About The Song

Rock Around the Clock: A Song That Launched a Genre

Bill Haley & His Comets’ “Rock Around the Clock” is more than just a catchy tune. Released in 1954, it became a cultural phenomenon, a firecracker that ignited the fuse of rock and roll and propelled it into the mainstream. This song’s story goes beyond the music itself, encompassing songwriting twists, a band on the rise, and a seismic shift in popular culture.

Background

Birth of a Song: The origins of “Rock Around the Clock” lie in 1952 with songwriter Jimmy DeKnight (pen name of James E. Myers) and Max C. Freedman. Originally titled “Thirteen Women (and One Man)” with a slower tempo and risque lyrics, it wasn’t destined for greatness. However, DeKnight saw potential in the reworked, faster version titled “Rock Around the Clock.”

Bill Haley & The Comets Take Charge: Bill Haley, a singer and guitarist leading a band called The Comets since the early 1950s, was already incorporating elements of jump blues and rhythm and blues into their sound. They stumbled upon “Rock Around the Clock” in 1953 and immediately recognized its potential. Haley, with his energetic stage presence and powerful vocals, was the perfect frontman for this electrifying song.

Recording and Release: Their 1954 recording for Decca Records captured the raw energy of the song. It wasn’t an immediate hit, but slowly gained traction on jukeboxes and radio stations, particularly those catering to a younger audience. A cover by Haley & The Comets for the 1955 movie “Blackboard Jungle” proved to be the tipping point.

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Musical Style

“Rock Around the Clock” is a prime example of early rock and roll. Key characteristics include:

  • Driving Rhythm: The song is built on a strong backbeat provided by the drums and accentuated by the walking bass line. This relentless rhythm section creates a sense of urgency and excitement, perfect for dancing.
  • Simple Guitar Work: The guitar parts are not technically complex, relying on power chords and driving strums to propel the song forward. This simplicity allows the energy of the music to shine through.
  • Piano Accents: The piano adds another layer of texture, with flourishes and fills that complement the rhythm section and guitar work.
  • Saxophone Appeal: The saxophone adds a touch of bluesy swagger to the song, reflecting its rhythm and blues roots. It also provides memorable riffs and solos that punctuate the energy.
  • Call and Response Vocals: Haley’s dynamic vocals take center stage. He utilizes a call-and-response style, interacting with the backing vocals of The Comets to create a sense of playful dialogue and audience participation.

Although “Rock Around the Clock” may sound tame compared to later rock music, its sound was revolutionary in the mid-1950s. It was a departure from the smoother sounds of popular music at the time, bringing a raw energy and rebellious spirit that resonated with a new generation.

Lyrics

The lyrics of “Rock Around the Clock” are deceptively simple. They center around a night out dancing, describing the excitement of teenagers getting ready to go and have a good time. Lines like “Come on everybody, let’s rock” and “The clock is tickin’ up, move your feet” became rallying cries for a generation. Here’s a breakdown of some key elements:

  • Focus on Youth Culture: The lyrics directly address teenagers, using slang and colloquialisms that resonated with their experiences. This focus on a specific audience was a novelty in popular music.
  • Celebration of Dance: Dancing is the central theme, presented as a source of joy and release. The lyrics encourage participation and create a sense of shared experience.
  • Rebellious Undercurrent: The lyrics imply a sense of breaking free from routine and societal norms. Lines like “Let’s have some fun tonight” hinted at a youthful rebellion against established attitudes.
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Despite its apparent simplicity, the song’s lyrics tapped into a growing desire for change and self-expression among teenagers.

Cultural Impact

“Rock Around the Clock” was a cultural earthquake. Here are some of the ways it left its mark:

  • Breaking Racial Barriers: Rock and roll, heavily influenced by African American rhythm and blues, helped break down racial barriers in music. A white band like Bill Haley & The Comets performing this music helped introduce it to a wider audience.
  • The Rise of Rock and Roll: “Rock Around the Clock” is often credited as being the song that truly launched rock and roll into the mainstream. Its success paved

Video

Lyrics

🎵 Let’s sing along with the lyrics!

One, two, tree o’clock, four o’clock rock
Five, six, seven o’clock, eight o’clock rock
Nine, ten, eleven o’clock, twelve o’clock rock
We’re gonna rock around the clock tonightPut your glad rags on, join me, hon
We’ll have some fun while the clock strikes one
We’re gonna rock around the clock tonight
We’re gonna rock, rock, rock ’till broad daylight
We’re gonna rock, gonna rock around the clock tonightWhen the clock strikes two or tree and four
If the band slows down we’ll yell for more
We’re gonna rock around the clock tonight
We’re gonna rock, rock, rock ’till broad daylight
We’re gonna rock gonna rock around the clock tonightWhen the chimes ring five, six and seven
We’ll be right in seventh heaven
We’re gonna rock around the clock tonight
We’re gonna rock, rock, rock, ’till broad daylight
We’re gonna rock, gonna rock, around the clock tonight

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When it’s eight, nine, ten, eleven too
I’ll be goin’ strong and so will you
We’re gonna rock around the clock tonight
We’re gonna rock, rock, rock, ’till broad daylight
We’re gonna rock, gonna rock, around the clock tonight

When the clock strikes twelve, we’ll cool off then
Start a rockin’ round the clock again
We’re gonna rock around the clock tonight
We’re gonna rock, rock, rock, ’till broad daylight
We’re gonna rock, gonna rock, around the clock tonight

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