‘Rock Around the Clock’ Turns 60: The Most Important B-Side of All Time

https://music.yahoo.com/blogs/music-news/rock-around-clock-turns-60-most-important-b-194657534.html (There are three really cool videos in the article).

‘Rock Around the Clock’ Turns 60: The Most Important B-Side of All Time | By Chris Willman | Yahoo Music

For a song destined to rock around the centuries, “Rock Around the Clock” — recorded 60 years ago this week — had the humblest of beginnings, starting life as a lowly B-side that didn’t even have a genre to call its own.

Bill Haley & the Comets recorded it on April 12, 1954 almost as an afterthought, devoting 40 minutes and two takes to the tune at the tail end of a session otherwise devoted to “Thirteen Women (And Only One Man in Town),” a novelty song about the happy benefits of sexual inequity after a nuclear blast. After being patched together from those two hastily recorded takes, “Rock Around the Clock” was relegated to flip-side status when first released a month after the session, taking a back seat to A-side “Thirteen Women,” which did not rock anyone 24/7.

The biggest indignity of all: When it came time to assign a genre or dance mode to “Rock Around the Clock” on the 45’s label, as was common in that day, the term “rock ‘n’ roll” hadn’t yet been assigned to the nascent style of music the song represented. So Decca Records designated it as a fox trot record.

But the kids were not ready to trot, trot, trot till broad daylight. They were ready to rock, and although Haley is not as cool a figure as Elvis or Chuck Berry to cite as ushering in the new movement — squares with receding hairlines don’t make the most picturesque revolutionaries, right? — there is no disputing that “Clock” was the single that suddenly seemed to change everything, at least when it finally hit No. 1, a little more than a year after it was recorded.

Although rockists might like to imagine that this music had the power to change the world on its own without help from any other medium, it was a movies tie-in that made the difference. “Clock” was used as the opening and closing theme song for the juvenile-delinquency drama “Blackboard Jungle” in early 1955, and the effect it caused blaring out over theater speakers was so immediate that censorship boards convened amid rumors of riots. It’s hard to imagine what caused such a ruckus when you see the film today, especially since the bulk of the film is tamely and conventionally scored. The trailers for the film might bear a greater responsibility for energizing (or scaring) the audience, since the previews did use Haley’s cheery song to score a montage of delinquents fighting.

And to think that Haley had been an aspiring country yodeler not long before he was being blamed — or hailed — for corrupting the morals of American youth with his ode to pre-Red Bull all-nighters.

On April 12 of ’54, Alan Freed had still not adopted and popularized the term “rock ‘n’ roll,” although there’d been a song by that name as early as 1934, and “Good Rockin’ Tonight” had been a hit in 1948. The title “Rock Around the Clock” had been used for an entirely different (and unsuccessful) R&B tune in 1950. And Haley himself had what some would consider the first real pre-rock “rock hit” on the pop charts with “Crazy, Man, Crazy” in ’53.

Nonetheless, at the time Haley went into the studio and recorded “Clock,” the hit parade was dominated by a guy famous for rocking a sweater, Perry Como. The people we think of as rock’s pioneers — Presley, Berry, Little Richard, et al. — were still working their day jobs. Big Joe Turner’s “Shake, Rattle and Roll” was released the day Haley recorded “Clock,” coincidentally… but that was seen in the tradition of “race music,” not the beginning of a revolution.

“Rock Around the Clock” had been a part of Haley’s live performances since 1953, so they were eager to put it on record when the group signed to Decca. But producer Milt Gabler “had a piece of the action on ‘Thirteen Women,’ so we had to record it first,” Comets bass player Marshall Lytle said. When they found they had 40 minutes left in their studio time to record “Clock,” there was still some arranging to be done. A solo section that had been set apart for a sax solo turned into a staccato riffing climax that had the whole band joining in with the horn player.

The famous guitar solo also happened fairly spontaneously. A session player, Johnny Cedrone, was paid $21 to come in and lay down that famous part. Since he didn’t have much time to improvise, Cedrone lifted the same solo he’d played on a number of previous records, even including one of Haley’s. The re-run was highly effective, to say the least.

After “Thirteen Women” ran its course as a minor hit in ’54, its B-side seemed destined to languish in obscurity, until it was taken up by Hollywood. Stories have differed over the years as to how it ended up in “Blackboard Jungle.” But the most reliable-sounding recounting of the tale has director Richard Brooks coming across it at the home of his leading man, Glenn Ford. The actor’s son, Peter Ford, then in the fifth grade, was a music aficionado who had the 45 in his collection. And Brooks either heard it playing in the music room or borrowed a stack of records to consider for an idea he had to open the movie with a blast of aural youth culture.

As Peter Ford wrote decades later, “I’ve often wondered if I’d never purchased a copy of Bill Haley and His Comets’ ‘Thirteen Women (And Only One Man in Town)’ in 1954 how the history of rock & roll might have changed.” Although, as Ford noted in another article, “I hated ‘Thirteen Women,'” he sure loved its flip side, and was thrilled when his dad’s director turned out to have loved it, too. Soon both the song and the movie were making headlines. One in Variety went: “Police Seek to Finger ‘Blackboard Jungle’ as Root of Hooliganism.”

Long after “Clock” paved the way for Elvis and the rest of the hooligans to break through, Haley re-recorded the song multiple times, one of which was for its use as the opening theme to the TV series “Happy Days” in its first two seasons in the 1970s. George Lucas also used it to open “American Graffiti.” These re-popularizations ensured that Haley’s place in rock history wouldn’t be forgotten, even if his run of luck on the charts had run out by 1960.

Haley died in 1981, but he wasn’t the first player on the landmark recording to pass away. Danny Cedrone, who laid down the celebrated guitar part, fell down the stairs and broke his neck just six weeks after “Clock” was recorded in 1954, never living to know that he’d played a part in changing music history. Sixty years later, players in bar bands are still figuring out his signature licks. Although no one could have guessed at the time that the craze would last, rocking around the clock has been extended to rocking around entire lifespans.

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By David Bauder

NEW YORK (AP) — Kiss made up, but its music went unheard. Nirvana used four women rockers to sing Kurt Cobain’s songs. And Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band – predictably – turned its honor into a marathon.

The three acts were ushered into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on Thursday in a colorful induction ceremony at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. They were joined by the blue-eyed soul duo Hall & Oates, British rocker Peter Gabriel, 1970s folkie Cat Stevens and the absent Linda Ronstadt.

Nirvana was the emotional centerpiece. The trio rooted in the Seattle-area punk rock scene was voted into the hall in its first year of eligibility. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” hit like a thunderclap upon its 1991 release, but the band was done after Kurt Cobain committed suicide 20 years ago this month.

“Nirvana fans walk up to me every day and say thank you for the music,” said Krist Novoselic, the band’s bass player, who was inducted with drummer Dave Grohl. “When I hear that, I think of Kurt Cobain.”

A subdued Courtney Love, Cobain’s widow, was booed by some in the audience. She said Cobain would have appreciated the honor.

“Nirvana tapped into a voice that was yearning to be heard,” said former R.E.M. singer Michael Stipe, who described how the band made a community of the disaffected.

Joan Jett was chosen to sing “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth, St. Vincent and Lorde each took turns at the microphone, with Lorde’s version of “All Apologies” ending the night.

Kiss was responsible for pre-ceremony drama. The two original members still active, Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, thought the replacements for ex-bandmates Ace Frehley and Peter Criss should perform at the ceremony instead of the original four. The result was Kiss’s music went unheard.

Still, the estranged band members spoke warmly of each other when the quartet appeared behind the microphone. “In and out of makeup, I’ll always be the Catman,” said drummer Criss, referencing his makeup in the band. “You’ve got to forgive to live.”

The band received a crowd-pleasing endorsement from Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello, who said Kiss inspired him to play music. He said he had to fight off high school bullies who ridiculed him for liking the band.

“Tonight proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the high school bullies and critics were wrong,” he said. “Kiss fans were right.”

Springsteen’s 1999 entrance into the Rock Hall without the E Street Band was a sore point for some of its members. They got their due Thursday in the sidemen category, although it was a posthumous honor for saxman Clarence Clemons and keyboard player Danny Federici.

Their leader recalled a kitchen conversation 15 years ago with his buddy and bandmate, Steve Van Zandt. Springsteen took pride in his independence and the band was only beginning to repair relations after a decade apart. He had no problem being inducted alone.

“Steve said, `yes, I understand,'” Springsteen recalled, “`but Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, that’s the legend.'”

So the band, known for its long concerts, made up for lost time. Their induction took 85 minutes, as individual members ignored requests to keep their speeches short. Then they took the stage for performances of “The E Street Shuffle,” “The River” and an epic “Kitty’s Back.”

“Lucky for you, there are only two of us,” Daryl Hall said when he was inducted with partner John Oates. The duo was a mainstay on the radio during the late 1970s and early 1980s. They performed some of their hits – “She’s Gone,” “I Can’t Go For That” and “You Make My Dreams Come True” – although hitting some of the high notes again was a struggle.

Hall said he was surprised to learn that his act was the only Philadelphia-bred band in the hall.

Ronstadt, the sexy siren of the Los Angeles country-rock scene of the 1970s, couldn’t make it to her induction. Now retired, she suffers from Parkinson’s disease and doesn’t travel much. Glenn Frey, who played with fellow future Eagle Don Henley in Ronstadt’s backup band, saluted her with an induction speech.

Ronstadt was saluted by some royalty of female country rock. Carrie Underwood sang “Different Drum,” Ronstadt’s first hit with the Stone Poneys. Emmylou Harris and Bonnie Raitt joined for “Blue Bayou.” Sheryl Crow and Frey made it a quintet to sing “You’re No Good.” Then Stevie Nicks came out to lead them in “It’s So Easy” and “When Will I Be Loved.”

Nicks said hearing “Different Drum” when she was in high school made her want to get into music. “I didn’t look that good in cutoffs, but that’s what I was going to do,” she said.

Stevens, the 1970s era hitmaker who left his music career behind when he converted to Islam, seemed juice by the honor, calling it “unexpectedly, but strangely, outrageously rock `n’ roll.”

“I’m certainly not the best of you,” he said. “But looking around, I’m not the worst, either.”

He performed “Father and Son,” “Wild World” and “Peace Train,” joined by a robed choir in the final song.

Peter Gabriel wasn’t around for his last induction in 2010, for his work as a member of Genesis. “It feels better when you’re here,” he said backstage.

Gabriel said aspiring musicians should surround themselves with brilliance and, noting his early failures as a drummer, shouldn’t be afraid to try different things.

“Dream big, and let your imagination guide you, even if you end up dressing as a flower or a sexually transmitted disease,” said Gabriel, known for his theatrical outfits during early Genesis days.

Coldplay singer Chris Martin credited Gabriel with creating a cathedral of sound and “he helped John Cusack get back his girlfriend in the movie `Say Anything.'” That movie’s climactic moment featured Gabriel’s song “In Your Eyes,” and Gabriel performed a soaring version to celebrate his induction.

The first two artist managers were inducted into the Hall: the late Brian Epstein, of the Beatles, and Andrew Loog Oldham, of the Rolling Stones.

Associated Press correspondent John Carucci contributed to this report.

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