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This report is taken from PN Review 163, Volume 31 Number 5, May - June 2005.

Bill and Bird Neil Powell

It was fifty years ago today... Sometimes it seems as if every other article, book, radio feature or television documentary hangs by the slender sustaining thread of an anniversary; and how strange it is that people and events should be made so very much more interesting by a random numerical coincidence. Yet we readily, indeed gratefully, fall for the ploy. Can it really be fifty years ago? we ask ourselves wonderingly, where forty-nine or fifty-one wouldn't excite the slightest surprise. And this time, the commonplace reflection comes with an odd codicil: for it was a BBC radio programme (which I missed), marking the fiftieth anniversary of Bill Haley's 'Rock Around the Clock', that prompted the Guardian 's radio previewer to protest, like a character in panto, Oh no it's not. No, he explained, everyone knows that 'this inane yet influential song' was first released in May 1954. What happened in 1955 was that Brunswick 05317 dithered in the lower reaches of the top twenty at the start of the year, before eventually getting to No 1 in the autumn; then, for the next couple of years, it kept on popping up again and again. People just couldn't get it out of their heads.

I bought my copy from the curiously-named Rhythm Agencies, in Church Street, Reigate; the 'Agencies' bit, I eventually realised, came from the fact that they also sold theatre tickets. Their manager, a benign crinkly-haired teddy-bear, was amazingly ...

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