(NOTE: Scroll down for afternoon update…)
I wrote about “Rock Around the Clock” recently for PJMedia.
Mark Steyn generously links to that article while adding more details than I could about what made that recording special:
It’s not the most interesting tune melodically or harmonically, but what makes it a great record is the way it builds all the way to the end. No one had ever heard anything like Danny Cedrone’s finger-bleeding guitar solo – well, not unless they’d heard the Comets’ record of “Rock The Joint” from two years earlier, on which Cedrone plays exactly the same solo. But so what? It sounds great on “Rock The Joint” and it sounds even better on “Rock Around The Clock”.
Which of those two takes did they wind up using? On the first one, the band played so loud you could barely hear a word Haley was singing. So they did a second take, with Haley singing loud and the band way off in the corner. And then it was time to go, and Gabler said he and the Decca boys would piece the two takes together so they had something “usable”. Bill Haley left feeling the session had been a failure.
By the way, in his cult classic Unsung Heroes of Rock ‘n’ Roll (1991, based on articles written throughout the 1980s), Nick Tosches tells a different story of how the song came to be not just used in Blackboard Jungle:
When Evan Hunter’s 1954 novel, The Blackboard Jungle, was made into a movie, Jimmy DeKnight was chosen as the film’s technical advisor. He dug up the failed “Rock Around the Clock” for the movie’s central song.
So it’s possible that the story told by Glenn Ford’s son, taking credit for the song’s use in the film, is latter day revisionism.
UPDATE — This afternoon, Mark Steyn wrote:
Speaking of Kathy Shaidle, she comments on our Song of the Week this morning, and posits, as an alternative to nine-year-old Peter Ford playing the 78 in his parents’ living room that it was “Jimmy DeKnight” (Jim Myers), as technical advisor on the film, who got “Rock Around The Clock” into Blackboard Jungle. Even by the standards of the music business, Myers was a pathological liar. There’s no evidence that he ever had anything to do with Blackboard Jungle, and no reason for Pandro Berman or Richard Brooks to hire the guy. My general line on Myers is to start from the position that whether he said isn’t what happened and work back from there.
Which is pretty much as I suspected, since Nick Tosches was the only person I found in my not-that-extensive “research” who mentioned DeKnight in connection with the movie.