We're Gonna Rock Around the Clock (Original Freedman / De Knight version)

~ Song

Annotation

Who wrote this song? There are three indisputable facts:

  1. James E. Myers (as Jimmy De Knight) had a co-writing credit (this is not necessarily same as being the co-writer);
  2. Myers owned the publishing company which published the song;
  3. As a result of the above Myers earned 75% of the royalties from the song.

Beyond these, however, it is difficult to separate fact from fantasy. Myer's story of the creation of the song was that he had written the melody and most of the words when Max Freedman called on him and helped him to complete the song by filling in the missing lyrics. It is interesting to note, however, that Myers did not go public with this version of events until after Freedman had passed away. Most other people say that Freedman was the sole composer. Johnny Grande, who was Bill Haley's piano player, and a reliable witness of the times, told National Public Radio quite simply that "Freedman wrote the song".
The publishing contract for Clock is dated 23rd October 1952. As written, as in the sheet music which was copyrighted on 31st March 1953, (We're Gonna) Rock Around the Clock was not a particularly good song. The published sheet music bears rather more than a passing resemblance to the Leroy Anderson composition The Synchopated Clock, and bears little relation to the final article as recorded by Bill Haley and His Comets on 12th April 1954. The introduction is in the minor key and the melody of the verse is completely different. The original recording, by Sonny Dae follows this pattern. Where did the transformation occur? Jimmy Myers conveniently forgot to credit anyone with the transformation — in fact when asked by me why the published and recorded songs were so different, he didn't have an answer. He might not have noticed, because I don't think he could read music. The man who crystallized the sheet music was a little-known muso by the name of Harry Filler. The most interesting thing about the Harry Filler's handwritten manuscript is that Max Freedman is the only credited writer. This could be a slip of the pen or it could indicate that Myers' story of the creation of the song was fiction, and that he became the song's co-writer after it had been written, probably at the time of doing the publishing deal with Freedman. (As in "I'll publish your song if you give me half of the writer credits."). A not-unknown practice in the music industry through the ages, as Chuck Berry, amongst others, was to discover to his disadvantage. This sheet music was littered with wrong notes which were not corrected in the printed edition.
The transformation occurred as the Comets rehearsed the song in Bill Haley's basement in the days leading up to their first Decca recording session in April 1954. Myers gave them a copy of the Sonny Dae recording, and in the process of turning it into the perfect rock and roll record, they altered the melody to what we now know today. To Haley must go the credit of altering the melody lire from the 1st 2nd and 3rd notes of the scale to the 1st 3rd and 5lh. His musician's ear told him that this made the song that much stronger. The other Comets in turn played their part in the transformation. Dick Richards, the Comets drummer who was at the session, but didn't play, worked with session drummer Billy Gussak to perfect the drum part, while Lytle provides the rhythmic bedrock with his slap bass playing, with Gussak punctuating it with turbocharged offbeats, rimshots, and cymbal crashes. Each verse features a different drum pattern, culminating with the "falling off his stool" routine right at the end. Danny Cedrone, another session player and friend of Haley contributed his trademark guitar solo which he had also used in the 1952 recording of Rock the Joint, as well as in the Esquire Boys' recording of Haley's Rock-A-Beatin' Boogie. Joey Ambrose suggested the riff for use on the second instrumental chorus, thus generating far more excitement than would have a more conventional sax solo not forgetting of course that B major is not a saxophonist's favorite key and as Joey remembered "I wasn't all that good at that, time and so it was easier for me to play it in B major".
(Liner notes by Klaus Kettner & Tony Wilkinson on the booklet of "Bill Haley & Friends, Volume 3: The Story of Rock Around the Clock", p. 2)

Annotation last modified on 2012-04-11 09:45 .

Relationships

composer: Jimmy De Knight (1953)
Max C. Freedman (1953)
lyricist: Jimmy De Knight (1953)
Max C. Freedman (1953)
publisher: Myers Music, Inc. (1953-03-31)
SecondHandSongs: http://www.secondhandsongs.com/work/14432 [info]
Wikipedia: en: Rock Around the Clock [info]
later parody versions: Rock Around Barack
later versions: Rock Around the Clock (Bill Haley's version)
Vi ska slå runt, runt, runt
referred to in medleys: Raggarkungen

Recordings

Date Title Attributes Artist Length
performance
1953 Rock Around the Clock Sonny Dae and His Knights 2:47
Rock 'n' Roll Medley cover, medley and partial Mini★Pops ?:??
Rock Around the Clock Sonny Dae and His Knights 2:47
Rock Around the Clock cover Mae West 2:10