Per our human necessity to be definitive with the way the past has unfolded, this day in 1954 serves as the fuse to the moment rock ‘n’ roll exploded.
The story goes that a pair of songwriters, Max C. Freedman and James E. Myers, wrote the chug-a-lug standard, “Rock Around the Clock” specifically for Bill Haley, a then 29-year-old country heart gaining a rapid following for his newfound push into actually tasteful, white appropriations of African American rhythms.
“One, two, three o’ clock, four o’ clock, rock,” simple stuff, made for kids and their rockin’ ways. Haley and His Comets dressed it with a sax fill, and a hot-steppin’ guitar line, slapped it on a B-side as an afterthought to a jam called “Thirteen Women” at an Upper West Side studio in NYC and saw it modestly float around charts nowhere significant.
It wasn’t until near a year later that style met substance, when the rebellion glorifying teen movie Blackboard Jungle dropped, a kind of post-war Dangerous Minds tale ending in a classroom showdown between an idealistic English teacher and young city punks.
The creators of this film, seeking to bottle a ‘delinquent‘ vibe, mined actor Glenn Ford’s son’s record collection for a tune to roll the opening credits to. And thus a movement was born.
Kids would flock to the film just to dance in the isles to the song, which immediately shot to #1 via Billboard and remained there for eight weeks, earning its hindsight status as the original rock fabric.
Further immortalized in Happy Days and American Graffiti for future generations, hyped as the “National Anthem of rock ‘n’ roll” by the late Dick Clark, when the chimes ring five, six and seven…eight, nine, ten, eleven, put your damn glad rags on you rebellious punk, you know what to do:
We’re gonna rock around the clock tonight
We’re gonna rock, rock, rock ’til broad daylight
We’re gonna rock, gonna rock around the clock tonight