This rock and roll song was written by Max C. Freedman and James E. Myers in 1952. James E. Myers used the pseudonym Jimmy De Knight. The full title of the song was We’re Gonna Rock Around The Clock Tongiht! The verse melody is very similar to Move It On Over recorded in 1947 by Hank Williams. Move It On Over is itself very similar to Going To Move To Alabama recorded in 1929 by Charley Patton. Going To Move To Alabama is partly derived from Kansas City Blues recorded by Jim Jackson in 1927. Rock Around The Clock also uses phrases from Count Basie’s Red Wagon from 1939. The song was first recorded by Sony Dae & His Knights.
Bill Haley’s version was first issued as the B-side to Thirteen Women (and Only One Man in Town). It later became the A-side. A version of the song was used in the movie Blackboard Jungle which helped the song find success. It reached number one on the Billboard chart, the first rock and roll song to do so. In the UK it reached number seventeen in 1955. It re-entered the charts several times and reached number five in 1956. It reached number twenty when it was re-issued in 1968 and number twelve in 1974. It sold over 1.4 million copies in the UK alone and became the UK’s first million selling single.
The song was featured in the movie Rock Around The Clock in 1956. Ringo Starr went to see the movie in the Isle of Wight. John Lennon once said that the Bill Haley era passed him by but he saw Rock Around The Clock in Liverpool as did George and Paul.
Bill Haley had previously recorded Rocket 88, Rock The Joint, Crazy Man, Crazy and Shake, Rattle and Roll. Paul McCartney remembers when he first heard this song. “Shivers went up my spine” he said. Paul saw Bill Haley performing live at the Odeon in Liverpool in February 1957. Bill Haley and His Comets recorded a sequel called Dance Around The Clock in 1964. The song has also been recorded by The Isley Brothers. The Beatles played the song during the Let It Be sessions in 1969. Harry Nilsson covered the song in 1974 for his album Pussy Cats, which was produced by John Lennon and features Ringo Starr on drums. Klaus Voormann plays bass.
Now Hear This : Rock Around The Clock – Harry Nilsson (1974)