This story by Hal Boyle, a nationally-syndicated columnist (and Pulitzer-prize-winning journalist) was one of the first that attempted to describe the latest fad that gripped the land — some crazy thing the kids called rock ‘n’ roll.
Though you might not think it likely from the explanation given here, the newfangled style of music did, indeed, catch on. One of the first hits was Bill Haley & His Comets’ Rock Around the Clock — and we show you video and the the sheet music for that below.
Rock ‘n’ Roll rhythm is sweeping the teen-age set, but what is it?
While their sedate elders are still stately prancing to the mambo, the teenagers are reeling to another rhythm. It is called “Rock ‘n Roll.”
But just what is it? No use to ask a teenager. His mouth simply falls open, a glassy look comes into his eyes, and his body begins to undulate like an earthworm with the stomachache.
So I went to Mindy Carson for an answer. Mindy, a vibrant young blonde who once earned $60 a week selling candy, and now earns $4,000 a week up singing in supper clubs, is tops right now with the teenagers. The latest of her 100 recordings, “The Fish,” is creating a kind of epidemic among the Rock ‘n Roll set.
“It’s easier to feel what rock ‘n’ roll is than to explain it in words,” said Mindy. “It’s a kind of rhythmic beat.
“Actually, it’s not a new type of music. Dixieland and Rock ‘n Roll are really the two basic types of original music in America. Is that clear?”
“Oh, yes indeed,” I told her.
“But is rock ‘n roll pretty much like jazz?”
“No, I wouldn’t say that,” replied Mindy. “Rock and roll isn’t arranged music. it’s a beat — it’s well, it’s kind of a feeling, you understand?”
“Like having money? That’s a nice feeling.”
“No, it doesn’t feel like having money exactly. It’s different.”
“Just what does it have that’s so different?” I asked. “I’m getting a strange, confused, mixed-up feeling. Is that what rock ‘n roll gives you?”
“Not in the least,” laughed Mindy. “Rock ‘n roll is a beat. It makes you want to dance. If you feel like you can’t lose the rock ‘n roll rhythm. Once it catches you, it pounds inside you.
“It isn’t as subtle as a pulse beat. Rock ‘n roll has even more power. You really do understand it, don’t you?”
“Well, I have a feeling –” I began.
“That’s it,” said Mindy, pleased. “It’s really simple, once you grasp it.”
Okay, that’s rock ‘n roll. Any questions?
(Editor’s note: Frankly, I don’t know any more than I did before.)
(Boyle’s note: That makes two of us.)
(Mindy’s note: Maybe this will clue you both. Pick up a telephone book, open it at random, and start singing the names. When you begin to have the feeling the names are making music — well, boys, you’re rockin’ ‘n’ rollin‘.)
(We’re Gonna) Rock Around the Clock – Bill Haley & His Comets
Rock Around the Clock – First page of hit song sheet music (1953)