The New Jazz [Part III]: ZZ Top

That Little Ol’ Band from Texas! Okay, so not exactly “new” per se. They’ve been recording and touring since before I was freaking born. No lineup changes or anything. Same three guys, for half a century. Or tres hombres, if you will. Two of them famously bearded long before it became cool to be so, the third never having any use for a Beard because that’s already his name. A band I have always liked. They experienced their heyday during my formative years; I was about eight or nine years old when Eliminator came out, which wasn’t even their best album. Before I had even heard of prog or jazz fusion or Frank Zappa, or even before high school when I was heavily into Queen, I looked on ZZ Top as one of the greatest bands on the planet.

It was was more than just their wild and woolly mountain-man image, one that was lamentably underused and underrepresented in clean-cut Reaganite America’s rock output. It was those distinctive guitar lines. That tone! What timbre! Nobody else can make a Gibson sound the way Billy Gibbons can; the man truly has a masterful control over his instrument. Even when ZZ Top went through that weird phase in their career when they really started overdoing it with the synthesizers and drum machines, the guitar stylings of The Reverend Willie G have never failed to impress. He always makes his solos longer than they need to be, often throwing in two or three solos a song. He’s a student of the blues and that’s just the way he rolls.

Since we’ve all heard songs like “Legs”, “Tush” and “La Grange” a zillion times over on classic rock radio, I wanted to focus here on the more underrated and lesser-known musical gems on offer from this band. Like their ahead-of-its-time meditation on drunk driving…

…or a few of the countless tracks they’ve dropped over the years that would be considered politically incorrect by today’s standards but are still great…

…or this, which is probably the greatest song you’ve never heard. Even greater, it’s a live version…

Finally, I give you this. Remember that episode of Seinfeld where Elaine was dating that guy who froze into some kind of hypnotic trance whenever he heard the song “Desperado” by the Eagles? Well, whatever “Desperado” was to that guy is what this song is to me. Especially after a bong hit or two.

I am oft inspired to spontaneously tweet grandiose proclamations whenever this tune fills my eardrums. I leave you with a couple of my greatest hits…


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