Rock Around the Clock

Highly Appreciated

“Rock Around the Clock”  is a rock and roll song in the 12-bar blues format written by Max C. Freedman and James E. Myers (the latter under the pseudonym “Jimmy De Knight”) in 1952.  The best-known and most successful rendition was recorded by Bill Haley & His Comets in 1954 for American Decca.  It was a number one single on both the US and UK charts and also re-entered the UK Singles Chart in the 1960’s and 1970’s.  It was not the first rock and roll record, nor was it the first successful record of the genre.  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.  (More from Wikipedia)
The term “rockabilly” – the word is an amalgamation of rock and hillbilly (an early term for country music) – was thrilling to me even before I actually knew what it meant.  It was one of the earliest forms of rock and roll and the first to be played primarily by white musicians, going all the way back to “Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley and His Comets.  The roster of rockabilly stars over the years starts of course with The KingElvis Presley, along with Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and most of the other artists at Sun Records in the 1950’s, plus Wanda Jackson, Eddie Cochran and others.  There was also a rockabilly revival in the early 1980’s led by the Blasters and the Stray Cats.   To this day, when a band wants a rawer sound, they will incorporate rockabilly into their music. 
(May 2011)
*       *       *

Everyone knows about “Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley and His Comets, the 1954 classic that is likely regarded by the general public as the first rock and roll record.  The inclusion of the song in the 1955 film Blackboard Jungle (starring a young Sidney Poitier) is what truly made it a hit.  However, Bill Haley’s rock roots actually go much deeper and much earlier than that. 


In 1953, “Crazy Man, Crazy” by Bill Haley and His Comets became the first rock and roll song to be televised nationally when it was used in the soundtrack of an episode of the CBS anthology series Omnibus called Glory in the Flower that starred James Dean.  Rock Around the Clock was their next record, and the band continued with a string of hits in the mid-1950’s that included “Shake, Rattle and Roll”, “See You Later, Alligator”, “Skinny Minnie”, and “Razzle Dazzle”. 

(June 2013/1)
*       *       *
Rock and roll pioneer Bill Haley was from Detroit; in 1955, Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley and His Comets was the first big rock and roll hit. Hank Ballard and the Midnighters had a crossover R&B hit in 1954 with “Work with Me, Annie”; this band also recorded the original version of “The Twist” in 1959 as a B-side that Chubby Checker catapulted to a nationwide craze the following year. More recently, the White Stripes is one of the primary bands that ignited the Garage Rock Revival of the early 2000’s, among a host of other like-minded Detroit groups. 
(March 2016)
* * *
I have previously posted the opening track on the Thomas Anderson album Blues for the Flying Dutchman, “Bill Haley in Mexico”, which I just have to hear again (sorry, Phil Gammage!). As almost everyone knows, Bill Haley and His Comets had the first big rock and roll hit with Rock Around the Clock (1954, though it did not become a hit until 1955). I am not sure what the chorus is talking about when it goes: “I wanted to know / I wanted to know / What happened to Bill Haley down in Mexico”. But I cannot recall a more insistent chorus with a better instrumental follow-up than this one. I am reminded of the first time that I played the American album by the Dutch band Shocking Blue, The Shocking Blue, which naturally includes their big hit Venus. I simply could not believe how good the opening song, Long and Lonesome Road” was, and I actually got up from my chair and restarted the album.
(Year 10 Review)
Last edited: March 22, 2021