Why Elvis Presley’s Manager Nixed a Full ‘Viva Las Vegas’ Soundtrack


"Viva Las Vegas" singer Elvis Presley wearing white


The director of Elvis Presley’s movie ‘Viva Las Vegas’ explained why a complete version of its soundtrack wasn’t released in the 1960s.

Elvis Presley‘s Viva Las Vegas is one of his most famous films. Despite this, it didn’t have a proper soundtrack until the 2010s. The director of Viva Las Vegas explained why Colonel Tom Parker prevented this from happening.

Elvis Presley’s movie ‘Viva Las Vegas’ was designed to rejuvenate his career

George Sidney was an Old Hollywood director known for films such as Annie Get Your Gun, Show Boat, and Bye Bye Birdie. During an interview with the Directors Guild of America, he discussed his opinions on filmmaking. “You can’t teach directing,” he said. “There are no rules in making pictures. It’s just your particular instinctual feeling for what it is.”

Sidney was asked to helm the 1964 film Viva Las Vegas, which was supposed to give the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll‘s career more life. Notably, The Beatles had taken some of the spotlight away from Elvis at that point. “Viva Las Vegas was no big deal; we rewrote it over a weekend,” Sidney said. “I was quite a shock to Elvis. On the first day of production, I rode in on a huge Harley-Davidson; on the second day, I drove up in a racing Bentley. Then he found out I owned my own airplane.”

Parker seemed worried that the singer’s co-star, Ann-Margret, would draw attention away from him. “I had no trouble with Elvis, but it was the only time he would be forced to share billing,” Sidney said. “Colonel Parker fought me and wouldn’t put out a soundtrack album unless Ann-Margret’s name was moved. I refused — that’s why there was no record.”

Elvis Presley’s songs from the film appeared on an EP but Ann-Margret’s songs didn’t

Sidney’s recollections are only partly accurate. There was a Viva Las Vegas EP released in 1964 in conjunction with the film. Despite this, it is not a full soundtrack with all the songs from Viva Las Vegas. It doesn’t even have the famous title track! Notably, none of the four songs on the EP includes vocals from Ann-Margret.

2010 saw the release of a full soundtrack for Viva Las Vegas. This version includes the title song, Ann-Margret’s number from the film, and other gems such as Elvis’ cover of Ray Charles’ “What I’d Say.”

How ‘Viva Las Vegas’ performed on the pop charts in the United States

The Viva Las Vegas EP was a modest hit in the United States. It reached No. 54 on the Billboard 200 and stayed on the chart for seven weeks. The song “Viva Las Vegas” reached No. 29 on the Billboard Hot 100 and lasted on the chart for seven weeks.

While the tune wasn’t a juggernaut at the time, it’s become an anthem for the city, appearing in numerous films and inspiring a cover by ZZ Top. The tune appeared in Baz Luhrmann’s film Elvis, where it was combined with Britney Spears’ “Toxic” in a mashup that works surprisingly well.

Viva Las Vegas is pure Elvis even if Parker tried to get in the way.

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