Sunday, October 13, 2013

Box Tops -- "Neon Rainbow" (1967)

But in the daytime, everything changes
Nothing remains the same

Along with one-armed bandits, neon lights are probably the most iconic symbols of Las Vegas.

There's even a Neon Museum, which possesses more than 150 old Las Vegas neon signs, including this famous Hacienda Hotel sign:

I'm not sure how many of the newer casinos and hotels in Las Vegas use neon lights -- they may have been replaced by LEDs or some other new technology.  (By the way, neon lights often don't contain neon.  Many neon lights are filled with argon -- another inert gas which is much cheaper to produce than neon -- and mercury.)

I hardly ever go outside at night on my annual trips to Vegas.  But I always go out in the daytime and take long walks.  

If you stay in a big Las Vegas Strip hotel like I always do, there's not much nature to be found -- there are no leafy parks or creekside trails.  You have to walk along the busy and noisy Strip or adjacent streets that are almost as busy and noisy.

This year, I stayed at the Encore, which is the northernmost of the newer Strip megahotels.  There are a couple of older hotels that are further north.

One of them is Circus Circus, which was built in 1968.  It's been renovated several times since then, but it still looks pretty dated from the outside.

Here's the famous "Lucky the Clown" marquee at the entrance to the hotel.  It dates back to 1976:

The Riviera, which was the Strip's first high-rise hotel, opened in 1955.  It has had various owners over the years, and those owners have filed for bankruptcy three times.

Here's a picture of the Riviera that I'm rather fond of -- pretty artsy, n'est-ce pas?

The Riviera looks like a very low-budget operation.  It offers $1 blackjack, which is an endangered species these days:

"Crazy Girls," a topless show, has been running at the Riviera since 1997.  Here's a bronze sculpture that promotes that show: 

In case you can't make out the words above the sculpture, it reads No "IFs" "ANDs" or . . . . -- you can fill in the blank, right?

The butts of the seven thong-clad female performers depicted in the sculpture are shiny because they have been rubbed by thousands of luck-hungry gamblers as they entered the Riviera casino.

A little west of the Strip is the Trump Hotel Las Vegas, a 64-story luxury hotel and condominium that opened in 2008:

I stayed there a few years ago, and it was fabulous.  There's no casino, which is fine with me.  The rooms -- which were built as condos or timeshare units -- are spacious one-bedroom apartments, with full kitchens and enormous bathrooms.  (The shower in mine -- which had shower heads on each end wall -- was large enough to have held a basketball team.)

There's a sleazy little strip of businesses between the Riviera and the Encore.  For example, there's a reflexology practitioner:

I was very curious about this business -- just not curious enough to actually go indoor skydiving:

This church, which stands just off the Strip, appears to be fighting a losing battle against the many vices that are taking place 24/7 all around it.  But maybe it will prevail someday:

Directly across the Strip from the Encore is the Fashion Show Mall, one of the largest enclosed malls in the country.  It has a Macy's, a Neiman Marcus, a Nordstrom's, and a Saks Fifth Avenue, plus some 250 other stores.  

And it has a huge oval-shaped structure named "The Cloud," which seems to float above the mall:

Diesel is building a store at the Fashion Show Mall.  The outer walls of the unfinished Diesel store are covered with these very odd billboard-type signs:

What does all that mean?  You've got me.

Just to the south of the Encore and its sister hotel, the Wynn, is the Palazzo -- which is the sister hotel of the Venetian.

You see all kinds of people walking up and down the Strip.  For example, this young man was promoting some sort of money-making opportunity.  (The odds are that business was, is, or will be a client of mine someday.)

Here's what that shirt says: "Are you going to be able to retire within 5 years?  I am . . . To learn how to QUIT that 9 to 5 contact me at" -- followed by a website URL and 800 number.

When donkeys fly!  This guy may be out of work, on welfare, or in jail in five years.  He may possibly be dead, although he's young enough that the odds against that are pretty high.  But it's more likely that he'll be six feet under than he'll have made enough money from whatever business opportunity it is that he's flogging to other suckers to be comfortably retired.

I thought about buying this T-shirt for my older son, who was scheduled to be married a week or so after I departed from Las Vegas:

But he knew it, I knew it -- the whole world knew it.  What would have been the point of rubbing it in?

"Neon Rainbow" was released by the Box Tops in the fall of 1967.  It was a moderate hit, but didn't do nearly as well as the group's previous and subsequent singles -- "The Letter" (which made it all the way to #1) and "Cry Like a Baby (a #2 hit), respectively.

Lead singer Alex Chilton was only 16 when this song was recorded.  (Think about that, boys and girls.  You're the singer of a band with a #1 single, and you're 16 years old.  My, oh my!)  A few years later, the Box Tops broke up and Chilton co-founded Big Star, one of the very best power-pop groups ever.

On March 17, 2010, Chilton had a heat attack and died.  He was 59.  (I had a very mild heart attack exactly four weeks later.)

All three of the Box Tops hits mentioned above were penned by Wayne Carson Thompson, whose parents were professional musicians who worked for KWTO-AM in Springfield, Missouri.  Thompson also wrote a number of country songs -- including the classic Gary Stewart hit, "She's Actin' Single (I'm Drinkin' Doubles)." 

Here's "Neon Rainbow":

Click here to order the song from Amazon:

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