Jan 04

ELVIS PRESLEY – “Jailhouse Rock”

Popular16 comments • 3,011 views

#67, 24th January 1958

Presley’s first No.1 was all about the voice and the rhythm just did the job it had to. “Jailhouse Rock”, his second, is nothing without its beat. The lyrics are funny, of course, and Elvis as skilful as before (his specific trick here is combining a breakneck holler with the pinpoint comic timing the song asks for). But without that tension-racking drum and piano rhythm, half heartbeat half roll, “Jailhouse Rock” would just be a skit. Every time those piano chords hit and linger it’s a promise made to your hips that good things are just seconds away: so much of the fun in dancing (in pop) is rooted in that anticipation.



  1. 1
    wichitalineman on 3 May 2009 #

    One of the most explosive intros evs – the snare sounds like it was made of sheet metal, beaten with a sledgehammer by the beefiest convict on the whole cell block.

    Vocally, Elvis pulls off an almost monotone scream. He never sang quite like this again, and you can only imagine how frustrating it must have been for his fans when his post-army 45s were all delivered in a baritone with country/operatic leanings: “Elvis, scream for us!”

    All this and Leiber and Stoller’s sly “you’re the cutest jailbird I ever did see”. What, it was a mixed prison?

  2. 2
    Mark G on 21 Jan 2011 #

    No, apparently it was Leiber/Stoller’s revenge for Elvis’ mangling of the real lyrics of “Hound Dog”.

  3. 3
    Erithian on 9 Mar 2011 #

    Found myself wondering the other day, since Popular is approaching the 20-years-ago mark, who would be the first artist to return to number one having already featured in Popular. Then realised that of course it’s already happened, back in the days of Haloscan comments and before the project had much of an audience. But as Tom put it, the 999th, 1000th and 1002nd Number Ones were “such a disgraceful fiddle” that we’ll reword the question: who’s going to be the first artist to get to number one *with new material* after featuring in Popular? Madonna? Kylie? U2? T— T—? Place your bets…

  4. 4
    wichita lineman on 9 Mar 2011 #

    A disgraceful fiddle will see Lieutenant Pigeon return to the top with a three minute edit of this mutha . If I have anything to do with it.

  5. 5
    Mark G on 10 Mar 2011 #

    My bet is George Michael.

  6. 6
    crag on 13 Apr 2011 #


    Kay Smart, Circus performer (1958)

    Bob Hope, Comedian, actor (1961)

    Dennis Taylor, Snooker player (1986)

    Clive James, Writer, Broadcaster (2000)

    Bill Cullen, Businessman, Writer (2003).

  7. 7
    enitharmon on 15 Apr 2011 #

    What we’re not hearing in the DiD watch is the reasons castaways give for their choices. Arch-conservative Bob Hope might seem an odd Elvis fan but his reason for this choice is part of the legend of the show. It would scare off the natives, he said.

  8. 8
    Mark G on 15 Apr 2011 #

    There’s a list to savour. Long time fans of the programme tuned in and said “Oh good, it’s Bill Cullen today”

  9. 9
    enitharmon on 15 Apr 2011 #

    I doubt it Mark. I think they just left the radio on after Today or The Archers. I don’t even know who Bill Cullen is. Hold on…

    … Oh, I see. The cue to roll over and go back to sleep.

  10. 10
    thefatgit on 23 Aug 2011 #

    Dog gone. RIP Jerry Lieber.

  11. 11
    Lazarus on 17 Oct 2011 #

    Took them a long time to get round to Clive James, didn’t it. This was of course the first single – excluding “Here in my Heart” of course – to enter the UK chart at Number One. Anyone know why that was? Was there a big pre-release campaign, records given out to radio stations weeks in advance? Presley had been having hits here for a couple of years by this time so a new release by him was obviously big news. Was the film released before the record, or simultaneously perhaps?

  12. 12
    flahr on 22 Jan 2012 #

    Looking into the question posed in #3: does March 2009 pass the ‘new material’ test?

  13. 13
    Erithian on 23 Jan 2012 #

    Tom Jones? Guess he does, although not quite the same act!!

  14. 14
    flahr on 6 Jun 2012 #

    Another “not quite the same act” on its way next Sunday it seems…

  15. 15
    hectorthebat on 11 Feb 2014 #

    Critic watch: This song appears on the following “best-of” lists:

    1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010)
    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    Dave Marsh & Kevin Stein (USA) – The 40 Best of the Top 40 Singles by Year (1981) 4
    Dave Marsh (USA) – The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made (1989) 853
    Pause & Play (USA) – 20 Songs of the 50’s (2003)
    Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (USA) – 500 Songs That Shaped Rock (1994?)
    Rolling Stone (USA) – The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (2004) 67
    Rolling Stone (USA) – The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (Updated 2010) 67
    Spin (USA) – The 100 Greatest Singles of All Time (1989) 86
    TIME (USA) – The All-Time 100 Songs (2011)
    VH1 (USA) – The 100 Greatest Songs of All Time (2000) 18
    BBC (UK) – Pop on Trial, Top 50 Songs from the 1950s (2008)
    Nerikes Allehanda (Sweden) – The 50 Best Rock Songs of All Time (1992) 1
    Gilles Verlant and Thomas Caussé (France) – 3000 Rock Classics (2009)
    Hervé Bourhis (France) – Le Petit Livre Rock: The Juke Box Singles 1950-2009
    Toby Creswell (Australia) – 1001 Songs (2005)
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)

  16. 16
    Gareth Parker on 1 Jun 2021 #

    Thrilling single from the King. 8/10 imho.

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