If this isn't the cornerstone of rock and roll, it's a big piece of the foundation. After a hit ("Crazy Man, Crazy") that year on the small Essex label, Bill Haley and his Comets signed to Decca and recorded "(We're Gonna) Rock Around the Clock" during the band's first Decca session (which had originally been recorded in 1952 by Sunny Dae and His Knights). Intended as a B-side, it made some noise but was not a smash – unlike Haley's following release, a version of "Shake, Rattle and Roll." To the rescue came Blackboard Jungle, a grim movie about classroom juvenile deliquency: "Rock Around the Clock" blared on the soundtrack during the film's opening credits and end title. When ambassador Clare Booth Luce used her clout to have Blackboard Jungle withdrawn as the U.S. entry to the 1955 Venice Film Festival, the movie's notoriety and Haley's success were assured. Hollywood's first use of rock and roll catapulted "Rock Around the Clock" to sales of one million. The song bears more than passing resemblance to "Rock the Joint," a 1952 Haley version of Jimmy Preston's 1949 side. Guitarist Danny Cedrone even plays the same electrifying solo on both Haley recordings. With its polished production, though, "(We're Gonna) Rock Around the Clock" had a leg up on its two antecedents. How important was “Rock Around the Clock”? “Before it became a hit in summer 1955 – more than a year after it was recorded – rock ‘n’ roll was virtually an underground movement, something kids listened to on the sly,” wrote journalist Alex Frazer-Harrison. “This changed after ‘Rock Around the Clock.’ The music was everywhere.” Haley was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. The Comets were inducted in 2012 at the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in Cleveland.
Listen to and learn the stories behind the Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's unique app. This app features clips of more than 500 songs, each with cover art, and fascinating artist and recording notes. The searchable list of songs is also divided among decades and artists, so finding and hearing exactly what you want is easy. It's perfect for trivia buffs, music lovers and fans of rock and roll. Click here to learn more!