The 1950s marked the birth of rock'n'roll. From big band tracks to jazz standards, until midway through the 20th century, music was a resolutely parent-friendly zone. But then everything changed. Elvis had flustered teenagers all shook up, while the likes of Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis and the like were destroying the old safety nets with a virile, passionate new sound. Here are the top 100 tracks from the decade that that sparked a musical revolution. Words by Matthew Horton, Tim Chester, Priya Elan. 100 best tracks of the '50s - Spotify playlist

100Dion & The Belmonts, 'A Teenager In Love'

Written by blues rock stalwarts Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, 'A Teenager In Love' found itself in the UK charts three times over in June 1959. The biggest hit belonged to Kim's dad Marty Wilde but Dion DiMucci launched a career off the back of this doo-wop beauty, hitting paydirt with 'Runaround Sue' and 'The Wanderer' and still mooching around today.

99Sonny Boy Williamson, 'Don't Start Me Talkin'

A perennial blues fave, 'Don't Start Me Talkin'' was a self-penned hit for Williamson and housed a who's who of blues heavyweights in its credits, including Willie Dixon on bass and Muddy Waters on guitar. Since its 1955 release its rickety power has been harnessed by ex-Thin Lizzy guitarist Gary Moore, blues supergroup The Yardbirds and that man Dion again.

98Clarence 'Frogman' Henry, 'Ain't Got No Home'

Clarence earned his nickname from an uncanny ability to sing like a frog – as he boasts on 'Ain't Got No Home', "I can sing like a bird/ And I can sing like a frog". He undermines his destitution with zany voices and jaunty rolling blues, and the song found a place in cinema posterity, popping up in 80s Brat Pack movies Diner and The Lost Boys.

97Elizabeth Cotten, 'Freight Train'

Elizabeth Cotten got her belated break in 1957 at the grand old age of 62 when her shimmering guitar playing talents were finally spotted by the Seeger family. She'd actually written the mesmeric 'Freight Train' when she was 12 – after 50 years in mothballs, it was soon covered by artists including country star Chet Atkins and folkie Joan Baez.

96Little Willie John, 'Fever'

Covered by countless artists – Peggy Lee, Madonna, Beyoncé, funk don George Clinton, The Doors, you name 'em – Otis Blackwell and Eddie Cooley's 'Fever' was originally recorded, reluctantly, by R&B warbler Little Willie John. Lee's version might be the one everyone remembers but Little Willie John's swinging soul take was a specialist US hit and million-seller in its own right.

95The Champs, 'Tequila'

The man behind The Champs' one and only hit (a massive one, mind you – No.1 in the US, No.5 in the UK) was Danny Flores, who played the wild sax solo and blurted out "tequila!", as you do. But Flores was under contract elsewhere and the writing credit had to go to one 'Chuck Rio'. Still, his salsa-tinged instrumental lives on, a cheeky soundtrack to shenanigans the world over.

94Johnnie Ray, 'Cry'

Weepy Johnnie Ray found his signature tune here, swamping Churchill Kohlman's song with his sobbing tones and topping the Billboard chart too. It later became a standard, providing teen idol David Cassidy with a bit of emotional heft and giving Crystal Gayle a country chart No.1. For Ray, 'Cry' was the start of a long, successful career in music and film.

93Nina Simone, 'My Baby Just Cares For Me'

Nina Simone's hepcat jazz cut was a cover of a number from the 1930 musical Whoopee! that appeared on her debut album but only made megahit status when it was used for a 1987 Chanel No.5 advert. The walking bass and skipping keys found favour with the late 80s jazz vampires who sent it top 5 in the UK.

92Fats Domino, 'Ain't That A Shame'

New Orleans pianist Antoine 'Fats' Domino was a profound influence on later pop idols Elvis Presley and John Lennon, bringing swing to rock'n'roll's baby steps. Although it was wholesome crooner Pat Boone who took 'Ain't That A Shame' to the top in the States, the song was Domino's entry to the mainstream, paving the way for 'Blue Monday' and 'Blueberry Hill'.

91Johnny Burnette & The Rock'n'Roll Trio, 'Train Kept A-Rollin'

Memphis-born Johnny Burnette and his trio patented that dirty rock'n'roll sound pretty much by accident when guitarist Paul Burlison knocked over his Fender Deluxe amp. The grubby fuzz that attached itself to the tinny twang of Burlison's guitar lent 'Train Kept A-Rollin'' a roughneck danger that still sounds seedy and threatening five decades on.

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