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The Man Who Invented Rock and Roll
on November 17, 2001
The 20th Century Masters series is an excellent anthology series. The sound quality of the remastered CD is excellent. I would recommend this CD just on the remarkable sound quality. You can hear the instruments and studio sounds that were not available on the poor quality phonograph records. The musicianship of Bill Haley, who played a Gibson hollow-body electric, and Fran Beecher, the lead guitarist, is remarkable. Bill Haley the vocalist also shines on this remastered CD. You can hear that Haley was an excellent vocalist.
The songs selected to represent Haley's 1950s musical output is adequate. There could have been more selections but the series is one where only a small representative sample is chosen. FROM THE MASTER TAPES album is also excellent but that CD leaves off a Haley classic, "Skinny Minnie" (1958), Haley's last top 40 hit in the 1950s. So this CD is worth it just for the new remastered sound and the addition of "Skinny Minnie".
As noted in the liner notes, the term "rock and roll" was coined by Bill Haley in his songs "Rock-a-Beatin' Boogie", which is included on the CD, and "Two Hound Dogs", not included on this CD. Alan Freed always said that he got the term "rock and roll" from Bill Haley. "Rock Around the Clock" (1954) was the first no.1 rock and roll record. Billboard bases its charts on that event. The Rock and Roll Era began when Haley hit no.1. People forget about all this today. But more than anyone else, Bill Haley is actually the man who invented rock and roll, before Elvis Presley, before Little Richard, before Jerry Lee Lewis, before Chuck Berry, before Buddy Holly. Haley was doing it YEARS before any of them. In fact, Bill Haley had an earlier rock and roll career not even covered on this CD! In April, 1953, Bill Haley had the first rock and roll hit on the national and Billboard charts, "Crazy, man, crazy" which had all the rock and roll elements, the "go go go go" chorus, youth rebellion, going to a party, the appeal to the "younger generation", the lead guitar break, drums, all of it! The song was the first REAL rock and roll record. Haley was the first rock and roll star. He had many rock records on Holiday/Essex records before Decca. The point to remember is this: Bill Haley did not stumble into rock and roll by accident or chance or by "stealing" his stuff from others. Haley planned it all out, he had an artistic vision. In every Haley song, there is a guitar solo, sometimes a drum solo, and sax soloing. This is not by accident. With regard to Elvis Presley, the King was a close friend of Haley and was in fact an opening act for Haley. Elvis respected Haley as an innovator and pioneer, as did his other friends and associates Little Richard, Chuck Berry, and Bo Diddley. Unfortunately, the rock critics and music fans have not been as appreciative. This is because not everything on this CD stands up well. Haley was a songwriter but he did COVERS that tended to destroy his reputation as an innovator. He didn't have a hit making machine like Little Richard at Specialty who had Bump Blackwell and John Marascalco to write songs for him. So not everything on the CD stands the test of time.
This music should be judged by its own criteria and standards. Bill Haley had a style that was different from the usual combo set up. Haley had a sax and a dance style orientation for his band. Judging his style with Elvis or Little Richard is like judging apples and oranges. Haley had his own style which was unique and remarkable. He had stuff that Elvis did not. This is therefore a unique listening experience.
This is the man who really invented rock and roll. The Rock Era began when "Rock Around the Clock" became the no.1. record for 8 weeks in 1955. Critics falsify these facts and engage in historical revision when it comes to Haley. But Haley got the last laugh. His vision endures. Rock and roll, a music idiom he invented, is still what we listen to, is still what we consider the greatest musical achievement of the 20th century. Buy this CD. You will enjoy the experience. And while only a very tiny selection of Haley's output, it gives the listener enough to appreciate the achievement of Bill Haley. Haley sang: "You gotta jump, you gotta jive, you gotta dance, to stay alive...rock...rock...rock...rock...everybody...go....go...go....go." It ain't Shakespeare, but it is rock and roll, man!