Sunday, October 21, 2007

50 years ago: Elvis Presley hit #1 with “Jailhouse Rock”

Jailhouse Rock

Elvis Presley

Writer(s): Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller (see lyrics here)


Released: September 24, 1957


First Charted: September 30, 1957


Peak: 17 US, 13 CB, 2 HR, 11 CW, 15 RB, 14 UK, 11 CN, 3 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): 4.0 US, 0.79 UK, 9.0 world (includes US + UK)


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 237.8 video, 238.74 streaming

Awards: (Click on award for more details).

About the Song:

As bad as Elvis movies could be, the songs that soundtracked them were often worse. Still, Elvis had “his celluloid moments” and perhaps never better than in Jailhouse Rock. HL Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, “the first important non-performing songwriters of the rock era,” TBpenned the prison songs for The King’s third movie. It was their first movie score, SF but the pair were known for their R&B hits, one of which was the jail-themed “Riot in Cell Block #9” by the Coasters. TC They’d also written a couple of Presley hits already – most notably “Hound Dog”, first recorded by Big Mama Thornton. RS500

Leiber and Stoller’s score “was perfect” but nothing could match the energetic title song. HL Inspired by “Comeback” by Memphis Slim, KL “Jailhouse Rock” sported a tongue-in-cheek nature on par with the Coasters’ material. However, Elvis ignored the lyrical jokes, such as the gay-prisoner-themed line about one inmate telling another “You’re the cutest jailbird I ever did see” and “sang it as straight rock & roll.” RS500

As for the dance routine involving dancing convicts in their cells, it was choreographed by Elvis himself, BR making it his only full-fledged example of such work in one of his movies. HL It is often cited as an early influence on the development of music video. JA

The song was a huge hit, topping the U.S. pop, R&B, and country charts. It was the first #1 debut in the UK charts. While common today, it was considered impossible at the time. HL It returned to the peak in January 2005 when released to commemorate Presley’s 70th birthday, making it the oldest single top ever top that chart and one of three to top that chart twice. The other two, also released posthumously, were Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” and George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord.” SF


Resources and Related Links:

  • DMDB Encyclopedia entry for Elvis Presley
  • DMDB Encyclopedia entry for Jerry Leiber
  • DMDB Encyclopedia entry for Mike Stoller
  • BR Fred Bronson (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th edition). Billboard Books: New York, NY. Page 29.
  • TC Toby Creswell (2005). 1001 Songs: The Great Songs of All Time. Thunder’s Mouth Press: New York, NY. Page 706.
  • HL Michael Heatley and Spencer Leigh (1998). Behind the Song: The Stories of 100 Great Pop & Rock Classics. London, England: Blandford Books. Pages 88-9.
  • JA David A. Jasen (2002). A Century of American Popular Music: 2000 Best-Loved and Remembered Songs (1899-1999). Routledge: Taylor & Francis, Inc. Page 108.
  • KL Jon Kutner and Spencer Leigh (2005). 1000 UK Number One Hits: The Stories Behind Every Number One Single Since 1952. London, Great Britain: Omnibus Press. Page 147.
  • RS500 RollingStone.com (4/7/2011). “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time
  • SF Songfacts
  • TB Thunder Bay Press (2006). Singles: Six Decades of Hot Hits & Classic Cuts. Outline Press Ltd.: San Diego, CA. Page 31.
  • WHC Joel Whitburn (1999). A Century of Pop Music. Menomonee Falls, WI; Record Research, Inc.

Last updated 4/24/2021.

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