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

80Jackie Wilson, 'Reet Petite'

It took a claymation video to finally shoot 'Reet Petite' to the top of the UK charts at the end of 1986, at that point setting a record for longest gap between release and hitting No.1. On its initial release 'Reet Petite' was a throaty solo debut for Wilson, who had just left his band The Dominoes, and a lyrical inspiration for Van Morrison's 1972 R&B classic 'Jackie Wilson Said'.

79Danny & The Juniors, 'At The Hop'

Initially sung as 'At The Bop' to tie in with the latest dance moves, new name 'At The Hop' was suggested by American Bandstand presenter Dick Clark, immediately conjuring a readymade soundtrack for high school dances the nation over. Danny Rapp sustains his lead vocal over a breakneck couple of minutes, but it's baritone Joe Terranova who steals the show.

78Muddy Waters, 'Got My Mojo Working'

McKinley 'Muddy Waters' Morganfield wasn't the first artist to record 'Got My Mojo Working' – that accolade goes to gospel singer Ann Cole – but as a blues pioneer his thundering version has set the standard and been covered by Elvis, Etta James, Canvey Island rockers Doctor Feelgood, fellow blues legend B.B. King and – well – how much time have you got?

77Jackie Brenston & His Delta Cats, 'Rocket 88'

Its position in history has become murky, but 'Rocket 88' has a fair claim to be the first rock'n'roll record – and it was credited to a group that barely existed. Written and arranged by one Ike Turner, who turns in the rolling piano too, it was released on Chicago blues label Chess with singer Jackie Brenston taking all the glory and publishing cash. Turner eventually disputed and won.

76Julie London, 'Cry Me A River'

'Cry Me A River' made its big screen debut in Jayne Mansfield's The Girl Can't Help It, with London performing it as the sultry, unattainable siren. It's remarkable for its minimalist presentation, with London accompanied only by Barney Kessel on guitar and Ray Leatherwood on double bass. London's cool, seductive vocal carries it.

75Johnny Otis, 'Willie And The Hand Jive'

Dad of cult funk artist Shuggie, Johnny Otis was a bandleader and multi-instrumentalist who spent as much time discovering and nurturing new talent – Etta James for one – as making his own records. 'Willie And The Hand Jive' is that old staple, a tie-in with a dance craze, but was fresh and vital enough to crack the US top 10.

74Paul Anka, 'Diana'

Recorded when the remarkable Anka – who also managed to co-write it – was only 15, this perky slice of doo-wop turned into one of the biggest selling singles of all time, apparently shifting nine million units. Almost from the get-go it established the Canadian Anka as a mainstream crooner who continues to record and perform into his 70s.

73The Spaniels, 'Goodnight Sweetheart, Goodnight'

The comically named Spaniels formed at school in 1952 and clocked their biggest with this evergreen doo-wop number two years later. It was co-written by nominal lead singer Pookie Hudson and Calvin Carter and its "doh-doh-doh" vocal rhythms often rear up on other records, including Pete Wingfield's 1975 pastiche 'Eighteen With A Bullet' featured on the Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels soundtrack.

72Lloyd Price, 'Lawdy Miss Clawdy'

Lloyd Price hit the jackpot with his very first recording, an impassioned rock'n'roll stormer that puts all its heart into telling a young lady how fine she is. These noble, traditional sentiments inspired huge swathes of artists to have a go too, tempting Elvis, The Beatles, Little Richard and – almost certainly definitively – the great Shakin' Stevens in 1982.

71The Platters, 'The Great Pretender'

LA vocal group The Platters made their name with this – their second and biggest hit, a US No.1 and UK No.5. A showy and expansive number, 'The Great Pretender' inevitably found favour with Freddie Mercury who once more took it into the UK top 5 in 1987, out-camping The Platters no doubt but possibly not wringing out similar emotion.

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