I was debating what to do with this news. A personal favourite songs by ZZ Top list was my first thought, but with this news, the list would be 50 songs long and I would not be able to bring myself to cull it.
So I have decided to do a classic album review of my favourite ZZ Top album.
This is possibly a weird choice, as this is the album when they start to up the synthesiser use after some experimenting on El Loco, and without overdoing it, as some songs on the follow-up Afterburner tend towards. After their great albums of the 1970s, this felt like a weird diversion, but, apart from 'La Grange', this was my first proper introduction to the band. I bought the album on vinyl, then later on CD. It was the 1980s, I was a teenager, and we all wanted that car. What car? The one on the cover and in so many video clips. That car!
ZZ Top is Dusty Hill (bass), Frank Beard (drums) and Billy Gibbons (guitar). Frank Beard, for those interested, is the one without the beard.
Here is the album. I am taking this from the CD as my vinyl copy is scratched.
'Gimme All Your Lovin'' We start with the sound we all knew and loved – the blues-rock of the previous decade with decent vocal harmonies and great playing. The band were tight as at this point in their career and this track shows that right from the get-go.
'Got Me Under Pressure' Keep it up for the second track, with a great riff that just chugs along relentlessly. I reckon I have this as the B-side to one of the 12-inch singles as well. (Yes, I own a few 12-inch remixes from this album. It was the 1980s.) And we have a great guitar solo to cap it off.
'Sharp Dressed Man' The first of the mega-selling hit singles from this album. And deservedly so. This is such a great song. Listening to it now for the first time in a long time, I still know all the words. Great track.
'I Need You Tonight' We slow down a bit for some more blues-based rock and on the album, this was perfect timing (track placement – so vital!). The guitar playing makes this such a wonderful piece of music.
'I Got The Six' No idea what this song is supposed to be about, but the boogie-rock stylings are just wonderful. This is a hidden gem of a song, one of those deep cuts that fans love but no-one else knows about. And that guitar playing is just incredible.
'Legs' The second of the mega-selling hit singles, and the one that came to define their image in the minds of my generation. The girls, the car, the guitars that could go in a circle on their belts. But, for all the image, it is a truly great song with one glorious outro section of musicianship.
'Thug' Slower and with the feel of being played in a smoky bar somewhere, where the authorities don't travel. What makes this song for me is that odd guitar sound (bass guitar, I believe – Dusty Hill in fine form if it is). I am not sure what pedal or if it is a synthesiser that creates it, but it is so well done and glorious and makes this song.
'TV Dinners' This is another B-side that I have on a 12-inch somewhere. Musically, the track is nothing really great, but lyrically, it sounds like a 'Weird Al' Yankovic food parody. Odd track. Not bad at all, just odd.
'Dirty Dog' We hit the blues-rock sound again with more fantastic guitar playing and a good use of the synth drums. I remember at the time the album came out thinking it was similar to 'Sharp Dressed Man', but listening again now, it's not. Some similarities in some places, but a good song all its own.
'If I Could Only Flag Her Down' This track is one that sounds, to me, most on the album like their earlier stuff. The boogie-blues-rock, shuffle sound just pounds along, and gets your feet tapping and head bobbing. It's that sort of song.
'Bad Girl' We close out with a party-rock track that should have been released as a single, in my opinion. This is such a joyous way to close out this classic album, with driving guitars and a chorus meant to be screamed, and another great track.
So, there we are, my favourite ZZ Top album from a career that spanned over four decades. The new album we have been waiting for may not see the light of day now, but albums like this, that still stand up even in this day and age, are certainly great reminders of the music.
RIP, Dusty. And to his family, Frank and Billy – I hope you're all doing well. Thanks for the music.