When rock ‘n’ roll came to Liverpool 60 years ago...

When rock ‘n’ roll came to Liverpool 60 years ago or how Rock around the Clock (1956) was not the moral panic it is believed to have been by Dr. Yannis Tzioumakis

In March 1956 the film Rock around the Clock (Sears) was released in American theatres with great commercial success by Columbia Pictures. A low-budget production made in just 2 weeks the film rushed to exploit the remarkable success of the song “Rock around the Clock” by Bill Haley and His Comets (1955) that had sold millions of copies. Featuring a schematic narrative and a whopping 17 songs by the band and other well-known recording artists of the era, the film was credited as the first ‘teenpic’, specifically addressing (and exploiting) its young audiences who had embraced rock ‘n’ roll music (and dancing) as their own and as fundamentally different from the music of older generations.

However, the release of the film was accompanied by reports of widespread riots by American youth, with a number of cinemas refusing to screen the film and with local councils in various cities and towns in the US banning the film. By the time the film was released in the UK approximately 6 months later, on 11 September 2016, and for the following weeks, British newspapers reported similar stories with a number of local councils, especially in the North West, banning the film. And while in few cases some young people were arrested for ‘unruly’ and ‘aggressive’ behaviour’ during and after the few screenings of the film before it was banned, in most cases, young people’s behaviour extended to singing their words of the song during the screening and trying to dance in the theatres aisles, which is far from the rioting that was widely reported.

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