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Jailhouse Rock by Elvis Presley

Album: Elvis' 30 #1 HitsReleased: 1958Charted:
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  • This was written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, who also wrote "Hound Dog," which became a huge hit when Elvis recorded it. Leiber and Stoller excelled at writing catchy Pop songs with elements of Blues music. Their songs could be very funny and clever, and often take place in unusual situations. Some of their other hits include "Love Potion #9" and "On Broadway." Mike Stoller played piano on this track.
  • This was featured in the Elvis movie of the same name, where Elvis plays a wrongly accused convict who becomes a star when he gets out. The film, which is considered one of the best of his 31 movies, is famous for the scene where Elvis performs this song in an elaborate dance number taking place in prison.
    The movie score was the first one that Leiber and Stoller wrote. Stoller recalled to Mojo magazine April 2009: "We flew in to New York from LA, where were living at that time, and we had a hotel suite. We had a piano put in, in case the muse struck us, and Jean Aberbach - he and his brother (Julian) owned Hill & Range Songs and they had to deal with Colonel Parker but created Gladys Music and Elvis Presley Music-handed us a script for a movie. We threw it in the corner with the tourist magazines that you get in hotels. We were having a ball in New York, going to the theatre, going to jazz clubs to hear Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk, doing a lot of drinking. On a Saturday morning- we'd been there about a week - Jean knocked on the door and said, in a very Viennese accent, 'Vell boys, you vill haf my songs for the movie.' Jerry said, 'Don't worry Jean, you'll have them' Jean said, 'I know.' And he pushed a big chair in front of the door and sat down and said, ' I'm going to take a nap and I'm not leaving until you have my songs.' So we wrote four songs (including this one) in about five hours and then were free to go out."
  • The line, "Number 47 said to number 3, You're the cutest jailbird I ever did see," is a sly reference to prison sex but was not offensive enough to create any controversy over the song.
  • This was a massive hit. It was #1 on the US pop charts for 7 weeks, and also reached #1 on the Country and R&B charts. In the UK, it entered the charts at #1, becoming the first song to do so. (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France)
  • Elvis joined the army shortly after this song was released.
  • Ozzy Osbourne played a Heavy Metal version of this in 1987 when he did a tour of prisons.
  • ABC television ran a series of educational cartoons called "Schoolhouse Rock" in the '70s. Millions of kids learned about grammar, history, and astronomy from them. The title was a play on this song.
  • Sha-Na-Na played this at Woodstock in 1969. Very few of the attendees saw their performance, as they didn't go on until Monday morning (the event was scheduled to end at midnight on Sunday, but ran long). Jimi Hendrix followed Sha-Na-Na to close out the festival.
  • January 2005 marked what would have been Elvis Presley's 70th birthday. In commemoration, Elvis' record label re-released this in the UK where it went straight to #1, making it the oldest recording ever to top the UK charts. It also became the third single to hit #1 twice in the UK, following "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "My Sweet Lord," both of which were also posthumous re-releases. (thanks, Edward Pearce - Ashford, Kent, England)
  • In 2007, Chris Rock performed this on the Movies Rock TV special, where modern Pop artists performed classic movie songs. Brown re-created Elvis' scene from the movie. (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France)
  • The Cramps recorded a version of this on the CD The Last Temptation of Elvis. All profits went to a music therapy charity. (thanks, Richard - London, England)
  • This song was covered by the Blues Brothers, and featured at the end of the movie of the same name. The brothers and the band are playing this song to their fellow inmates. (thanks, Supanerd01 - melbourne, Australia)
  • On November 4, 1957, this topped both the Pop and R&B charts. In an odd twist, the next five positions on both charts were also the same songs: "Wake Up Little Susie" by the Everly Brothers, "You Send Me" by Sam Cooke, "Silhouettes" by the Rays, "Be-Bop Baby" by Ricky Nelson, and "Honeycomb" by Jimmie Rodgers. (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France)
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Comments: 28

On September 5th 1957, Elvis recorded "Treat Me Nice" at the Radio Recorders Studios in West Hollywood, CA
It was released as the B-side of "Jailhouse Rock" and entered Billboard's Top 100 chart in October 1957 and peaked at #18 on Billboard’s Most Played by Jockeys chart...
The recording session was held to record songs for Elvis' upcoming Christmas album and was the only song recorded that didn't have a holiday theme...
Personally; along with "Don't" and "(Marie's the Name) His Latest Flame", it is one of my three favorite Elvis songs.
Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
On August 31st 1957, Elvis appeared at the Empire Stadium in Vancouver, Canada...
He performed only four songs; "Money Honey", "That's When your Heartaches Begin", "Hound Dog", and "Jailhouse Rock"...
After "Jailhouse Rock" Col. Tom Parker ordered Elvis off stage due to the surging fans; the concert lasted a total of twenty two minutes...
It was Elvis' third and last time he would performed outside the U.S.A., earlier in the year {April} he did shows in Toronto and Ottawa...
At the time of the concert Elvis had three songs on Billboard's Top 100 chart; "Teddy Bear" {at #3}, "Loving You" {at #34}, and "All Shook Up" {at #48}...
Tickets for the Vancouver show ranged from $1.50 to $3.50 and the attendance was 26,000 fans...
R.I.P. to The King {1935 - 1977}.
Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
I don't know if I should do this song for a leadership group in my school in front of the whole school should I do it.Ukiah - Sidney, Bc
Thanks Robin, Culver City: You sure I'll Mess You Up recorded before Jailhouse Rock? Just played it and was amazed to hear the similarities, particular the guitar riff.Fox Naif - Gold Coast, Australia
Lieber and Stoller TOOK that song from my guy who passed Eugene Church and Jesse Belvin, also known as The Cliques. They wrote a song I'll Mess You Up and Lieber and Stoller haunted the studios in L.A. and took songs and bits of songs and made into hits for some groups or even Elvis. Please listen to I'll Mess You Up and the music and breaks are exact to Jail House Rock, which was released later. This was common practice and Lieber and Stoller were good at it, unfortunately, many original artists got no credit or had to fight for any if at all.Robin - Culver City, Ca
Ok, this was one of Elvis hardest rockin' numbers But I think songfacts should have included "Steamroller" on the list. It's one of his last tough songs.Meocyber - Alma, Co
Dill,
How I wish the real world was like your fantasy world with unicorns jumping over rainbows. How is that not a reference to prison sex?

Let's enjoy the song for what it is - a great rock tune with lyrics about some strange happenings in jail. What warden is going to throw a party at the county jail?
David - Youngstown, Oh
Posted above: "Number 47 said to number 3, You're the cutest jailbird I ever did see," is a sly reference to prison sex.
(I see below this is already talked too much)
No, it's not a reference to prison sex. People always look for sex in 40's and 50's lyrics when it's just not there. Words like "gay" and "blow" didn't mean anything back then, guys dressed like girls for laughs and some guy telling another guy what a cute jailbird he is, that's just meant to be funny.
Dill - Alexandria, Va
just about the entire universe has heard jailhouse rock .one of the greatest rock songs of any era. nobody sings it better than elvis. but has anyone heard the alternate take. it's on essential elvis no 1 together with soundtracks from love me tender and loving you [with some alternate takes]. check it out, i think you'll like it.Michael - Eastleigh, United Kingdom
one of my favourites from the king...also like the blues brothers singing it...Mark - Dublin, Ireland
Ian & David...stop flirting & get a room....( or , commit a crime & hook-up , {}_ (o) {}_ ) ..Juss-kiddin'... couldn't help myself =) . ya know , I've known the lyrics a long time & sang the song a million times & It never occurred to me what they meant.....which is kinda odd , 'cause with Elvis , He has the ability to help ya thru tuff times &/or cheer up ...BECAUSE of the "personal connection" U feel when He sings...( girls & guys , alike ). PS: I just came across this site as I was research'n Elvis & saw top-2 comments , thought it was funny & had ta join so I could bust U-2's chops. God , I need a life!! Anyway , THANKS 4 the giggle.........VINGTHORVingthor - Catskills, Ny
Hey, lay off! I just misread your post, okay? I thought you were talking about men having sex and then saying what's even more disturbing, and thus saying that men having sex was disturbing. I was not planting my mind with what I wanted to see and then acting upon that. I've heard many a person (mostly religious) complain about how wrong it is, and I most certainly do not want to see another one of those. I get what you're saying now, and I agree with it. It was just simple miscommunication.Ian - Lethbridge, Canada
Men having sex is not disturbing. But what is disturbing is prisoners using wooden chairs as a sex partner. Typically, if you're using a wooden chair in prison as a sex partner, you're most likely being raped by prisoners with the chair. That's not disturbing to you? Also, forceable rape in prison is also disturbing. Read the post and not what you want to see.David - Youngstown, Oh
David, how is it disturbing that men have sex? What's wrong with that?Ian - Lethbridge, Canada
You've got to be kidding, Maha. Right? Men have sex and rape other male inmates routinely in jail. That's the reference. What's an even more amusing/disturbing part of the song is: The sad sack was a 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."
I would think most prisoners given the choice would prefer the company of another man in jail rather than getting it from a wooden chair. The tune is catchy, among my favorite early songs by the King. I'm much more of a fan of his brilliant work in the late 60s/early 70s.
David - Youngstown, Oh
I don't understand how the line "Number 47 said to number 3, You're the cutest jailbird I ever did see," could be a "sly reference to prison sex ". How the heck would you have sex in prison? If you could, then the Menendez brothers would have consummated their marraiges by now. I think that bit of trivia is bullsh**.Maha - Auckland, New Zealand
It is a brilliant song and it's my favourite!Rika - Alta Loma, Ca
In the "Blues Brothers", Joe Walsh is the first inmate to jump up on the table and start dancing when they launched into this song.Jay - Atlanta, Ga
A true gateway rock and roll song copied by many others but it was all Elvis. What can u say? Early(mainstream) rock and roll history that opened that genre of music to the general public.Greg - Victoria, Canada
Queen did a cover of this song on their Montreal tourAmy - Dallas, Tx
There's a cover of this somewhere that Rod Stuart sings on. Is it just me, or did he sing this when he ws in The Heff Beck Group. It's a hard-rock kind of cover, and if i remember some of his hard-rock songs were ones he did with the Jeff beck Group.Stefanie - Rock Hill, Sc
The beat and Elvis's vocals are awesome!!!Stefanie - Rock Hill, Sc
This is the best rock 'n roll song maybe ever. It is fast and fun. "If you can't find a partner..."Larry - Vancouver, Wa
And John Lewis sang this in American Idol on season two, movie theme. He was voted out after that:(Sigurbjörn - Keflav�k, Iceland
There are some sources that have the line "I sure would be deligted with your company" as "I sure would be delighted with you pumpin' me" This makes the previous line even more raunchy. Look at his hand motion in the song in the film. It makes these lyrics seem very plausible.Jerry - Brooklyn, Ny
She Loves You got to number one twice as well.Calum - Edinburgh, Scotland
Motley Crue did a cover of this on "Girls, Girls,Girls". Would have been better if done in a studio, but it still rocks!!Andy - Columbus, Oh
was also in the blues brothersAndrew - Brooklyn, Ny