Jailhouse Rock

Album: Elvis' 30 #1 Hits (1957)
Charted: 1 1
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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 in about five hours and then were free to go out."

    The four songs the duo composed were "Jailhouse Rock," "(You're So Square) Baby I Don't Care," "Treat Me Nice" and "I Want to Be Free."
  • The movie got its name from this song. When Leiber and Stoller wrote it, the film was titled Ghost of a Chance. The duo had the script and wrote the song for the scene where inmates put on a show in the prison.

    After the song was recorded, it was clear that it was going to be a hit, so the movie was renamed Jailhouse Rock. The single was released in September 1957 and reached #1 on October 21. The film was released on November 8.
  • 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 seven 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. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France
  • Elvis was so big in 1957 that this smash wasn't even his biggest hit that year: according to Billboard, that honor went to "All Shook Up." The Top 5 that year illuminated the cultural divide between young Elvis fans and their parents, who were looking for something more subdued:

    1) "All Shook Up" - Elvis
    2) "Love Letters In The Sand" - Pat Boone
    3) "Jailhouse Rock" - Elvis
    4) "(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear" - Elvis
    5) "April Love" - Pat Boone
  • "Jailhouse Rock" has one of the most memorable intros in rock history: two guitar chords with snare drum hits. The intro last just six seconds, but the pattern repeats throughout the verses, establishing a firm musical hook that remains the envy of songwriters.
  • 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.
  • Ozzy Osbourne played a heavy metal version in 1987 when he did a tour of prisons.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Cramps recorded a version of this on the CD The Last Temptation of Elvis. All profits went to a music therapy charity. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Richard - London, England
  • 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.
  • 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 seen playing this song to their fellow inmates.
  • Mötley Crüe included a live version recorded at a show in Long Beach, California on their 1987 album Girls, Girls, Girls.
  • Elvis' real-life band members DJ Fontana, Scotty Moore and Bill Black played his character's band in the movie, along with Mike Stoller on piano.

    In the Leiber and Stoller autobiography Hound Dog, written with David Ritz, Leiber explained he was originally supposed to play the role in the movie because the casting director thought he looked more like a piano player than Stoller. When Leiber and Elvis both protested, the man insisted, "All he has to do is run his fingers over the keys. Any fool can do that." But when the first day of filming started, Leiber came down with a toothache and had to visit the dentist, so Stoller stepped in. Because he wasn't a member of the Screen Actors Guild, he wasn't allowed any dialogue throughout the movie. He also had to shave his goatee because it was "a scene stealer."
  • Ever wonder how this jail party ends? Possibly with the inmates peacefully returning to their cells, but it could also have a more violent conclusion. In the 10cc song "Rubber Bullets," a #1 UK hit in 1973, they sing about a similar jailhouse party, but theirs ends with riot police taking action.

Comments: 39

  • Pete from New South WalesI gotta say i like the choreography, the boys did a great job
  • Stukka63 from St.augustine,fla.Never ever a huge Elvis fan, but this song rocks.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn this day in 1958 {January 24th} Elvis Presley's "Jailhouse Rock" debuted at #1 on the United Kingdom's Official Top 30 Singles chart {per National Music Express}, it remained in the top spot for three weeks...
    The rest of the UK Top 10 on January 24th, 1958:
    At #2. "Ma He's Making Eyes At Me" by Johnny Otis and His Orchestra with Marie Adams
    #3. "All The Way"/"Chicago" by Frank Sinatra
    #4. "Oh Boy!" by the Crickets
    #5. "Great Balls of Fire" by Jerry Lee Lewis {The previous week's #1 record}
    #6. "My Special Angel" by Malcolm Vaughan
    #6. "Peggy Sue" by Buddy Holly {a tie}
    #8. "Reet Petite (The Sweetest Girl In Town} by Jackie Wilson
    #8. "The Story of My Life" by Michael Holliday {another tie}
    #10. "Kisses Sweeter Than Wine" by Jimmie Rodgers
    R.I.P. to the King {1935 - 1977}...
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyPer: http://www.oldiesmusic.com/news.htm {06-14-2018}...
    Dominic Joseph “D.J.” Fontana, Elvis Presley’s original drummer, passed away Wednesday (June 13th, 2018) at the age of 87...
    Born in Shreveport, Louisiana, D.J. was the house drummer for the “Louisiana Hayride” program when he was tapped to join the King, guitarist Scotty Moore and bassist Bill Black on tour and in the studio (Bill’s “slap-back” upright bass had provided percussion on the early Sun Records recordings so D.J. was the first drummer used by Elvis)...
    D.J. worked on the King’s early million-sellers, was seen on his 1956 TV appearances and even in films like “Jailhouse Rock”. Though not officially an Elvis employee after 1958, he and Scotty continue to work on Elvis’ sessions into the ‘60s and on his “Comeback” TV special. He was inducted as a sideman into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2009.
    May he R.I.P.
  • Jessica from Tennessee"If you can't find a partner, use a wooden chair" was not talking about sex....it was talking about dancing. If you can't find a partner to dance with, dance with a wooden chair.
  • Jennifur Sun from RamonaGreat drums. Liked Mike's piano too.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn March 24th 1958, at 6:35 a.m., Elvis reported to Local Draft Board #86 in Memphis, TN accompanied by his parents, Gladys and Vernon, as well as longtime friend Lamar Fike...
    Elvis and 12 other recruits were soon taken by bus to Kennedy Veterans Memorial Hospital and inducted into the U.S. Army, he was assigned serial number 53310761 with a starting pay of $78 a month...
    At the time his "Jailhouse Rock" was at #76 on Billboard's Top 100 chart; a little over twenty two weeks earlier on October 20th, 1957 it had peaked at #1 on the Top 100...
    Also at the time the King's "Don't" was at #7 on the Top 100, and according to Billboard it was tied at #7 with "Breathless" by Jerry Lee Lewis.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn October 27th 1957, Elvis appeared in concert at the Oakland Auditorium in Oakland, California...
    Just before the concert began the local police informed The King not to swivel his hips during his performance, during the show Elvis responded by wiggling only his little finger while singing...
    At the time "Jailhouse Rock" was at #1 on Billboard's Top 100 chart; and at #2 on both the Best Seller in Stores and Most Played by Jockeys chart...
    And the record's B-side, "Treat Me Nice", was at #84* on the Top 100 chart...
    * According to Billboard, "Treat Me Nice" was actually tied at #84 with Billy Ward's covered version of "Deep Purple".
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn March 15th 1958, Elvis appeared in concert at Russwood Park in Memphis, TN; it would be his last concert* before his induction {March 24th, 1958} in the U.S. Army...
    At the time of the concert he had three records on Billboard's Top 100 chart; "Don't' {at #8}, "I Beg of You" {at #59}, and "Jailhouse Rock" {at #94}...
    * His next concert would be three years and ten days later on March 25th, 1961; it was a benefit concert to aid in the construction of the 'USS Arizona Memorial' at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn November 10th 1957, Elvis Presley performed at the Honolulu Stadium in Hawaii; he did two shows, 3 pm & 8:15 pm, and ticket prices ranged from $1.50 to $3.50...
    These were his last concerts of the 1950s; four months later on March 24th, 1958 he entered the U.S. Army...
    At the time of these concerts, "Jailhouse Rock" was in its 4th of 7 weeks at #1 on Billboard's Top 100 chart; and was at #2 on both the Country & R&B singles chart...
    The record's B-side, "Treat Me Nice", was at #63 and "Teddy Bear" at #82...
    In the United Kingdom he had four records in the Top 20, with "Let's Have a Party" at #2.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn October 29th 1957, Elvis performed at the Pan Pacific Auditorium in Los Angeles, California...
    After the show he met with Rick Nelson, at the time Rick's "Be-Bop Baby" was at #5 on Billboard's Top 100 chart...
    And Elvis' "Jailhouse Rock"* was in its 2nd week at #1 on the Top 100, it spent a total of 7 weeks in the top spot...
    * The record's B-side, "Treat Me Nice" was also on the chart, it was at #30.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn 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 from Sauquoit, NyOn 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}.
  • Ukiah from Sidney, BcI 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.
  • Fox Naif from Gold Coast, AustraliaThanks 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.
  • Robin from Culver City, CaLieber 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.
  • Meocyber from Alma, Co 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.
  • David from Youngstown, OhDill,
    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?
  • Dill from Alexandria, VaPosted 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.
  • Michael from Eastleigh, United Kingdomjust 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.
  • Mark from Dublin, Irelandone of my favourites from the king...also like the blues brothers singing it...
  • Vingthor from Catskills, NyIan & 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.........VINGTHOR
  • Ian from Lethbridge, CanadaHey, 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.
  • David from Youngstown, OhMen 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.
  • Ian from Lethbridge, CanadaDavid, how is it disturbing that men have sex? What's wrong with that?
  • David from Youngstown, OhYou'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.
  • Maha from Auckland, New ZealandI 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**.
  • Rika from Alta Loma, CaIt is a brilliant song and it's my favourite!
  • Jay from Atlanta, GaIn the "Blues Brothers", Joe Walsh is the first inmate to jump up on the table and start dancing when they launched into this song.
  • Greg from Victoria, CanadaA 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.
  • Amy from Dallas, TxQueen did a cover of this song on their Montreal tour
  • Stefanie from Rock Hill, ScThere'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 from Rock Hill, ScThe beat and Elvis's vocals are awesome!!!
  • Larry from Vancouver, WaThis is the best rock 'n roll song maybe ever. It is fast and fun. "If you can't find a partner..."
  • Sigurbjörn from KeflavÃ?k, IcelandAnd John Lewis sang this in American Idol on season two, movie theme. He was voted out after that:(
  • Jerry from Brooklyn, NyThere 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.
  • Calum from Edinburgh, ScotlandShe Loves You got to number one twice as well.
  • Andy from Columbus, OhMotley Crue did a cover of this on "Girls, Girls,Girls". Would have been better if done in a studio, but it still rocks!!
  • Andrew from Brooklyn, Nywas also in the blues brothers
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