4 of the Greatest Songs Dedicated to the Casino Culture | Features | LIVING LIFE FEARLESS
ESTEBAN LOPEZ//NATIONAL PARKS GALLERY

4 of the Greatest Songs Dedicated to the Casino Culture

An evening spent at the casino can be an exciting thing whether you win or lose. The click, click, click of the roulette wheel coming to a stop, the coins falling from a slot machine, the furrowed concentration of those around the poker table, all of it is stimulating to the senses and that’s probably why so many songwriters find inspiration there. We’ve rounded up 4 songs that were so inspired by the casino and the culture surrounding it that they’ve practically become the official soundtrack to those storied nights of hitting the tables. Here we’ll unpack what these musicians were trying to say about the popular hobby.

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Kenny Rogers – “The Gambler”

First on the list has to be the undeniable king of casino songs, The Gambler by Kenny Rogers. Written all the way back in 1978, this song was so rich in imagery that just two years later a whole film was released that was based on it. People immediately resonated with the messages in the lyrics and the film too became a hit. If you’ve not heard the song or watched the film then the story told is about a man who finds himself on a train journey with an old-timer at the poker tables. Together they talk about life and the advice that they’ve learned from playing cards. It’s a song that’s full of wisdom, tinged with melancholy and so poetic that it should be added to your music library right away.

Motörhead – “Ace of Spades”

Another song that’s enormously famous from the ‘casino genre’ is “Ace of Spades,” performed by Motörhead. The lyrics were written by their own vocalist Lemmy Kilmister and unlike Kenny Rogers, who slaved away creating a poetic masterpiece, Lemmy wrote his in an entirely different manner, hurtling along the motorway in the back of a transit van. Apparently, the musical element to this song was written for ages and the band was itching to get it recorded, but didn’t have lyrics yet. On the way to the recording session, Lemmy spent half an hour or so scribbling in the back, trying to make as many references to card playing, slot machines, and casino culture as he possibly could. Somehow, at the end of those minutes, he’d emerged with “Ace of Spades,” an anthem that any rock fan will be able to recite word for word by heart.

Lady Gaga – “Poker Face”

Even though she might not beat Lemmy, Lady Gaga made a valiant effort with “Poker Face,” when it comes to contenders for the most casino references in a single song. Her opening lines:

“I wanna hold ’em like they do in Texas, please
Fold ’em, let ’em hit me, raise it, baby, stay with me”

The whole song uses a game at the casino as a metaphor for a relationship, using Texas Hold’em to describe how you might hold a lover, for example. Not being able to read somebody’s poker face is the refrain in the chorus, one that any poker player will be all too familiar with, that is of course unless they’re an online poker player where it’s simply not necessary to be able to read a poker face. Bluffing doesn’t come into it on these new casino sites as you’re playing on a computer where your opponent can’t see your face.

Arctic Monkeys – “Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino”

Finally, the most recent song on the list, Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino was released in 2018. Alex Turner, frontman of the Arctic Monkeys was the brains behind the lyrics and thought so much of the song that he named the album after it. The sound of this album was a huge departure from the chaotic chords that the indie band was known for. He croons in the chorus, “Good afternoon, Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino, Mark speaking, Please tell me how may I direct your call?,” simple lines shown to reflect the peaceful façade of the casino resorts we love so much.

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