Queen The Greatest Live: Jailhouse Rock (Episode 42)

Queen, John Deacon, Brian May, Freddie Mercury, Hammersmith Odeon December 24, 1975 -  ©Queen Productions Ltd
Photo: © Queen Productions

“Queen The Greatest Live”The Greatest series returns with a year-long celebration of Queen Live.

A 50-week YouTube series going behind the scenes to reveal what goes into creating a Queen show, featuring moments from iconic performances and demonstrating why the band is regarded as the ultimate live act.

Queen The Greatest Live: Jailhouse Rock (Episode 42)

Before the anthemic one-two of We Will Rock You and We Are The Champions became their regular encore, Queen often signed off with a rabble-rousing take on an Elvis classic. In this week’s footage, watch everybody in the whole cell block – or, in this case, the Hammersmith Odeon – dancing to the Jailhouse Rock.  

While Queen shows of the mid-’70s led rock ‘n’ roll into a new era, the band often saluted their formative influences as a parting shot. Prior to May 1978, when We Will Rock You and We Are The Champions took up permanent residence on the setlist’s closing straight, the band were known to dive into the songbooks of the great US pioneers, including Elvis Presley’s Jailhouse Rock.

Penned by songwriting/production duo Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller – and recorded by the King for his 1957 film of the same name – the original Jailhouse Rock had been a hip-swaying rave-up, telling of a raucous “party in the county jail” where “the prison band began to wail”. 

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic in their childhood homes, Queen’s future members were listening intently. “I think it’s impossible to have been a kid at that time and not been influenced by Elvis,” reflected Brian May in 2021. “Freddie in particular though, of course. He was one of Freddie’s great heroes. For me, his guitarists were a great inspiration. Scotty Moore was one, James Burton the other. So, yeah, Elvis was definitely an influence.”

But as we see in this archive footage from the Hammersmith Odeon on 24th December 1975, Queen’s ferocious reboot of Jailhouse Rock was anything but reverent, adding rocket fuel and proto-punk energy. With Roger Taylor revving the tempo, Brian pulling out his best supercharged Scotty Moore guitar licks and Freddie throwing flowers to the crowd – while balloons and blow-up dolls float through the air – it’s the most anarchic encore imaginable.

As Roger recently reflected: “On Jailhouse Rock, we could go a bit mad…”

Queen The Greatest Live: Jailhouse Rock (Episode 42)

Next week: Queen The Greatest Live: Friends Will Be Friends

Photo: © Queen Productions