39. “ROCK AROUND THE CLOCK” – BILL HALEY AND HIS COMETS

Weeks at number one: 5 (25th November – 16th December 1955) / Length: 2m12s / Label: Decca

Notable for…being the most important(?) song so far, probably…the most influential, is what i mean really

MELODY & HARMONY ~ 6 : Having spent the last three years (in blog time) waiting for something exciting, here it is: THE BIRTH OF MUSIC!!! Only not really. The melody has three phrases, the “clock strikes one” bit which rises, and the “broad daylight” bit which goes down, and the “gonna rock, gonna rock” bit which plays on two notes. so calling them UP and DOWN and MIDDLE, the tune goes like this: UP, UP, UP, DOWN, DOWN, DOWN, DOWN, DOWN, MIDDLE, MIDDLE, DOWN. This system is useless. But it looks a bit like a cheat for Sonic, so try it.

WORDS ~ 7 : The birth of math-rock?

VOICE ~ 5 : Not exactly the visceral cry of rebellion, with some kinda showbiz-y inflections still there, that kind of thick throat-led male voice which maybe comes from opera or something(?). Johnnie Ray is much more modern.

STRUCTURE ~ 3 : Guitar solo higher up the bill than you’d expect or want

PRODUCTION & ARRANGEMENT ~ 2 :  “Gabler made the drums sound huge: He “placed three microphones around [session drummer Billy Guesack’s] drum kit, and asked him to hit rim-shots on the snare drum, in order to produce a heavy backbeat,” Miller wrote.” Funny, because ‘huge’ isn’t the word I’d use. Flabby, maybe, echoey deifnitely, and pushed way too high. You want compact, claustrophobic tension from rock’n’roll, and that’s not what we’re given. Also if you’re going to make that guitar so loud, you should probably give the guitar to someone who’s learnt how to play it

COOLNESS/STYLE ~ 6 : I think one thing you could say is that this song proves that the 1950’s were an age of cinema: whilst this wasn’t even Bill Haley’s first rock’n’roll song (see below), it was the first one to be used in a film, and that’s what counted. Maybe also you could say that it was lucky that you couldn’t actually see Bill Haley in the film. Pictures show him looking older than his true age (29), and with the physique and dress sense of a fat man who doesn’t dress very well. The Comets’ success sort of fizzled out after they made a couple of their own films, and its no shock that their successors were younger, prettier, and cooler

ORIGINALITY/NEWNESS ~ 3 : Listen to the guitar solo in ‘Rock Around The Clock’. Then listen to the guitar solo in ‘Rock The Joint’, a Bill Haley single from three years earlier (it starts at 0:41 in this video). Or if you don’t want to listen to it, I’ll tell you: they are note-for-note identical. And this song by Hank Williams uses basically the same melody. It is the first rock’n’roll number one in the UK though. Does that count for something?

CATCHYNESS ~ 9 : Wonderfully!

CONNECTION/EMOTIONAL HOLD ~ 3 : It’s easy to understand what people saw in it, but hard to get excited about it now

MORALITY/INTENT ~ 5 : It’s a welcome relief from show tunes, but in its own way just as dull and cynical. This is what I will later say about ‘punk’

OVERALL ~ 49/100

Spotify here, lyrics here, or buy it: CD or mp3

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