Jailhouse Rock (song)
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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 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. In 2004, it finished at #21 on AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs survey of top tunes in American cinema.
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." Gender studies scholars cite the song for "its famous reference to homoerotics behind bars," while music critic Garry Mulholland writes, "'Jailhouse Rock' was always a queer lyric, in both senses." Douglas Brode writes of the filmed production number that it's "amazing that the sequence passed by the censors".
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. In addition, "Jailhouse Rock" spent one week at the top of the US country charts, and reached the No. 2 position on the R&B chart.
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.
Charts and certifications
Covers and references
"Jailhouse Rock" was performed regularly in a medley along with many old rock and roll hits by Queen as early as 1970 and was the opening song on Queen's 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 direct-to-video animated 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 three different jives by Lisa Rinna, Lil Kim, and Tommy Chong. The song is included in the musical revue Smokey Joe's Cafe.
The German rock band Spider Murphy Gang is named after one of the characters in the lyrics.
Chris Brown covered the song at the 2007 Movie's Rock.
Scenes from the music video of the Eminem's "We Made You" are based the "Jailhouse Rock" production number from the Elvis film.
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 (on their Fandango! album, recorded live at The Warehouse in New Orleans, Louisiana)
- 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
- Abdalá Bucaram
- Los Iracundos (in Spanish)
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