Unclassified Scenery

Blackjack Memories on a Saturday Night

I sit at the blackjack table for something like fourteen hours straight. A pretty girl in a sparkly dress wins four hundred dollars and doesn’t tip the dealer. We give her dirty looks, me and this old lady from Omaha who’s saying “shit goddammit” every time a card hits the table. Wanda Jackson’s doing ‘Funnel of Love’ on a jukebox in the next room and her voice bleeds through the carpeted walls, all slinky tough and sounding like good sex. The pretty girl orders a complicated drink and slaps me on the back when she leaves. The old lady stabs her cigarette into the tray with one hand and lights a new one with the other. I can’t stop staring at the mosaic of pink lipstick smudges on the pile on crushed filters at her elbow.

The music stops and we listen to the slots beep and spin. We hear a trucker jiggle his change. A cigarette bobs on his lip as he punches in ‘Funnel of Love’ again. “Fuckin’ love this tune, man.” Wanda dated Elvis for a while, then she married a computer programmer from IBM named Wendell. He must have been a hell of a programmer.

Somebody says everybody’s broke. Somebody says the country’s going bust. I tap the green felt and realize I don’t care about the news. Let’s get rid of Wall Street and roll the windows down. A shock to the system might do us some good. We’ve earned it. Let’s erase the state lines while we’re at it, too. Towns with jukeboxes are the only things that matter.

Wanda Jackson – Funnel of Love
B-side from Right or Wrong. Capitol, 1961.
Listen to how Jackson sings “run away”; she packs like twelve syllables in there. And many thanks to WFMU for turning me on to the fact that Wanda sounds eerie and fantastic when she’s downshifted to 33⅓:

Wanda Jackson – Funnel of Love (33⅓ rpm)
B-side from Right or Wrong. Capitol, 1961. Slowed down and creepy as hell.

Further reading: an interview with Wanda Jackson on an Australian Elvis fan site. See also this version from Only Lovers Left Alive.