna rock, gonna rock
Around the clock tonight


Weekly charts

Chart (1955) Peak
position
May 14, 1955 22
May 21, 1955 14
May 28, 1955 10
June 4, 1955 9
June 11, 1955 7
June 18, 1955 4
June 25, 1955 3
July 2, 1955 2
July 9, 1955 1
July 16, 1955 1
July 23, 1955 1
July 30, 1955 1
August 6, 1955 1
August 13, 1955 1
August 20, 1955 1
August 27, 1955 1
September 3, 1955 3
September 10, 1955 3
September 17, 1955 4
September 24, 1955 5
October 1, 1955 8
October 8, 1955 13
October 15, 1955 18
October 22, 1955 26
1974 Reissue
May 25, 1974 99
June 1, 1974 94
June 8, 1974 86
June 15, 1974 81
June 22, 1974 72
June 29, 1974 59
July 6, 1974 52
July 13, 1974 49
July 20, 1974 46
July 27, 1974 44
August 3, 1974 39
August 10, 1974 44
August 17, 1974 44
August 24, 1974 59

mUK best-selling singles (by decade)