ON THIS DATE (57 YEARS AGO)
May 20, 1954 – Bill Haley and His Comets: Rock Around the Clock b/w Thirteen Women (and Only One Man in Town) is released.
“Rock Around the Clock” is a 12-bar-blues-based song written by Max C. Freedman and James E. Myers (the latter under the pseudonym “Jimmy De Knight”) in 1952. The best-known and most succ…essful rendition was recorded by Bill Haley and His Comets in 1954.
“Rock Around the Clock” was first issued in the spring of 1954 as a B-side to “Thirteen Women (and Only One Man in Town).” While the song did make the American Billboard music charts (contrary to popular opinion that it was a flop), it was considered a commercial disappointment. It was not until 1955, when “Rock Around the Clock” was used under the opening credits of the film Blackboard Jungle, that the song truly took off.
It was not the first rock and roll record, nor was it the first successful record of the genre (Bill Haley had American chart success with “Crazy Man, Crazy” in 1953, and in 1954, “Shake, Rattle and Roll” reached #1 on the Billboard R&B chart). Haley’s recording nevertheless became an anthem for rebellious Fifties youth and is widely considered to be the song that, more than any other, brought rock and roll into mainstream culture around the world. The song is ranked #158 on the Rolling Stone magazine’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
Although first recorded by Italian-American band Sonny Dae and His Knights, the more famous version by Bill Haley & His Comets is not, strictly speaking, a cover version. Myers claimed the song had been written specifically for Haley but, for various reasons, Haley was unable to record it himself until April 1954.
The original full title of the song was “We’re Gonna Rock Around the Clock Tonight!”. This was later shortened to “(We’re Gonna) Rock Around the Clock”, though this form is generally only used on releases of the 1954 Bill Haley Decca Records recording; most other recordings of this song by Haley and others (including Sonny Dae) shorten this title further to “Rock Around the Clock”.