Why Elvis Presley’s Songwriters Wrote ‘Jailhouse Rock’
Elvis Presley’s music covers some unusual topics for pop/rock ‘n’ roll. For example, he sang about trying to keep his footwear pristine in “Blue Suede Shoes” and the cycle of poverty in “In the Ghetto.” “Jailhouse Rock” is another one of his unusual songs because it’s about a group of prisoners dancing. Here’s a look at why famous songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller wrote “Jailhouse Rock” in the first place.
The minds behind some of Elvis Presley’s biggest hits
Two writers who had significant input in the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s discography were Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. They wrote some indelible songs like “Hound Dog,” “Trouble,” and “Don’t.” During an interview with Tablet Magazine, Stoller revealed he and Leiber wrote “Jailhouse Rock” and other songs from the film of the same name in a hotel room over the course of four or five hours. That’s a short amount of time to write songs that became world famous.
Why Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller wrote ‘Jailhouse Rock’
Why did Leiber and Stoller write a song about dancing in jail in the first place? According to The Billboard Book of Number 1 Hits, the song came from a mandate.”We would get a script marked off where they wanted some type of song, like ‘Scene II, Elvis is with so-and-so and needs a love song,'” Leiber said. “The love songs were a great problem, because I can’t really write love songs. But that was the least of it. I certainly would never have written a song like ‘Jailhouse Rock,’ for example, if somebody hadn’t said ‘Look, there’s going to be a big production number in a jail.'”
So what did Leiber and Stoller think of the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll? “We were impressed with how good he was,” Stoller said. “He would do a great take and them insist on another and another and still another. When he was in the mood, he could do 50 takes of a number and go on to the next tune without taking a break. To unwind, he’d sit down at the piano and sing a hymn. He never looked at the clock.”
The impact of Elvis Presley’s ‘Jailhouse Rock’
How did the world react to “Jailhouse Rock” and the film of the same name? The song reached No. 1 after it was released as a double single alongside “Treat Me Nice.” The two singles remained at the No. 1 position for seven weeks. The scene where Elvis performs “Jailhouse Rock” in the film of the same name became iconic. One Direction even recreated it in the video for “Kiss You.”
In addition, Stoller told Tablet Magazine that Elvis saw him and Leiber as good luck charms because of their work on his songs. Stoller even appeared as a piano player in Jailhouse Rock. “Jailhouse Rock” has an unusual origin, however, it resonated with the world and put Leiber and Stoller in the history books.
[Correction: An earlier version included inaccurate information about the story behind “Jailhouse Rock.”]