"Rock around the clock" was probably the first big hit of rock history. Yet, it was released as the B-side, as we see in this fascinating article:
Dick Clark called it “The National Anthem of Rock ‘n’ Roll.” But “Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley and His Comets almost disappeared after its release as a B-side. Written in late-1952 by lyricist Max Freedman and music publisher James Myers (under his pseudonym Jimmy De Knight), Haley released “Rock Around the Clock” on May 20, 1954, and it remains one of the cornerstones of rock music.We can call it the B-side that became one of the most consequential A-sides ever.
With his chunky frame and spit curl, Bill Haley seemed an unlikely pioneer of rock. Before the Comets, Haley fronted the Saddlemen, a country-and-western band. In 1953, Haley had what could be considered to be the first rock ‘n’ roll song on the Billboard charts, “Crazy Man, Crazy.” A few attempts at a follow-up for Essex Records had flopped when Myers suggested his new tune to Haley.
“I had written the melody and about half of the lyrics, but I was having trouble with the rest of it,” Myers told the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. “Max Freedman, who had written some other songs with me, walked into my office while I was fooling around with it one day and said, ‘That sounds pretty good, can I help you with it?’ I said, ‘Why not?’ When we finished it he said, ‘What are you going to call it?’ I said, ‘Rock Around the Clock.’ … When I showed it to Bill Haley he flipped over it, but his record company at that particular time said it would never sell.”
In an interview from his biography Bill Haley, the rocker claimed Essex Records wouldn’t record the song because the label’s founder Dave Miller had an axe to grind with Myers. “Jimmy and Dave Miller didn’t like each other. Three times I took the tune into the recording studio … every time Miller would see it, he’d come in and tear it up and throw it away. So I never could record it.”
Still, “Rock Around the Clock” became a popular part of the Comets’ stage show.
Myers helped the band move to Decca Records in 1954, and after Sonny Dae and His Knights had a hit in Philadelphia with the song, Haley was determined to record it.
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