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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 coincidewith the release of Presley's motion pictureJailhouse Rock.

The song as sung by Elvis Presley is #67 on Rolling Stone's list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time[1] and was named one of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.

Characters and themes[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Some of the characters named in the song are real people. Shifty Henry was a well-known L.A. musician, not a criminalThe Purple Gang was a real mob. "Sad Sack" was a U.S. Armynickname 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".[2] 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.' "[3] According toRolling 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] Douglas Brode thinks it "amazing that the sequence passed by the censors".[5]

Releases and chart performance[edit source | editbeta]Edit

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[6] and reached the #2 position on the R&B charts.[7]

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. The video of the song by Elvis is known as the first music video.

Charts and certifications[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Weekly charts[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Chart (1957-1958) Peak

position

Australia (Kent Music Report)[8] 3
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[9] 8
US BillboardThe Hot 100[10] 1
US Billboard'Best Sellers in Stores[11] 1
US Billboard'Most Played by Jockeys[11] 1
US BillboardMost Played Country & Western Singles[11] 3
US BillboardMost Played Rhythm and Blues Singles[11] 1
US BillboardTop Selling Country & Western Singles[10] 1
US BillboardTop Selling Rhythm and Blues Singles[10] 1
US Cash Box Magazine Top Country & Western Singles[11] 1
Chart (1974) Peak

position

Belgium (Ultratop 50 Wallonia)[12] 9
Netherlands (Mega Single Top 100)[13] 4
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[14] 58
Chart (1977) Peak

position

UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[15] 44
Chart (2005) Peak

position

Ireland (IRMA)[16] 23
France (SNEP)[17] 87
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[18] 96
Netherlands (Mega Single Top 100)[13] 19
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[14] 37
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[19] 1

Year-End charts[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Chart (1957) Peak

position

Australia (Kent Music Report)[8] 22
US Billboard (Best Sellers in Stores)[20] 16
US Singles (Cash Box)[21] 11

Sales and certifications[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Region Certification Sales/shipments
United States (RIAA)[22] 2× Platinum 2,000,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone

Covers and references[edit source | editbeta]Edit

"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".

The German rock band Spider Murphy Gang is named after one of the characters in the lyrics.

In Stephen King's novel Christine, "Jailhouse Rock" is playing when the car runs down Buddy Repperton, one of the guys who smashed up the car at the garage.

American rock and roll revival act Sha Na Na performed "Jailhouse Rock" live at the Woodstock Festival in August 1969.

Westlife performed the song for the medley part of their Where the Dreams Come True Tour.

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".

Scenes from the music video of the One Direction single Kiss You are based on the "Jailhouse Rock" production number from the Elvis film.[23]

"Jailhouse Rock" has also been recorded by:


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