Re: RARA-AVIS: Hard-boiled music

From: Mark Sullivan (
Date: 14 Apr 2000

Juri wrote:

"Yes, but Bill Haley and his Comets aren't actually very hardboiled. They are, well, more cozy than hardboiled... at least to my mind."

I think part of this is that the song has become divorced from time and setting. Innocuous enough as the theme to Happy Days, the inclusion of
"(We're Gonna) Rock Around the Clock" in Blackboard Jungle was quite controversial -- and the only rock 'n' roll in the film. Director Richard Brooks wanted to open with one song to set the image of
"troublesome youth." So he chose this year-old song by Bill Haley and the Comets. The studio bought unlimited use of the song in that picture for $5000. For just $2500 more they could have owned the song outright, but saw no need to, figuring there would be no further profits from it.

The song went to number one.

It also caused riots, full-fledged riots, when cops were called to force dancing kids in the audience back into their seats. It also sparked a riot at Princeton University on May 17,1955, when numerous students started playing the song out their dorm windows, gathered in the quad, blocked streets, opened fire hydrants, etc. Four students were expelled, 30 were disciplined.

It should also be pointed out that while most found the movie, and book before it, controversial for its depiction of out-of-control youth and juvenile delinquency (so troubling that the studio felt they had to put a disclaimer at the beginning of the movie), it was banned through much of the south simply for its depiction of an integrated high school.


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