Day 191: Rock Around The Clock

Song: “(We’re Gonna) Rock Around The Clock” by Bill Haley and His Comets
Reached #1: July 9, 1955 (their first, 10 weeks, Best Seller chart)

Rock starts here

Yes, of course, we had to include the first #1 song of the rock-and-roll era. 

Today, we look back on it as the song that started it all – it really wasn’t, of course, but it was the song that made rock safe for white America.  When it reached #1 on the various Billboard charts of the era, it showed that rock wasn’t just a fad – it was a force that music’s mainstream had to acknowledge.

Haley and his Comets had been doing rock for several years before “Rock Around The Clock” hit it big.  They had done their version of what is called The First Rock Song, “Rocket 88”, in 1951 (as Bill Haley and the Saddlemen).  They did what is believed to be the first rock song to make the Billboard charts at all, 1953’s “Crazy Man, Crazy”.  They had covered Big Joe Turner’s “Shake, Rattle And Roll” in 1954.

But it was this 2-minute anthem that changed history. 

Of course, something would have been the first big rock hit if Haley’s track hadn’t – but nothing would’ve been the same.  The sound and structure of “Rock Around The Clock” became the starting point for other musicians over the next few years, until Elvis reset the template later in the ‘50s, and then the Beatles took the template and overhauled it in the ‘60s.

Let’s make it clear – the world didn’t stop listening to other music. Pat Boone and Mitch Miller were among the artists who followed Haley to the top of the charts in 1955… but this was the turning point.

On the same day – July 9, 1955 – another song also reached #1 for the first time, on Billboard’s Disk Jockeys chart.  That would be the future Chairman, Frank Sinatra, with “Learnin’ The Blues”.  Perez Prado and his Orchestra were still at #1 on the Jukebox chart with “Cherry Pink And Apple Blossom White”.  Within a few weeks, though, the “Rock Around The Clock” juggernaut swept all three charts (for 4 weeks in August and September 1955).  You have to wonder how different our music today would be if Haley had faded and Sinatra had spent almost 3 months at #1…

Haley died in 1981.  The Comets were finally inducted, as a group, into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2012.

Today, several knockoff and tribute groups continue to play the music of his Comets, over 60 years after he started in Chester, PA.  His youngest daughter, Gina, has gone into the family business, touring in the Southwest with the Gina Haley Band.

Tomorrow, a blog post that we hope satisfies…

Other songs that went to #1 on July 9:
1955 –
“Learnin’ The Blues” by Frank Sinatra (his first, 2 weeks, Disk Jockey chart)
1977 – “Undercover Angel” by Alan O’Day (his first, 1 week)
1983 – “Every Breath You Take” by the Police (their first, 8 weeks)
1988 – “The Flame” by Cheap Trick (their first, 2 weeks)
2011 – “Give Me Everything” by Pitbull feat. Ne-Yo, Afrojack & Hayer (his first, 1 week)

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