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Album: Viva Las Vegas soundtrackReleased: 1964Charted:
This was written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman as the title song for the film of the same name staring Elvis Presley. In the movie, Elvis plays a race car driver who has to wait tables at a hotel in order to pay off a debt. He performs this song at the hotel's talent competition accompanied by various Vegas showgirls.
Pomus and Shuman wrote several other songs for Presley as well. Among them: "Little Sister," "Suspicion," "Surrender" and "His Latest Flame (Marie's The Name)."
The song captures the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas. Elvis' character in the film is from out of town, and he has that enthusiasm and awe that comes with the chance of hitting it rich in the city.
Just about every Vegas archetype shows up in the lyric: roulette, neon, hot dice, pretty women, blackjack, one-armed bandits (slot machines), bright lights. The song could easily serve as an advertisement for the city (and it has), especially considering the last line, which offers consolation to the many who lose to the house:
If I wind up broke up well
I'll always remember that I had a swingin' time
Billy Strange, who co-wrote "A Little Less Conversation
," played lead guitar on this track. Glen Campbell is sometimes erroneously attributed for this part - he played on Elvis' cover of "What'd I Say
" that was also on the Viva Las Vegas
According to Strange's son Jerry, musician's royalties for the song came in for years thanks to slot machines that play the tune.
Viva Las Vegas was the most successful of the 31 films Elvis starred in, returning more than $5 million to MGM Studios on an investment of less than $1 million.
The song was revived by ZZ Top, who took it to #10 in the UK in 1992.
As part of a series of re-releases of Elvis songs in the UK in 2007, this re-entered the UK chart at #15, two places higher than its original chart placing of #17 in 1964.
The Pfizer drug company used this song in a commercial for their erectile dysfunction drug Viagra, changing the lyrics to "Viva Viagra." The ad generated a fair share of buzz, as some Elvis fans were dismayed to see his song transformed into an ode to Viagra.
Hardcore punk band Dead Kennedys covered this for their 1980 debut Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables
, but singer Jello Biafra
rewrote some of the lyrics to mock compulsive gambling and drug abuse. For example, Elvis' line "'Cause even if there were forty more, I wouldn't sleep a minute away" is changed to "Even if I ran out of speed, boy, I wouldn't sleep a minute away" and "Let me shout a seven with every shot" is changed to "Got coke up my nose to dry away the snot." Their version was used in the 1998 dark comedy Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
, starring Johnny Depp.
The song is featured twice in the film The Big Lebowski. During the film it is performed by a Rock band called Big Johnson featuring Bunny Lebowski, the wife of Big Lebowski. During the closing credits Shawn Colvin performs a softer version.