Here is our list of the best Las Vegas-themed tunes

Corrections
CORRECTION -- 05/16/09 -- “Sin City,” the Flying Burrito Brothers song featured in a Thursday Neon story, was written by Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman. Additional authors were incorrectly cited in the original story. <BR><BR>CORRECTION -- 05/15/09 -- “Sin City,” a Flying Burrito Brothers song picked as No. 9 in Thursday’s list of Top 10 Las Vegas-themed tunes, was written about Los Angeles. The list appeared on 1E in Neon Thursday.

We know where Tony Bennett left his heart and which was Frank Sinatra's kind of town.

Some inspired songs have been written about Las Vegas, too, and we're about to name our top 10. (Thanks to entertainment reporter Mike Weatherford for his input.) Most address our town more as a state of mind than a geographical place.

"Las Vegas is an interesting place because of the nostalgia other people attach to it," says Ken Hanlon, director of the Arnold Shaw Popular Music Center at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. "Of course, the people who live here don't seem to have that same sense of nostalgia."

Strangely, none of these is the city's official theme song. That distinction is claimed by George Dare, who says his "Shine, Las Vegas" was awarded the title in 1986. (A City Hall spokesman, however, calls it merely "an" official song. "There could be others," the spokesman says, although he doesn't know how many or what their names might be.)

1. "Viva Las Vegas," Elvis Presley (Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman)

Churning like a freight train alongside the Strip, this twangy rocker would make a much better official theme song for Vegas than for Viagra. It perfectly nails the excitement of checking into your hotel room with Benjamins to burn: "How I wish that there were more/Than the twenty-four hours in the day/'Cause even if there were forty more/I wouldn't sleep a minute away."

Its organic feel is a testament to both the song's writers and singer, since its history is anything but organic. It began as an assignment from the filmmakers issued to several Brill Building pros in 1963, the title of Presley's 14th film already being in place. The late Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman -- who already had a track record with the King -- simply crafted the preferred "Viva Las Vegas."

"He was always surprised that it was the hit that it became," says Sharyn Felder, Pomus' daughter. "It was never a favorite song of his, by any stretch."

Not once, Felder says, did her dad even visit the town he so famously wrote about.

2. "Leaving Las Vegas," Sheryl Crow (Sheryl Crow, Bill Bottrel, David Baerwald, Kevin Gilbert, David Ricketts)

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority would undoubtedly have preferred Ms. Crow to be headed in the opposite direction.

" 'Coming to Las Vegas' would have been a more helpful title to us," Hanlon says.

Nevertheless, this 1993 song is an incredibly melodic testament to the hard, underpaid work locals put in behind the glitz: "I quit my job as a dancer at the 'Lido Des Girls'/Dealing blackjack until one or two/Such a muddy line between the things you want/And the things you have to do."

Plus, "Leaving Las Vegas" kept the city's name on everyone's brain for a solid year and, vastly unlike "Viva Las Vegas," provided the title to an Oscar-winning film.

3. "Let's Go To Vegas," Faith Hill (Karen Staley)

This dang-hummable 1995 country toe-tapper -- featured in one of the Fremont Street Experience's Vegas-centric Viva Vision shows -- is still responsible for a good chunk of our chapel-bound Southern tourism.

"Underneath the neon steeple," Hill croons, "we'll take a gamble and say I do."

4. "Big in Vegas," Buck Owens (Buck Owens, Terry Stafford)

This 1970 country lament sees a bright-eyed, small-town dreamer dimmed by reality: "Well I've played every honky tonk/And smokey bar in Vegas./And I guess I don't have/What it takes for Las Vegas."

"The path to stardom is strewn with the bodies of all the folks who wanted to make it and whose dreams were crushed when they found out no one was interested," Hanlon says. "And this is a perfect depiction of that."

Of course, Hanlon probably is biased. He played trombone on the song, which was recorded live at the old Bonanza Hotel. (His part was later removed when strings were added in Nashville.)

5. "Sin City," AC/DC (Angus Young, Malcolm Young, Bon Scott)

Featuring savage vocals by late frontman Bon Scott, this rocker is criminally overlooked because it appeared on the Australian band's last pre-fame album: 1978's "Powerage," Of course, it's far from a lyrical masterpiece, fettered by spinning roulette wheels, cutting cards and rolling "them loaded dice." But who expects Thoreau from AC/DC? Besides, Led Zeppelin never wrote a Vegas song.

6. "Heaven or Las Vegas," Cocteau Twins (Elizabeth Fraser, Robin Guthrie, Simon Raymonde)

This beautiful obscurity has singer Elizabeth Fraser pleading for love "on the famous street," then wondering, "am I just in heaven or Las Vegas?" Not only were the Cocteau Twins cool enough to make it the title of their 1990 album, they routed a tour stop to the old Aladdin showroom -- a place never before or since used for concerts -- just because of the album/song.

7. "Here's to Las Vegas," Barry Manilow (Barry Manilow)

He writes the songs, he writes the songs. So the least he could do was dedicate one to where he makes the money. Anchoring Manilow's show at the Hilton, this power ballad thanks "Elvis and Sammy, Dean and Jerry and Frank" and his Vegas audiences for "letting me do what I'll do till the end of my days."

"He used to be a cocktail lounge singer, and he was used to the idea that he had to ingratiate himself with the people who sat around him at a bar," Hanlon says. "He's never lost that."

Of course, Manilow also managed to sneak in a plug for his own show, or at least its former title, "Manilow: Music and Passion": "Neons are flashing/'bout music and passion/all over town."

8. "Me and My Monkey," Robbie Williams (Robbie Williams)

A bit of mariachi-tinged, acoustic-guitar madness from 2003, this ballad describes a man who drives from Los Angeles to Vegas with an incorrigible simian who plays blackjack, packs a gun and orders three hookers to their room at Mandalay Bay. (Not quite the promotional endorsement the hotel was looking to use in its advertisements.)

9. "Sin City," Flying Burrito Brothers (Gram Parsons, Chris Hillman, Pete Kleinow, Chris Ethridge)

A cautionary tale from 1969, this country dirge warns: "On the thirty-first floor, your gold-plated door/Won't keep out the Lord's burning rain."

Gram Parsons didn't heed the tale himself, returning as a solo act four years later to report, in "Ooh Las Vegas": "Every time I hit your crystal city, you know/You're gonna make a wreck outta me."

10. "L.V. (Las Vegas)," Clint Holmes (Clint Holmes and Pat Caddick)

This solid anthem closed Holmes' former Harrah's act and worked its way into the Strip's fireworks display on New Year's Eve 2005.

"The phrase 'L.V./anything you want us to be' kind of came to me," Holmes said, "because so many people come here seeking a fantasy world."

"You don't get acts that are more positive and up than Clint," says Hanlon, who says this song would make a "strong contender" for official theme song.

The only reason the song doesn't rate higher here is that nobody but Holmes has ever referred to our city as L.V.

Contact reporter Corey Levitan at clevitan@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0456.

 

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