This Day in Music History: Rock Around The Clock
“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 in 1952. The best-known and most successful rendition was recorded by Bill Haley & His Comets in 1954 for American Decca. On July 9, 1955, “Rock Around the Clock” became the first rock and roll recording to hit the top of Billboard’s Pop charts, a feat it repeated on charts around the world. The song stayed at this place for eight weeks. It was a number one single on both the US and UK charts and also re-entered the UK Singles Chart in the 1960s and 1970s. The song is ranked No. 158 on the Rolling Stone magazine’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
Haley’s recording became an anthem for rebellious 1950s 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 verse melody of “Rock Around the Clock” does bear a very close similarity to that of Hank Williams’ first hit, “Move It On Over”, from 1947. Williams’ song was very similar to Charley Patton’s “Going to Move to Alabama”, recorded in 1929 – which itself was at least partly derived from Jim Jackson’s “Kansas City Blues” from 1927. The song also uses phrases from Count Basie’s “Red Wagon”, first recorded in 1939.
“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, when the advent of compact discs led to Guinness discontinuing the category. Guinness consistently listed “Rock Around the Clock” as having the highest claim of any pop music recording, coming second in sales only to Bing Crosby’s 1942 recording of “White Christmas”
The song was used as the theme song for the first two seasons of the 1970s sitcom Happy Days, which was set in the 1950s. The original Haley recording is in the soundtrack for the film American Graffiti from 1973, which also starred Ron Howard.