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Jailhouse Rock (song)

Background Information

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"Jailhouse Rock"
Single by Elvis Presley
B-side " Treat Me Nice"
Released September 24, 1957
Format 45 RPM Single,
Genre Rock
Writer(s) Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller
Producer Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller
Elvis Presley singles chronology
" (Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear" (1957) "Jailhouse Rock" " Don't"

"Jailhouse Rock" is a song written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller that first became a hit for Elvis Presley. The song was first released as a 45rpm single on September 24, 1957, to coincide with the release of Presley's motion picture, Jailhouse Rock. Composer Mike Stoller can be seen playing piano in the film presentation of the song. The song as sung by Elvis Presley is #67 on Rolling Stone's list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

The single, with its B-side "Treat Me Nice," was a US #1 hit for 7 weeks in the fall of 1957, and a UK #1 hit for three weeks early in 1958. In 2005, the song was re-released in the UK and reached #1 for a single week. The song, which is an example of simple verse form, eventually sold four million copies in the US, thus earning a Double Platinum certification by the RIAA.

Also in 1957, "Jailhouse Rock" was the lead song in an EP (extended play single), together with other songs from the film, namely "Young and Beautiful," "I Want to be Free," "Don't Leave Me Now," and "(You're So Square) Baby I Don't Care." It topped the Billboard EP charts, eventually selling an additional two million copies and earning another double-platinum RIAA certification.

About the Song

Some of the characters named in the song are real people. Shifty Henry was a well known L.A. musician, not a criminal. The Purple Gang was a real mob, not a rhythm section. "Bugsy" was probably Bugsy Siegel, the Jewish gangster.

" Sad Sack" was a World War II, U.S. Army, nickname for a loser, and a popular comic strip.

The song was named one of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.

As noted by Rolling Stone magazine (which later ranked the song #67 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time), there are parts of the lyrics that may represent talk about homosexual relationships between inmates:

"Number forty-seven said to number three
You're the cutest jailbird I ever did see
I sure would be delighted with your company
Come on and do the jailhouse rock with me".

On the other hand, many see this as a lighthearted reference to forced environmental improvisation, as reflected in the next verse:

"Sad Sack was sittin on a block of stone
Way over in the corner weepin' all alone.
The warden said, hey, buddy, don't you be no square.
If you can't find a partner use a wooden chair".

After all:

"Everybody in the whole cellblock, was dancing to the jailhouse rock".

"Jailhouse Rock" was performed regularly in a medley along with many old rock and roll hits by Queen and was the opening song on Queen's 1980 North American tour for The Game. It was the last song in the motion picture The Blues Brothers. This song was featured on American Idol when contestant Taylor Hicks performed it on 9 May 2006. The song was also featured in Disney's animated film Leroy & Stitch during the ending credits.

"Jailhouse Rock" has also been recorded by:

  • Miranda Lambert
  • Merle Haggard
  • The Residents
  • Mötley Crüe
  • Brownsville Station
  • The Blues Brothers
  • ZZ Top
  • The Animals
  • Twisted Sister
  • The Cramps
  • John Cougar Mellencamp
  • Michael Bolton
  • Jeff Beck Group (featuring Rod Stewart and Ron Wood)
  • Billy "Crash" Craddock
  • Adriano Celentano
  • Cliff Richard - at concerts
  • ABBA with Olivia Newton-John and Andy Gibb
  • Queen
  • Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers

The German rock band, Spider Murphy Gang, is named after one of the characters in the lyrics, "Spider Murphy played the tenor saxophone."

  • In Stephen King's novel Christine, "Jailhouse Rock" is playing when the car runs down Buddy Repperton, one of the guys that smashed up the car at the airport.
  • "Jailhouse Rock" is also part of the movie soundtrack for Oldboy by Park Chan-wook. This song is different from the one that was made famous by Elvis Presley.
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