“Viva Las Vegas” has become the de facto theme song for all things Vegas- including our own Vegas Hot Heads Happy Hour, hosted by Brett Feinstein at 7:00 pm every Friday night on KLAV 1230 AM or klav1230am.com. And when I speak of “Viva Las Vegas,” of course, I’m referring to the original version, written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman and recorded by Elvis in 1964 for the movie of the same name.
The song went on to reach #29 on the Billboard Hot 100 that year, but suffice to say it has aged well. Cover versions are legion, ranging from legends like Bruce Springsteen (both studio and live renditions) to the lowliest of youtube amateurs. Mainstream rock acts like ZZ Topp and Vince Neil have recorded their own versions, as have the Dead Kennedys, whose fast-paced take was featured in the film Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
For this list, we’re moving beyond some of these better-known versions to consider some of the more obscure but sonically interesting takes on the song. Consider it a celebration of Vegas as a platform for self-expression. It’s a simple song, but there’s a million different ways to sing it. And some say Vegas is a simple town- but there’s a million different ways to do it. Because, when it comes right down to it, you don’t come to Vegas, you DO Vegas. So take a look at some of these unique interpretations and, as you do, ask yourself: How do you do Vegas? How can you put your own personal stamp on the Vegas experience? And, once you figure it out, give us a shout at Vegas Hot Spots. Not only would we like to know, but we’d like to help you make it happen. We’re looking forward to that as much as you are. Until then Viva Las Vegas!!!
What better place to start than with this version from Ann Margaret, otherwise known as Ann Margrock in Flintstones-speak. Of course, Ann Margaret was Elvis’s co-star in the 1964 film version of “Viva Las Vegas” and, as such, she is directly linked to the original version of the song. She was also one of the most beautiful and alluring women ever to grace the silver screen. Here, some thirty-six years later, she offers her own take on the song with slightly altered lyrics for the 2000 Flintstones movie “Viva Rock Vegas.” One thing to note here: Ann Margaret was 59 years old when this was recorded and, if you ask us, she’s still got it. This is one sexy, talented dame who knows Vegas backwards and forwards. She did it with The King when she was young, and here she does it an aging cougar. Ann Margaret rocks. Vegas rocks. What’s not to love?
This is the version for you if: You’re middle-aged and you still got it.
9. “Viva Las Vegas- Dan D-NOY Remix,” Tony Sylla and Yves Larock
Nightclubbing is as big a part of the Vegas experience as anything else these days, so it’s only fair that the club scene should put its own stamp on the Vegas classic. If Elvis really was alive today he’d be in a booth at XS right now with bottle service grooving out to this.
This is the version for you if: You like to dance until the sun comes up and/or you’ve ever taken ecstasy.
Plastilina Mosh is an alt-rock outfit from Mexico City and they really do a nice, catchy version here. It’s got a rockabilly backbeat, complete with snare drum and standup base. Extra bonus points for prominent use of the xylophone. Really cool vocal delivery as well. All in all, a very distinctive take on the song that works really well.
This the version for you if: You’re a quirky, offbeat intellectual.
Two excellent guitar instrumental versions demonstrate that you don’t need to sing to do an excellent take on “Viva Las Vegas.” Johnny Ramone is, of course, a legend, and any time he decides to put his own spin on the Vegas experience you better believe it deserves a listen. Los Derrumbes, a Spanish band, is less well-known, but they do a great surf-rock version as well.
These are the versions for you if: You own a surfboard and use the word “dude” a lot.
Country music is a huge part of the American cultural landscape, so all due respect goes out to this version from Dolly Parton and her backing band The Grascals. Every year for at least one week country folk take over Las Vegas for the Rodeo National Finals and, if you’ve ever been here for that week you understand a couple of basic things. First of all, country people know how to party. Secondly, girls look good in cowboy hats.
This is the version for you if: You appreciate a good fiddle solo.
You don’t need to speak English to have a good time in Vegas. Props to La Frontera for this rocking Spanish language version- and for the cool harmonica solo at 1:50 on the video.
This is the version for you if: You’ve ever exceeded 100 mph while driving from Tijuana to Las Vegas.
When it comes to self-expression there’s nothing more democratic than good old-fashioned karaoke. Anybody can do it, you just need a little personal style and a willingness to make an ass of yourself in public. And what’s more Vegas than that? This particular version is interesting because Dr. K is obviously a karaoke superstar with just the right combination of borderline singing talent and kitsch. Also, he looks curiously like an Asian version of Vegas Hot Spots’ own Brett Feinstein- himself a karaoke enthusiast.
This is the version for you if: You’ve ever wound up in the karaoke room at the legendary Sapphire Gentlemen’s Club in Las Vegas- or if you’d ever like to. You’d be surprised how the company of some nice strippers can put a whole new slant on the karaoke experience. We can arrange it.
The way we see it, big bands are the musical equivalent of rolling in Vegas with a large crew. Whether you’re there for a bachelor party, a bachelorette party, or just on a little sin city adventure with you your best boys or gals, every group puts its own stamp on the Vegas experience. In this case, it’s not about individual solos as much as it’s about fitting in, harmonizing with the group, and belting it out in unison.
This is the version for you if: You go for the girl in the cheerleader outfit at Sapphire Gentlemen’s Club. >
Most people go upbeat with “Viva Las Vegas,” but this version really stands out because it’s one of the few that slows things down a bit. You always think of Vegas as a lighthearted place full of fun and games, but here’s a take that goes a little deeper than usual. The result is one of the coolest and most soulful renditions of the song that we’ve yet heard.
This is the version for you if: You ever drank alone at a deserted casino bar in Las Vegas at 4:00 AM on a Tuesday- and liked it.
1. “Viva Las Vegas”- Engelbert Humperdinck
Engelbert Humperdinck gets a bit of a bad rap based on his name alone. Life on the playground must have been difficult for young Engelbert. But he got even in the long run because, as this version attests, he was super smooth and he knew how to put just enough swing into the proceedings. Humperdinck’s rendition moves at a perfect tempo and he doesn’t miss a beat- but what really takes it to the next level are the background vocals. Take a lesson from an old-timer like Engelbert: You can have fun in Vegas and still keep it classy.
This is the version for you if: You like to dress up for your flight to Vegas. Or you remember the 1970’s.