The Music of Las Vegas

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Today LasVegasMichael takes a look at creating the perfect Vegas music playlist. Everyone, whether tourists or locals has some songs that come to mind when thinking of Sin City, and LVM takes a look at some classics that never seem to get old.

We have all done it. On our way to Vegas, we put together a quick playlist of "Vegas music." Though tastes and preferences may vary, there are some classic songs that many feel simply stand the test of time when it comes to Las Vegas. Of course, anyone can say that music by the Rat Pack is all "Vegasy" but we can go much further that. What about that song that plays when the Griswolds drive down the Strip in Vegas Vacation? Or that power ballad that is pulsating in our hearts and minds when everyone dies in Scorcese's Casino? These are also classic Vegas tunes, as are many others. Today we will take a look at some of the popular and more obscure Vegas tunes and the stories behind why they seem to be connected to this great city.

Few songs are directly connected to Las Vegas more than Dean Martin's Ain't That a Kick in the Head. Sung live by Dino in the original Vegas classic film Ocean's 11, starring Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr, Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop, this song along with its strong orchestral background has been used in several Vegas based movies over the years, and TV shows that carry a Vegas plotline or theme. It was used frequently in Vegas Vacation whenever "Nick Pappagiorgio" came onto the screen, and despite the fact that the song never mentions Las Vegas or even gambling in general, it remains perhaps the most quintessential Vegas melody.

Though this song has really only been connected to Vegas because of the 1997 camp classic Vegas Vacation, the song Born to be Alive by the Disco Kings took a new life of its own after being used both in the film and in media advertising promoting the film in the late 1990's. Though the original version was recorded back in 1979, the cover by the Disco Kings has been found replayed in nearly every nightclub in Vegas ever since. With its fast tempo, techno base, and dance vocals, driving down the Strip with this song blasting is often high on every tourists to-do list when coming to Vegas.

A popular song around the holidays, Christmas in Las Vegas by Richard Cheese cannot be missed. An instant classic for anyone that loves Las Vegas, this tune came to prominence when it was released in 2006 and instantly got airplay on Las Vegas's local radio stations. A stereotypical view of Christmastime in Las Vegas, this addictive tune includes lines like "There's no room at the inn, but just because tis' the season, they'll comp a suite for Mary at The Wynn..." and "Rudolph sold the sled and now he's betting on red in a casino made out of gingerbread." Though the song itself never really received nationwide popularity, it remains a tried and true classic to the Las Vegas diehards and fans.

A power ballad from the 1930s, the most popular and most well known version of The House of the Rising Sun was sung by Eric Burden and the Animals in 1964. Though the song is actually about a brothel in New Orleans, it has been connected to Vegas many times over the years due to its mention of things like alcohol, gambling, and general degeneracy (all things that make Las Vegas great). Used in the epic film Casino at a low point in the film as a musical interlude when many of thew key characters die from various causes, this song is often heard playing in casinos and bars as it really fits the Vegas mindset and is simply a great song to hear.

No article about the music of Las Vegas would be complete without discussing Elvis Presley. The King was a big fan of Las Vegas and spent much of his life here performing and promoting the town. Though his most popular Vegas based tune (which was also used in the film of the same name) Viva Las Vegas, has been used for promoting the city and what it offers for fifty years, within the last 10 years another B Side from Elvis has been popularized due to the 2001 Vegas based classic Ocean's Eleven, starring George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and Julia Roberts. A Little Less Conversation by Elvis Presley took on a new live after Ocean's Eleven came out, and has been forever connected to Vegas now, perhaps even more so than Viva Las Vegas.

Finally, two more songs by the Rat Pack are certainly worth mentioning. Though it has been covered by pretty much every Crooner for decades now, Luck be a Lady Tonight by Frank Sinatra is the cover that is perhaps most well known and most assimilated to Sin City. Talk of blowing on another guy's dice and making this party polite, all talk of how Lady Luck can make or break you if you don't watch out. A great tune that will always be indirectly connected to Las Vegas. Finally, a song that many have not heard of, but speaks directly to a time period in Las Vegas that we all wish still existed. The song has a few different names, but it is perhaps best known as I Love Vegas or Dean's Vegas Melody. The song was sung live by Dean Martin at the Sands casino in 1961. It has many vintage references including Jack Entratter (Sands Entertainment Director), Nikita Kruschev, and great lines like "A wife in Vegas, take my advice, is like going to China with a sack of rice." It is a lesser known tune that is most certainly worth a listen to any die hard classic Vegas fan.

There are many more songs that are forever connected to this great city, and more will be discussed in a future article. Thank you for reading and good luck!

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  1. A guy in my after work poker game introduced me to the swinging sound of Richard Cheese and Lounge Against the Machine. So, I love that he made the list. I'd never heard "Christmas in Las Vegas" but looked it up on Youtube and it is hilarious. Going to have to become part of my Christmas tradition. Thanks Michael!


  2. oooops...double post. forgot how to delete.

  3. Wow, strange ESP-ness. This morning I woke up and was gonna post the "Ain't That a Kick in The Head" on here for the best songs thread. No Lie...been singing it all day. Love It! So here it is.

  4. I came to really enjoy the Elvis song, A Little Less Conversation, due to the 2000's TV Series "Vegas" (2003 to 2008)

    Las Vegas

    Show's Opener

    A little less conversation, a little more action please
    All this aggravation aint satisfactioning me
    A little more bite and a little less bark
    A little less fight and a little more spark
    Close your mouth and open up your heart and baby satisfy me
    Satisfy me baby

  5. Great article. I just grabbed the Richard Cheese album and will give it a listen. From the titles it reminds me of the stuff done by Bob Rivers. Thanks Michael, I look forward to your articles..

  6. I'm always singing Viva Las Vegas before my trips. I'm a huge Elvis fan. The other songs you mentioned are good too. Another song that reminds me of Vegas for some strange reason is "Tiny Bubbles" by Don Ho. Not sure why. I must've heard it on one of my early trips to Vegas or something. Anything Wayne Newton reminds me of Vegas too.

  7. I saw Jimmy Page & Robert Plant in 1999 at the MGM Grand. I was one of the top 2 shows I've seen in my life. I mean there were 60 year old men and 15 year old girls rocking the fk out the entire time. Driving into Vegas the local rock station was playing a Zeppelin marathon. We drove onto the strip to 'Misty Mountain Hop'. Freaking awesome.

  8. I am definitely giving you honor for the tried-and-true classics. That being said, The Hangover demands a few additions to this list, especially:

    Kanye West, Can't Tell Me Nothing
    Usher, Yeah

    and perhaps T.I., Live Your Life

    Heck, my boring, middle-aged, white-bread self wouldn't have even heard of these songs except for The Hangover.

  9. Interesting article Michael,

    songs that remind me of Vegas include:-

    Any that are also played at the Bellagio Fountains (Viva Las Vegas & Time to say goodbye being my favourites)
    Any songs from 'Jersey Boys','Love' or 'Viva Elvis' and my mind wanders back to LV......