1955, Music

Rock Around the Clock (1955) by Bill Haley and His Comets

It’s really hard to know what to do with this record. It’s one of the earliest rock and roll records to chart and it contains many of Haley’s early rock and roll songs, so it gives you a pretty good idea of their sound. But it is a compilation. Worse, it’s a compilation which contains Shake, Rattle and Roll and just adds a few songs. And make things extra confusing, the released a shorter version of this record – really just Shake, Rattle and Roll again – under the same title in 1956. Whatever I might say about the music, I’m glad the music industry sorted out its shit in subsequent years so this nonsense stopped happening.

This gives you a good idea of what Bill Haley and the Comets sounded like on their early singles. Of course the title track was already 18 months old by this point so it’s hard to get too excited about some of the material. (Also, how many fans didn’t have this music yet??)

The thing about the Comets is how unbelievably unhip they sound all these years later. I get that these guys were fans of this music – that’s why they played rock and roll after all – but it’s hard to believe there wasn’t some kind of deliberate calculation on the part of Haley and his band as to how they played it. Take any contemporary African American artist or band performing the same kind of music from the same period and there is a clear lack of edge in the version played by the Comets. (Hell, there are white bands with more of an edge than these guys.) There’s just better rock and roll out there. 65 years on, this sounds unbelievably “white”.

And add to that the fact that this record is essentially a duplicate, and it’s kind of hard to care.


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