JAILHOUSE ROCK – behind the scenes of Elvis Presley’s third movie.

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– Behind the Scenes of Elvis Presley’s 3rd Movie –
(Part 4)

By Marius Ogieglo

Let’s rock, everybody, let’s rock

After arriving in California (April 28), Presley checked into the popular* Beverly Wilshire Hotel located in Beverly Hills at the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Rodeo Drive. ” We stayed at the luxurious Beverly Wilshire Hotel, which to me looked like a Hollywood dream come true ,” he recalled in his book “Elvis. My Best Man”, George Klein, who, along with the singer’s cousins – Gene and Carroll ‘Junior’ Smith, as well as Arthur Hooton and Bitsy Mott, accompanied Elvis on the trip. “ Elvis lived in the Presidential Suite, a beautiful room that was so large I think it could fit several of our North Memphis homes inside . There was a long corridor leading to Elvis and Gene Smith’s bedroom.

Elvis Presley "Jailhouse Rock"

Arthur Hooton and I lived in smaller but equally impressive rooms in the penthouse.

The singer’s manager, Colonel Tom Parker, also lived in the same building, although several floors below.

Elvis’s band members, in turn, were housed at the Knickerbocker Hotel in Los Angeles. The same place where Presley had previously stopped while filming his previous films, “Love Me Tender” and “Loving You”.

Why this decision? Different sources justify it differently. Some claim that the musicians were placed in another hotel for strictly economic reasons. Scotty Moore even mentioned in his book that a night at the hotel mentioned above cost only seven dollars.

A completely different theory was presented by George Klein, who claimed that ” the team only took one look at Beverly Wilshire but quickly decided to check in at the Knickerbocker Hotel located in the center of Hollywood .”

Finally, two days later, on April 30, everyone met at the Radio Recorders studio located at 7000 Santa Monica Boulevard to record songs for the film.

Recordings are scheduled to start at ten in the morning.

In addition to Elvis, Scotty Moore, Bill Black and DJ Fontana, the studio was also attended by keyboardist Dudley Brooks, members of The Jordanaires quartet, and Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller (pictured below). The creators of such hits as “Kansas Sity”, “Hound Dog” and “Love Me”, as well as the authors of most of the songs from the soundtrack of the upcoming film, appeared at the session at the invitation of Presley himself. “ We met him (Elvis, author’s note) for the first time only while working on ‘Jailhouse Rock’ and only then did we find out how much he knew about rhythm ‘n’ blues. It really surprised us ,” Mike Stoller recalled in one of his interviews. “ After all, he was a white kid and we (me and Jerry) thought at the time that we were the only white kids who were so fashionable (laughter). Meanwhile, he knew a lot more about gospel music – white and black – than we did. Moreover, he also sang ballads, which were beautiful in their own way. They were a bit like Bing Crosby’s style .”

The now legendary composing team delivered as many as four of the six songs provided for in the script – “I Want To Be Free”, “(You’re So Square) Baby I Don’t Care”, “Treat Me Nice” and the title track “Jailhouse Rock” from when the session started.

“(Film makers, author’s note) They came to the studio and explained to us what this scene would look like ,” DJFontana’s drummer explained in an interview for Record Collector magazine. ” Then they asked, ‘Can you play it in a way that suits what we want to shoot?’ And they said to me and Scotty: ‘We need something at the beginning that sounds like the prisoners are breaking the chains with stones.’ We said, ‘OK. We’ll see what we can do . ‘ Then, I remember it very well, Scotty and I were sitting in a corner somewhere and I was reminded of an old Woody Herman song, ‘The Anvil Chorus’, which had a motif resembling the striking of an anvil. ‘That should be what we’re looking for,’ I said. And I played that part. Scotty joined me and it was a surprise. A moment later the guys ran into the studio and we started playing it. ‘This is it. Don’t change anything, ‘ we heard.

The song was recorded after about eight rehearsals, most of which were shorter or longer false starts. Some of them, especially at the beginning, resulted from refining the proper intro, while other approaches were interrupted after Elvis could no longer handle the high notes. ” I don’t think I’ll make it to the end ,” he said after the prematurely ended eighth attempt.

Despite this, he was motivated and committed throughout. And when he sang, he did it with such passion that each person present in the studio – both band members and sound engineers – was absolutely sure that another great hit was being born before their eyes.

While “Jailhouse Rock” was recorded easily and without any major complications, working on the composition of “Treat Me Nice” turned out to be quite time-consuming and somewhat frustrating. And all because of a rather troublesome arrangement.

It is worth clearly mentioning here that the version recorded on April 30, 1957 was significantly different from the one that most fans associate today with a hit single or a popular scene from a movie.

“The strange thing was that when we sent him the demo, he would learn the song on it, even if it wasn’t in his key, ” Mike Stoller said. “ The demos had a big influence on him, although in many cases the demos tried to imitate his performances. It was a bit of a vicious circle in that respect. We were not its producers, but we had influence on it, although this was mainly limited to rehearsals . We influenced each other, suggesting different things to each other. Sometimes, however, when we thought we had reached an agreement, he would suddenly say, “I think I could do it better,” and continue working on the piece for another twenty takes. Of course, with Elvis, no one looked at their watch.”

And apparently that was the case with “Treat Me Nice.” Or more precisely, its first and never used film version, which was recorded that day.

Elvis with Leiber & Stoller

In an attempt to recreate the song heard on the demo album, it was repeated in the studio several times, each time trying to obtain a satisfactory sound. However, almost every time to no avail. In most cases, the recording fell apart after the first few seconds, as soon as The Jordanaires tried to sing their rather peculiar vocal introduction.

Ultimately, after playing nineteen takes, further work on the composition was abandoned. The last attempt was described as a master version, but probably each of the session participants felt that they did not achieve a fully satisfactory result. Sounding a bit chaotic and uneven, the song needed improvement. And that’s why it was returned to only a few days later.

Meanwhile, attention was focused on the charming ballad “Young And Beautiful” written by Aaron Schoreder and Abner Silver (actually Abner Silberman because that was his real name).

  • The hotel, also known as A Four Seasons Hotel, was built and opened in 1928. Since then, it has hosted many distinguished guests, such as the American essayist and novelist Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald, theater actor, professional footballer and political activist Paul Robeson and John Lennon. The hotel was also filmed as often as it was visited. This is where most of the action of the famous “Pretty Woman” starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere takes place (although the interiors shown in the film were already filmed at the Ambassador Hotel) as well as the HBO series “Entourage”.

Information provided by Marius Ogieglo of EP Promised Land (Poland) http://www.elvispromisedland.pl/

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