Jailhouse Rock (song)

"Jailhouse Rock"
Single by Elvis Presley
from the album Jailhouse Rock
B-side "Treat Me Nice"
Released September 24, 1957
Format 45 rpm single, 78 rpm single
Recorded April 30, 1957, Radio Recorders, Hollywood, California
Genre Rock and roll, rockabilly[1]
Length 2:35
Writer(s) Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller
Producer(s) Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller
Certification X2 Gold (RIAA)
Elvis Presley singles chronology
"(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear" (June 11, 1957) "Jailhouse Rock"
(September 24, 1957)
"Don't" (January 7, 1958)
"Jailhouse Rock"
Elvis Presley's "Jailhouse Rock" from the 1957 film Jailhouse Rock

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"Jailhouse Rock" is a song written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller that first became a hit for Elvis Presley. The song was released as a 45rpm single on September 24, 1957, to coincide with the release of Presley's motion picture, Jailhouse Rock.

The song as recorded by Presley is #67 on Rolling Stone's list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time[2] and was named one of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. In 2004, it finished at #21 on AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs survey of top tunes in American cinema. On 27 November 2016, the Grammy Hall of Fame announced its induction, along with that of another 24 songs.[3]

Presley's performance of the song in the film, choreographed as a dance routine involving himself and a large group of male prisoners, was featured among other classic MGM musical numbers in the 1994 documentary That's Entertainment! III. The film version differs from the single version of the song, featuring backing instrumentation and vocals not heard on the record.

Characters and themes

Some of the characters named in the song are real people. Shifty Henry was a well-known LA musician, not a criminal. The Purple Gang was a real mob. "Sad Sack" was a U.S. Army nickname in World War II for a loser, which also became the name of a popular comic strip and comic book character.

According to Rolling Stone, Leiber and Stoller's "theme song for Presley's third movie was decidedly silly, the kind of tongue-in-cheek goof they had come up with for The Coasters. The King, however, sang it as straight rock & roll, overlooking the jokes in the lyrics (like the suggestion of gay romance when inmate Number 47 tells Number 3, 'You're the cutest jailbird I ever did see') and then introducing Scotty Moore's guitar solo with a cry so intense that the take almost collapses."[4] Gender studies scholars cite the song for "its famous reference to homoerotics behind bars,"[5] while music critic Garry Mulholland writes, "'Jailhouse Rock' was always a queer lyric, in both senses."[6] Douglas Brode writes of the filmed production number that it's "amazing that the sequence passed by the censors".[7]

Releases and chart performance

The single, with its B-side "Treat Me Nice" (another song from the film's soundtrack) was a US #1 hit for seven weeks in the fall of 1957, and a UK #1 hit for three weeks early in 1958. It was the first record to enter the UK charts at No. 1.[8] In addition, "Jailhouse Rock" spent one week at the top of the US country charts,[9] and reached the No. 2 position on the R&B chart.[10]

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" (but with "Treat Me Nice" omitted). It topped the Billboard EP charts, eventually selling two million copies and earning a double-platinum RIAA certification.

In 2005, the song was re-released in the UK and reached No. 1 for a single week, when it became the lowest-selling number 1 in UK history, and the first to enter at No. 1 twice.

Charts and certifications

Weekly charts

Chart (1957–1958) Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report)[11] 3
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[12] 8
Finland (Suomen virallinen lista)[13] 7
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[14] 1
US Billboard Hot 100[15] 1
US Billboard Best Sellers in Stores[16] 1
US Billboard Most Played by Jockeys[16] 1
US Billboard Most Played Country & Western Singles[16] 3
US Billboard Most Played Rhythm and Blues Singles[16] 1
US Billboard Top Selling Country & Western Singles[15] 1
US Billboard Top Selling Rhythm and Blues Singles[15] 1
US Cash Box Magazine Top Country & Western Singles[16] 1
Chart (1971) Peak
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[17] 42
Chart (1974) Peak
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Wallonia)[18] 9
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[19] 4
Chart (1977) Peak
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[20] 44
Chart (2005) Peak
Ireland (IRMA)[21] 23
France (SNEP)[22] 87
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[23] 96
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[19] 19
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[24] 37
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[25] 1

Year-end charts

Chart (1957) Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report)[11] 22
US Billboard (Best Sellers in Stores)[26] 16
US Singles (Cash Box)[27] 11

Sales and certifications

Region Certification Certified units/Sales
United States (RIAA)[28] 2× Platinum 2,000,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone

Covers and references

The Beatles regularly performed "Jailhouse Rock" starting in 1958 (as The Quarrymen) and continuing all the way through 1960 with John Lennon on lead vocal; no recording is known to survive.[29] Quarryman Len Garry (in his book "John, Paul & Me - Before The Beatles" p. 168) states that the group actually started performing the song in 1957. "Jailhouse Rock" was performed regularly in a medley along with many old rock and roll hits by Queen as early as 1970[30] and was the opening song on Queen's 1979 Crazy Tour and the 1980 North American tour for The Game. It is the last song in the motion picture The Blues Brothers. The song is featured in the 1995 film Casper and the 2006 animated television film Leroy & Stitch. American Idol Season 5 contestant Taylor Hicks performed it on May 9, 2006, and Season 7 contestant Danny Noriega performed it on February 20, 2008. In an episode of Full House, Jesse and Becky sing this song at their wedding reception. The song was used on Dancing with the Stars for four different jives by Lisa Rinna, Lil' Kim, Tommy Chong and Alek Skarlatos. The song is included in the musical revue Smokey Joe's Cafe. The song was also recorded by Jeff Beck and was published in the album Best Of Beck.

Swiss artists Bo Katzman (de) and the Soul Cats cover the song as Jailhouse Rap on their 1990 CD The Wonderful World of the Soul Cats in a mash up/medley with Rock Everybody by M. Davis/J. Josea and Tutti Frutti. The song is unrelated to the similarly named Fat Boys' song.

Scenes from the music video of the One Direction single "Kiss You" are based on the "Jailhouse Rock" production number from the Elvis film.[31]

See also


  1. "ROCKABILLY Definition". shsu.edu.
  2. "The RS 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". RollingStone.com. Retrieved 2007-06-02.
  3. http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/nirvana-bowie-rem-songs-added-to-grammy-hall-of-fame-w452651
  4. "Jailhouse Rock". In Rolling Stone, December 9, 2004.
  5. Philip Brett, Elizabeth Wood and Gary Thomas, Queering the Pitch: The New Gay and Lesbian Musicology (Routledge, 2006), p.363.
  6. Garry Mulholland, Popcorn: Fifty Years of Rock'n'Roll Movies (Orion Books, 2010).
  7. Douglas Brode, Elvis Cinema and Popular Culture (McFarland & Co., 2006), p.46.
  8. Rice, Jo (1982). The Guinness Book of 500 Number One Hits (1st ed.). Enfield, Middlesex: Guinness Superlatives Ltd. p. 34. ISBN 0-85112-250-7.
  9. Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Country Hits: 1944–2006, Second edition. Record Research. p. 272.
  10. Billboard December 16, 1957. page 61
  11. 1 2 Kent, David (2005). Australian Chart Book: 1940–1969: the Hit Songs and Records from Thirty Years of Specially Compiled Charts. Australian Chart Book Limited. Retrieved 2013-03-03.
  12. "Ultratop.be – Elvis Presley – Jailhouse Rock" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved March 3, 2013.
  13. "Elvis Presley: Jailhouse Rock" (in Finnish). Musiikkituottajat – IFPI Finland. Retrieved March 3, 2013.
  14. "30, 1958/ Archive Chart: January 30, 1958" UK Singles Chart. Retrieved March 3, 2016.
  15. 1 2 3 "Elvis Presley – Awards". Allmusic. Retrieved March 3, 2013.
  16. 1 2 3 4 5 Joel Whitburn's top pop singles 1955–2006. Record Research. January 8, 2008. Retrieved March 3, 2013.
  17. "11, 1971/ Archive Chart: December 11, 1971" UK Singles Chart. Retrieved March 3, 2016.
  18. "Ultratop.be – Elvis Presley – Jailhouse Rock" (in French). Ultratop 50. Retrieved March 3, 2013.
  19. 1 2 "Dutchcharts.nl – Elvis Presley – Jailhouse Rock" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved March 3, 2013.
  20. "3, 1977/ Archive Chart: September 3, 1977" UK Singles Chart. Retrieved March 3, 2013.
  21. "Chart Track: Week 1, 2005". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved March 3, 2013.
  22. "Lescharts.com – Elvis Presley – Jailhouse Rock" (in French). Les classement single. Retrieved March 3, 2013.
  23. "Swisscharts.com – Elvis Presley – Jailhouse Rock". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved March 3, 2013.
  24. "Swedishcharts.com – Elvis Presley – Jailhouse Rock". Singles Top 100. Retrieved March 3, 2013.
  25. "15, 2005/ Archive Chart: January 15, 2005" UK Singles Chart. Retrieved March 3, 2013.
  26. "Billboard Top 50 – 1957". Billboard. Longbored Surfer. 1957. Retrieved 2013-03-03.
  27. "The CASH BOX Year-End Charts: 1957". Cash Box Magazine. 1957. Retrieved 2013-03-03.
  28. "American single certifications – Elvis Presley – Jailhouse Rock". Recording Industry Association of America. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH
  29. Lewisohn, Mark (September 22, 1992). The Complete Beatles Chronicles. Harmony Books. p. 363. ISBN 978-0517581001.
  30. "Jailhouse Rock". Queenpedia.com. Retrieved September 11, 2014.
  31. "One Direction's 'Kiss You' Music Video: Look By Look".
  32. Donkers, Chuck. "Bugs & Friends Sing Elvis – Looney Tunes : Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards : AllMusic". www.allmusic.com. Ann Arbor, USA: Rovi Corporation. Retrieved August 24, 2012.
  33. "Rock de la Carcel by Micro Chips on SoundCloud – Hear the world's sounds". Soundcloud.com. September 10, 2011. Retrieved 2014-04-03.

External links

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