Back­story1956

The Courier-Mail - QWeekend - - TIMEOUT - Myles Sin­na­mon

In Oc­to­ber 1956, Queens­land cin­e­mas pre­miered a film that had caused a storm of con­tro­versy in Bri­tain only a month ear­lier. That film was Rock Around The Clock, a fic­tion­alised ac­count of the rise of rock ’n’ roll. The film fea­tured Bill Ha­ley and his Comets ( pic­tured dur­ing their visit to Bris­bane in Jan­uary 1957), who had re­cently shot to fame bring­ing this new sound to a global au­di­ence.

Some sec­tions of the com­mu­nity be­lieved the new mu­sic pro­moted re­bel­lious be­hav­iour among teenagers, lead­ing to crime and ju­ve­nile delin­quency. In Septem­ber, there had been hys­ter­i­cal re­ports from Bri­tish me­dia con­cern­ing “dis­tur­bances” dur­ing screen­ings of the film. Even the Queen, on hol­i­day at the time at Bal­moral, had re­quested to view the film, pre­sum­ably to see what all the fuss was about. “This week Eng­land has trem­bled to the thun­der of ‘Rock and Roll’,” trum­peted Mel­bourne’s The Ar­gus news­pa­per, with re­ports of teenagers danc­ing in the aisles, singing, yelling, abus­ing the­atre man­agers, wreck­ing seats and caus­ing a nui­sance out­side cin­e­mas as the par­ty­ing spilled onto the streets.

Pre­mieres in Mel­bourne, Syd­ney and Ade­laide had caused a sim­i­lar stir, though when it came to the Bris­bane premiere at the Tivoli the­atre on Oc­to­ber 18, au­di­ences were more re­strained, al­beit un­der close surveil­lance. The Bris­bane Tele­graph re­ported on the first-night screen­ing: “As soon as teenagers … started to clap their hands and tap their feet in time with the mu­sic, torch beams flashed from the hands of well drilled ush­erettes … Two cou­ples who started to jive in a side aisle were most un­pop­u­lar. They were stopped after a few bars by ser­vice boys.”

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