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

60Eddie Cochran, 'C'mon Everybody'

Eddie Cochran lived fast and died young in classic teen rebellion style but left a beautiful body of work to show for his two short years in the business. 'C'mon Everybody', with its motorik guitar foundations and raspy vocal from Cochran still stands up and was memorably covered in 1979 by Sid Vicious – another briefly burning rock'n'roller.

59Chuck Berry, 'School Days'

Chess brothers Leonard and Phil also helmed this Chuck Berry number, a riffing, jangling template that Berry would habitually plunder as he struggled to maintain his later career. It features the immortal line "Hail, hail, rock'n'roll", a phrase recycled as the title for an 80s Berry documentary, and was blessed with a cover from Bart Simpson on 'The Simpsons Sing The Blues'.

58The Penguins, 'Earth Angel'

Another one for Back To The Future – and Superman III and The Karate Kid II as the 80s went crazy disinterring early rock'n'roll era favourites – 'Earth Angel (Will You Be Mine)' is an exquisite doo-wop pleasure written by Penguins baritone Curtis Williams that made the US top 10, the group's only real success of note.

57The Everly Brothers, 'All I Have To Do Is Dream'

Habitually warring brothers Phil and Don regularly put aside their differences (or at least put them on ice for a couple of minutes) to record glorious close-harmony pop that influenced generations of bands from The Beatles to The Beach Boys to Simon & Garfunkel and beyond. With tremolo guitar from Chet Atkins, 'All I Have To Do Is Dream' is one of the decade's more saccharine options, but proved how vital harmonies could be to a song's DNA.

56The Five Satins, 'In The Still Of The Night'

'In The Still Of The Night' enjoys the perhaps tainted honour of being an integral part of the Dirty Dancing soundtrack. Still, it had the cash rolling in, which would explain The Five Satins' continued existence. They deserve their longevity with this meaty doo-wop stayer led by Fred Parris's clearcut vocals and backed by rootsy, grainy sax.

55Elvis Presley, 'Jailhouse Rock'

You'd be hard-pushed to pick a definitive Elvis single, but 'Jailhouse Rock' has to be one of the most iconic Pelvis tunes, all stop-start judder and growly holler. It was the soundtrack to the movie of the same name, Elvis's third, and shook its hips to the top of the charts in the US and the UK. It's also been covered by constipated ersatz soul bellower Michael Bolton, so is clearly indestructible.

54Bo Diddley, 'Bo Diddley'

One of the rawest early rock tracks, Bo Diddley's self-regarding jerker has been covered, ripped off and filleted repeatedly since. It was Diddley's first ever recording and from day one established the Bo Diddley Beat, a frenetic pattering rhythm that underscored a career and set Buddy Holly and The Rolling Stones on their own rhythmic adventures.

53Big Joe Turner, 'Shake, Rattle And Roll'

Unusually for the youthful starburst of the age, Big Joe Turner was a veteran when he recorded this swinging blaster from jazz songwriter Jesse Stone (credited under the pseudonym Charles E. Calhoun). Turner was 43, making the transition from blues to rock'n'roll with the vim of a chap half his age, and grazing the Billboard top 20 for the first time.

52Buddy Holly & The Crickets, 'Not Fade Away'

'Not Fade Away' picks up the Bo Diddley Beat, drummer Jerry Allison getting inventive with the use of a cardboard box, while Holly huffs and riffs in the foreground. It was only released as the B-side to 'Oh, Boy!', but shone brightly enough to make the charts as a Rolling Stones cover in 1964 and provide a debut single for Canadian prog-metallers Rush in 1973.

51Smiley Lewis, 'I Hear You Knocking'

Smiley Lewis was already in his 40s when he recorded the first version of 'Blue Monday', later a hit for fellow New Orleans musician Fats Domino. 'I Hear You Knocking' was another Dave Bartholomew composition (with Pearl King), adorned by Lewis's rich soulful croon and the kind of barrelling piano that Domino would make his own, sadly stealing all of Lewis's thunder.

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