Jailhouse Rock Song Meaning by Elvis Presley

The lead role in the feature film Jailhouse Rock is considered one of Elvis Presley’s most successful acting career. And the most famous scene of this musical drama is the episode in which the “King of Rock and Roll” performs the song Jailhouse Rock. We will not dwell on the plot of the film, but we will briefly consider the history of the song.

The history of creation and the meaning of the song Jailhouse Rock

It was written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, and it was their first time working on a film score. In a 2009 interview with Mojo, Stoller recalled how they were invited to Los Angeles for this job and settled in a chic hotel room with a piano so they could create on the spot. But the friends threw the script into a corner and began to have fun from the heart, visiting theaters, jazz clubs and just bars, where they desperately drank.

One Saturday morning, a producer came to them and asked how things were progressing with the songs for the picture. Mike and Jerry promised that everything would be ready on time. In response, he pulled a chair to the door, sat down on it and said that he would take a nap here until they had done what they had to. The guys had no choice but to write four songs, including Jailhouse Rock, which took them no more than five hours.

Jailhouse Rock - Elvis Presley Film

The song’s lyrics contain references to real characters, as well as a few slang words. So, in the USA, the so-called “Purple Gang” (The Purple Gang) was really operating, and Bugsy, mentioned in the last verse, may be Bugsy Siegel, the famous gangster. The phrase “drummer from Illinois” can also be translated as “a thief from Illinois”.

Release and achievements

The Jailhouse Rock single was released in late September 1957, a couple of weeks before the release of the film named after the song. That autumn it topped the US charts for seven weeks and topped the UK charts for three weeks in 1958.

Critics later noticed some similarities between Jailhouse Rock and the Rock Around the Rockpile track from the musical comedy The Girl Can’t Help It, which was filmed a year earlier. It is said that the producers of this film wanted to see Elvis Presley as the main character, but his manager asked for too high a fee.

Rolling Stone ranked Jailhouse Rock at number 67 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. She is also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Clip Jailhouse Rock Elvis Presley

Check out the music video for Jailhouse Rock by Elvis Presley with footage from the film.

Jailhouse Rock cover versions

Later, the composition was recorded by ZZ Top, Queen, ABBA, The Animals, Patti Smith, Adriano Celentano and many others. Ozzy Osbourne performed a heavy metal song during a prison tour in 1987.

Interesting Facts

  • Mike Stoller, one of the songwriters, took part in the filming of Jailhouse Rock.
  • Some lines from the song are considered to be an allusion to homosexual relations between prisoners (especially the third verse).
  • In 2005, the Jailhouse Rock single was re-released and topped the UK charts for a week.

Jailhouse Rock Elvis Presley Lyrics

The warden threw a party in the county jail.
The prison band was there and they began to wail.
The band was jumpin’ and the joint began to swing.
You should’ve heard those knocked out jailbirds sing.
Let’s rock, everybody, let’s rock.
Everybody in the whole cell block
Was dancin’ to the jailhouse rock.

Spider Murphy played the tenor saxophone;
Little Joe was blowin’ on the slide trombone.
The drummer boy from Illinois went crash, boom, bang,
The whole rhythm section was the purple gang.
Let’s rock, everybody, let’s rock.
Everybody in the whole cell block
Was dancin’ to the jailhouse rock.

Number forty-seven said to number three,
“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.
Let’s rock, everybody, let’s rock.
Everybody in the whole cell block
Was dancin’ to the jailhouse rock.

The sad sack was a sittin’ on a block of stone
Way over in the corner weepin’ all alone.
The warden said, hey, buddy, don’t you be no square.
If you can’t find a partner use a wooden chair.
Let’s rock, everybody, let’s rock.
Everybody in the whole cell block
Was dancin’ to the jailhouse rock.

Shifty Henry said to Bugs, “For heaven’s sake,
No ones lookin’, now’s our chance to make a break.”
Bugsy turned to Shifty and he said, “Nix nix,
I wanna stick around a while and get my kicks.”
Let’s rock, everybody, let’s rock.
Everybody in the whole cell block
Was dancin’ to the jailhouse rock.

Jailhouse Rock Elvis Presley Lyrics

The warden threw a party at the county jail
There was a prison band that started playing
The musicians jumped, and the whole prison began to dance
You should have listened to these stoned criminals sing
Let’s rock, everyone, let’s rock
All in our block
Danced prison rock

“Spider” Murphy played the tenor saxophone,
Little Joe blew a trombone
A drummer from Illinois thumped the drums with all his strength,
And the entire rhythm section consisted of members of the Purple Gang
Let’s rock, everyone, let’s rock
All in our block
Danced prison rock

Number 47 said to number 3:
“You are the sweetest prisoner I have ever seen.
I certainly enjoy your company.
Come on, dance prison rock with me”
Let’s rock, everyone, let’s rock
All in our block
Danced prison rock

The goof sat on a stone block
Far away in the corner and crying alone
The warden said, “Hey buddy, keep up with life.
If you haven’t found a partner, take a wooden chair.”
Let’s rock, everyone, let’s rock
All in our block
Danced prison rock

Trickster Henry said to Bugsy, “For God’s sake,
No one is watching, this is our chance to escape.
Bugsy turned to Trickster and said, “No, no,
I’ll stay here a little longer and have fun from the bottom of my heart.”
Let’s rock, everyone, let’s rock
All in our block
Danced prison rock

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