|Rock Around the Clock|
Rock Around the Clock: In the mid 1950's, American culture was still divided by race. Black Americans and white Americans were separated by a color barrier. The music industry of the time was also divided according to this same color line. White audiences listened to country music and "Your Hit Parade". The Hit Parade was dominated by white singers that sang in the approved style of the day. "How Much is that Doggy in the Window" and "The Ballad of Davy Crockett" are good examples of the sound of the day. On the other hand, black audiences listened to what was dubbed "race music". Jazz, blues and gospel were all played and listened to. During the 1950's, white performers began to recognize the importance of jazz, blues, and rhythm and blues. In fact, many of the white performers began to make cover versions of the songs written by African American artists. These cover versions, though very popular with white audiences of the time, are considered today to be poor imitations of
the music produced by black musicians. These recordings lacked the "soul" of the original recordings, and were quite restrained when compared to the originals. This new music, Rock and Roll, melded rhythm and blues and country and western musical styles. The lyrics were based on music and songs that referred to sex or carried a sexual innuendo.
On May 14, 1955 "(We're Gonna) Rock Around The Clock" went to number 1 on the Billboard charts. It would stay there for eight weeks. "Rock Around the Clock" is considered by many people to be the very first Rock and Roll music record. Though there are other songs that predate "Rock Around the Clock", it is the first Rock and Roll song that goes to number one. It was recorded on April 12, 1954 by Bill Haley and the Comets (also known as Bill Haley and His Comets). However, at that time, it did not do very well on the charts. It wouldn't be until 1955 when the song was used as the opening theme for a new movie called "Blackboard Jungle" starring Glenn Ford as the teacher, and Vic Morrow and Sidney Poitier as students, that the song became a hit. By July 5, 1955 -- the day before Bill Haley's 30th birthday -- "Rock Around the Clock" was the top single in America, where it stayed on the Top 40 charts for an amazing 24 weeks. It was the first Rock and Roll record to be used in
a Hollywood movie, and it was the first Rock and Roll record to reach No. 1 on the mainstream musical charts in America. Within a year, Rock and Roll performers such as Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Buddy Holly would dominate the airwaves and record sales.
It is not certain when the song was written. The song is believed to have been written in 1953 by Max Freedman and Jimmy DeKnight. The song, originally was entitled "Dance Around the Clock", was written specifically for Bill Haley. The song was a two minute, eight second-long novelty tune recorded in a converted Masonic temple in New York City. Only two takes were recorded and the single was edited together from both. Within months, if not weeks, Rock and Roll was a worldwide phenomenon. It is said that at any given minute, the song is playing (or being played) somewhere in the world.
Actual sales figures for "Rock Around the Clock" may never be known with absolute certainty. The most accepted number is 25 million, cited by the Guinness Book of World Records, making it the second highest-selling single of all time, after Bing Crosby's "White Christmas." Elton John's 1997 tribute to Princess Diana, "Candle in the Wind," sold 37 million copies, but only in CD single format. Therefore, "Rock Around the Clock" remains the highest-selling rock and roll classic vinyl recording, based on Guinness' reckoning. According to Billboard's charts, "(We're Gonna) Rock Around The Clock" was the Best Seller #1 for 8 weeks, Juke Box #1 for 7 weeks, Jockey #1 for 6 weeks, and Top 100 #56.