Jailhouse Rock (song)
|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|
|Genre||Rock and roll|
|Elvis Presley singles chronology|
|Problems playing this file? See media help.|
"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 sung by Elvis Presley is #67 on Rolling Stone's list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and was named one of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.
Characters and themes
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. "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.
Gender studies say that the song is also known for "its famous reference to homoerotics behind bars". Indeed, according to Garry Mulholland, " 'Jailhouse Rock' was always a queer lyric, in both senses. 'Number 47 said to number 3/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.' " 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." Douglas Brode thinks it "amazing that the sequence passed by the censors".
Releases and chart performance
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 addition, "Jailhouse Rock" spent one week at the top of the country charts and reached the #2 position on the R&B charts.
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 two million copies and earning a double-platinum RIAA certification.
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 received an additional double-platinum certification from the RIAA in 1992, representing shipments of 2 million copies of the single.
Charts and certifications
Covers and references
"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 Season 5 contestant Taylor Hicks performed it on May 9, 2006 and when Season 7 contestant Danny Noriega performed it on February 20, 2008. The song was also featured in Disney's animated film Lilo & Stitch during the ending credits. In an episode of Full House Jesse and Becky sing this song at their wedding reception. The song was included in the musical revue "Smokey Joe's Cafe".
Chris Brown covered the song at the 2007 Movie's Rock.
Scratch Track added this song to their live performance of "Love Someone."
Dwayne Johnson performed a parody of the song that pokes fun at his Wrestlemania XXVIII opponent John Cena during the Rock Concert on an episode of WWE Raw in March 2012. WWE later released this version on iTunes as "Rock's Concert".
"Jailhouse Rock" has also been recorded by:
- The Residents
- The Cadets (AKA The Jacks)
- Jerry Lee Lewis
- Miranda Lambert
- Merle Haggard
- Mötley Crüe (This song was a live song only. This song was used as the 10th and final track on their 1987 album Girls, Girls, Girls.)
- Brownsville Station
- The Blues Brothers (This version was the ending song of the movie, performed with other musicians such as Ray Charles and Cab Calloway)
- Patti Smith
- ZZ Top
- The Animals
- Twisted Sister
- The Cramps
- Judy Nylon
- Looney Tunes
- John Cougar Mellencamp (This version was included in the soundtrack for Honeymoon in Vegas)
- Michael Bolton and Carl Perkins
- Jeff Beck Group (featuring Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood)
- Billy "Crash" Craddock
- Adriano Celentano
- Cliff Richard - at concerts
- ABBA with Olivia Newton-John and Andy Gibb
- Frankie Lymon
- Danny Noriega
- Enrique Guzmán (in Spanish)
- Micro Chips (In Spanish) 
- Dean Carter (1967)
- Mind Garage recorded by Elvis Presley's sound engineer Tom Pick and Recording technician Roy Shockley in RCA's "Nashville Sound" studio, under the management of Chet Atkins.
- IBEX pre-Queen era band featuring Freddie Mercury on the recording Live In Liverpool
- Carl Perkins
- Eilert Pilarm
- Link Wray
- Marshall Chapman
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- Philip Brett, Elizabeth Wood and Gary Thomas, Queering the Pitch: The New Gay and Lesbian Musicology (Routledge, 2006), p.363.
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- Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book Of Top 40 Country Hits: 1944-2006, Second edition. Record Research. p. 272.
- Billboard Dec 16, 1957. page 61
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