This was written by the songwriting team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. The song is about a femme fatale who is beautiful but dangerous, and much like poison ivy, can get under your skin and make you sick - or at least that's what we thought until 2009, when Leiber revealed in Hound Dog: The Leiber & Stoller Autobiography: "'Poison Ivy' is a metaphor for a sexually transmitted disease - or the clap." Leiber and Stoller wrote another song in 1959 about a woman you might want to avoid in "Love Potion #9."
This song is known for the ebullient chorus, where the word "Ivy" is stretched to its limit. It is also the only hit song with the words "Calamine Lotion" in the lyrics.
Some of the many artists to record this song include The Hollies, The Lambrettas, Manfred Mann, The Nylons, The Paramounts, Billy Thorpe and The Rolling Stones. Since the song wasn't big in England, British groups could perform it without being compared to The Coasters. British mod-revival group The Lambrettas catchy re-make was the most successful, peaking at #7 in the UK charts in 1980.
This was used in the 1997 movie Batman & Robin, where Uma Thurman plays a villain named Poison Ivy. The song also appears in the movies Stealing Home (1988) and The Singing Detective (2003), and in the TV series Curb Your Enthusiasm ("AAMCO" - 2000) and Miami Vice ("Golden Triangle: Part 2" - 1985).