Written By Braddon S. Williams
ZZ Top: Degüello
Degüello (1979) was a bridge between ZZ Top’s hard rocking blues roots and their increasing experimentation into the sounds of the digital age. It eventually went platinum in sales, yielding a slew of FM radio staples, including Cheap Sunglasses, I Thank You, Manic Mechanic, A Fool For Your Stockings, and I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide.
Prior to the recording of Degüello, the band took a break that was originally supposed to be a couple of months that wound up stretching over 2 years. When they regrouped, Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill had grown the signature beards that remain their trademark to this day.
Drummer Frank Beard did not participate (perhaps feeling that having “Beard” as a name was good enough for him!).
Another interesting item of information: the guys all played saxophone on Hi-Fi Mama (Gibbons on baritone, Hill on tenor, and Beard on alto).
ZZ Top have been together making music since 1970 (having gone through a few lineup changes the previous year), and the bearded Texans first hit the big time with 1973’s Tres Hombres, a record that contained the immortal boogie anthem La Grange. Billy Gibbons employed a style of picking his guitar that is referred to as “pinch harmonics”, and the sound of that captivated me to the point that I decided I absolutely must learn to play guitar. Thank you, Billy Gibbons! Other amazing songs on this stellar collection of Southern fried blues/hard rock include Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers, Hot, Blue & Righteous, Master Of Sparks (a song about getting inside a home made round metal cage and being propelled out of a speeding pickup truck onto a desert highway!), and the tag team of Waitin’ For The Bus/Jesus Just Left Chicago. This stuff remains just as badass today as it did on the day it was recorded, and that is why ZZ Top is eternal!
Written By Braddon S. Williams
On this date in history, 8/16/1981, ZZ Top and Loverboy teamed up for a show at Market Square Arena in Indianapolis. I’m not sure who thought this was a good combination, but it certainly brought in a diverse crowd.
This show took place during my party years, so I took the opportunity to sit through Loverboy’s set and elevate my happiness level for ZZ Top’s performance. In all fairness to Loverboy, they had a great sound mix and plenty of support from the young ladies who turned out in their best ’80’s fashions to witness the Canadian rockers.
Looking back, I’m not sure who all was with me at this show, but I know I wasn’t the only one sitting out the first half. I do remember having a conversation with some girls in the row behind us who just couldn’t fathom why we weren’t up dancing to the band’s music. Different strokes for different folks, and I was definitely there for the bearded bad boys from Texas. ZZ Top were touring the El Loco album and had begun the shift into a more modern version of their blues sound, a direction that would make them millions a couple of years later with the advent of MTV and their slick videos featuring fancy hot rods and fancier women.
In 1981 they were one of the first bands utilizing a state of the art laser light show, and had already begun incorporating the signature synchronized moves of Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill, the 2 members with matching facial hair magnificence. Drummer Frank Beard was beardless in face only, apparently having Beard as a last name makes one exempt!
As modern as their approach was getting, the boys knew that a substantial part of their fan base expected the raw and dirty blues of their early years, and thankfully there was still plenty of that to go around.
Gibbons effortlessly pulled all kinds of nasty beauty out of his guitars and gave us the “how how how’s” in La Grange just like we have them ingrained in our memories from the countless times we have heard that song throughout the years. Sometimes these odd combinations make for a great concert and this one worked out just fine.
Written By Braddon S. Williams aka The Concert Critic