Top 10 Dusty Hill ZZ Top Songs
To some fans, Dusty Hill is that other bearded guy in ZZ Top – the one with only four strings instead of six, making far less frequent trips to the microphone stand. But to diehard classic rockers, the bassist is both the living bedrock of ZZ Top’s sound, and a necessary foil (not to mention dance partner) for vocalist/guitarist Billy Gibbons. Together with ZZ drummer Frank Beard, Dusty also comprises one of the tightest, bluesiest rhythm sections in rock and roll history. So in an era when bass players appear to be getting even less respect than usual (to the point of total exclusion from bands like the White Stripes or Black Keys) it was our pleasure — nay, duty! — to compile the Top 10 Dusty Hill ZZ Top Songs for your, and our, enjoyment.
‘Party on the Patio’
We begin our countdown of the Top 10 Dusty Hill ZZ Top Songs with this oft-overlooked album cut from 1981’s El Loco. At the time, the three amigos were initiating their flirtation with then-modern musical trends – namely New Wave – and this likely explains why portions of “Party on the Patio” resemble the B-52’s. Luckily, a lot more of it still resembles ZZ Top.
The final cut on 1985’s commercially successfully, but extremely ‘80s-dated Afterburner album (which essentially served as a victory lap for the watershed Eliminator), “Delirious” waged a brave but ultimately futile battle against the period’s domineering synth sounds. However, that takes nothing away from Dusty’s fiery lead vocal, wrung out at the very top of his range – check it and see.
‘Arrested for Driving While Blind’
This characteristically amusing Top ditty from 1976’s Tejas boasts not a Dusty Hill vocal, but one of his patented chugging bass lines, which so often carried a song’s entire, groovy thrust down those cracked country roads while Billy Gibbons spun his ribald anecdotes and soloed away with bluesy ease over the top. And was it a precursor to W.A.S.P.’s “Blind in Texas,” perhaps?
‘Heard It on the X’
A tribute to the so-called “Border Blaster” Mexican radio stations – whose call letters all began with X, instead of America’s conventional W (for stations east of the Mississippi) or K (for those west) – that ZZ Top’s members grew up listening to, this goose-stepping highlight from 1975’s Fandango! really showcased Dusty’s singing prowess, as he traded lines back and forth with Gibbons.
This rather unconventional number from the second side of 1983’s multi-platinum smash Eliminator is actually sung by Gibbons, but it’s Hill’s prominent slap-bass that proves to be the song’s true star, as it frequently interrupts or adds color to the electronic drum-propelled groove that otherwise impels the tune forward with metronomic consistency.
‘Hi Fi Mama’
Often lost amid the abundance of classic songs packing 1979’s Deguello, “Hi Fi Mama” sees Dusty piling on the double entendres with a typically excitable, high-pitched lead vocal that, not surprisingly, does nothing to camouflage how he really intends to spend time with his special lady. As such, the song is an obvious choice for our list of the Top 10 Dusty Hill ZZ Top Songs.
‘Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers’
Another song where Gibbons and Hill alternate verses from start to finish, “Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers” is of course one of countless all-time fan favorites from 1973’s Tres Hombres, and an entertaining peek inside the southern honky tonk lifestyle. What’s more, the song even suggests the roles occupied by each singer, as Billy sings the “beer drinkers” line, and Dusty the one about “hell raisers.” Hmm …
Having banged out three or four irresistible boogie rock hits bound for future music video immortality, ZZ Top wound down their career-redefining Eliminator album with this Hill-sung firecracker, which sees the bassist’s lecherous observations suitably backed by Frank Beard’s propulsive percussion (or at least his drum machine equivalent) and Gibbons’ slippery guitar riffs towards a sizzling finale.
This opening song from Rio Grande Mud gave ZZ Top their first bona fide hit (peaking at No. 69 on the chart) and was so good, the band had Hill record a Spanish-sung version as well. Though Gibbons has frequently handled the vocals since then onstage, the original is all Hill and therefore a clear candidate for our list of the Top 10 Dusty Hill ZZ Top Songs.
And finally there’s “Tush,” a song so fine even Motorhead couldn’t resist copping every last lick in double time and then humbly renaming it “No Class.” The original, found on the half-studio, half-live Fandango! LP, remains one of ZZ Top’s best loved tunes and was their first Top 20 single, to boot. Thus, it was an almost inevitable choice for Dusty Hill’s No. 1 performance with our favorite Texan trio.