Elvis' "Viva Las Vegas" out of favor, but...

(Elvis News, Source: Las Vegas Review-Journal, 20 July 2004)

A Little Less Conversation" has nudged "Viva Las Vegas" out of the spotlight as the city's reigning Elvis theme song, and the men in charge of keeping Elvis Presley alive find that liberating.

You can see the once-obscure, '60s-peppy song performed with jiggly go-go girls in both "Legends in Concert" at the Imperial Palace and Trent Carlini's "The Dream King" at the Las Vegas Hilton.

The song comes from "Live a Little, Love a Little," a mostly forgotten 1968 epic in which Elvis was upstaged by a big dog named Albert. "I would never in my life have put that in the show," says a chuckling Carlini.

Before 2001, it was "an obscure Elvis song that only Elvis fans knew." The song was resurrected for two high-profile pieces of Las Vegas pop culture. The original turned up in the 2001 "Ocean's Eleven" remake, as the music accompanying the aerial panorama of the Strip that is required by law to be in every movie featuring Las Vegas. The version that turned up last fall as the theme to NBC's "Las Vegas" is a remix by deejay JXL.

It made its way into a Nike commercial, then sailed up the charts in England and eventually, the United States. "I heard it first in Europe in one of the clubs," says Matt Lewis, the "Legends" Elvis. "I didn't hear it here until three months later." Both Elvi agree the song adds "a little more spark" to their shows. Lewis says he wasn't sure how the "Legends" folk would take to a suggestion to replace the old "Jailhouse Rock" segment.

"They were very happy to lose it," Lewis says of the change made last September, before he was aware of its use in the James Caan TV series. "Perfect timing," he calls it now. Carlini -- at the Hilton through July 25 -- also sees the song as an invitation to stray off the beaten Elvis path.

He rattles off a list of lesser-known tunes he's now considering acceptable for his show: "Surrender," "One Broken Heart For Sale," "They Remind Me Too Much of You." "I've been remaking Elvis music since I was 14," he says. "In those days, people didn't want to hear it. This is the first remake that ever made it worldwide."

Lewis is already wondering if "Conversation" is getting played out, taking the quicker but inevitable path to cliche that "Viva" did. When he rotates back into the Las Vegas cast after a break from Aug. 1 through Sept. 13, Lewis will decide whether to switch to "Rubberneckin'," another obscure soundtrack cut (from 1969's "A Change of Habit") that also benefited from a remix by a trendy deejay (Paul Oakenfold).

He might as well. "Rubberneckin' " is already heard in both "V -- The Ultimate Variety Show" at the Aladdin and "Showgirls of Magic" at the San Remo. Theme songs just don't last as long as they used to.

by Mike Weatherford