The first song to be considered a “rock & roll” hit (reaching #15 on the Billboard charts) was Bill Haley’s 1953 single “Crazy Man, Crazy”
That same year a song was written specifically for Haley called “Rock Around the Clock“. He recorded and released it a year later to be met with disappointing sales; it stayed in the charts for just one measly week.
Haley then scored a massive worldwide hit with a cover of Big Joe Turner’s “Shake, Rattle & Roll“, credited as the first ever rock & roll single to enter the UK charts.
1955 saw the release of the landmark film “Blackboard Jungle“. The opening credits were soundtracked by “Rock Around the Clock” which was promptly regenerated sales-wise, eventually reaching the top of the Billboard charts and staying there for a quite incredible (for the 1950’s) eight weeks.
In the UK its success was stretched out over an amazing 19 months. It reached #7 in January 1955, then enjoyed further sales in November when it went to the top of the charts for a week. Then, incredibly, it returned to #1 in January 1956 and continued to sell the rest of year, rising as high as #5 in September.
In 1974 – the year of this diary entry – “Rock Around the Clock” achieved further sales success, rising again to #12 on the UK singles chart. This was due to the song being included in the film “American Graffiti“, director George Lucas’ fabulous homage to the rock & roll era.
This would have been when I became aware of Haley’s legacy and influence on the other music I was listening to and wanted to hear it. But, cheap bugger that I was, instead of forking out for the single I instead snagged the LP on Hallmark’s budget record label.
It would be many years before I fully realised that this album was not completely ‘kosher’. It was actually a collection of Haley’s hits re-recorded in 1970 for a Swedish label. Hallmark merely licensed it for the UK – to cash in on the success of the single – where it proved to be one of their biggest sellers.