The 10 Best ZZ Top Songs
The amped-up blues rock of the best ZZ Top songs is the real reason, despite all the hoopla about their cars, videos and on-stage panache, that this lowdown and dirty Texas trio has managed to thrive together for decades. Billy Gibbons, who Jimi Hendrix once named as his favorite up-and-coming guitarist, continues to push the boundaries of traditional rock guitar with the support of one of the most dependable rhythm sections around. But which individual moments have stood the test of time? Check out our list of the Best 10 ZZ Top songs:
ZZ Top songs were already all over the radio, but two changes on Eliminator turned them into mega-stars. First, they added poppy synthesizers to their Texas-fried boogie. Second, the trio filmed a series of videos starring themselves as magical guardian angels helping hapless, hard-working guys get laid with the help of the souped-up hot rod pictured on the album's cover.
After touring their asses off for most of the 70s, ZZ Top took an extended break in 1977, reuniting two years later to deliver the diverse and generally awesome Deguello, which featured this winding, funky "how to survive a hangover" guide. It was also during this break that guitarist Billy Gibbons and bassist Dusty Hill grew their famous beards, allegedly without each other's knowledge.
Fandango! featured this barn-burning tribute to the Mexican radio stations that blasted Wolfman Jack's influential shows into their hometown of Houston, Texas at wattages far past those allowed by the U.S. government. These stations, whose call letters all began with "X" exposed the band to country, rock and blues music that would influence them greatly.
The lead track on 1979's Deguello is a cover of Sam and Dave's Stax classic "I Thank You." The trio recorded the song in a surprisingly faithful manner, with clean guitar tones and a soulful vocal performance from Billy Gibbons. In concert, though, such as on the stop-whatever-you're-doing-and-watch-this-right-now 1980 Double Down DVD, things boiled over more than a little.
ZZ To's second album, named after the river that divides Mexico from their beloved home state of Texas, found ZZ Top bettering their debut in terms of both production and songwriting. It's a record full of ferocious, dirty, blues-influenced rock and roll numbers such as this simply stated ode to the joys of a full wallet on payday.
ZZ Top extols the importance of dressing to impress on Eliminator's signature song, something that's always been a big part of their stage shows. Whether it's furry guitars, cowboy hats, ponchos or mechanic's jumpers, you can always count on finding Billy and Dusty performing their trademark synchronized moves in something unconventional, but always tasteful.
With Tres Hombres, ZZ Top made another bold leap forward in terms of sophistication and range, crashing the Top 10 charts and cementing their reputation as one of the best and biggest rock bands of the 70s. The record kicks off with the dynamic double shot of the strutting "Waiting ..." and the deeper, more laid back groove of "Chicago." If it's not against the law to play these songs separately, it oughta be.
Perhaps because it now contrasted with slick, modern keyboard accents, Billy Gibbons' guitar rarely sounded as full and rip-snorting nasty as it did on Eliminator. On this, the album's infectious sing-a-long opening song, his first solo explodes out of the gate like an unleashed rodeo bull, and his fretwork serves as pretty much a second vocalist throughout the album.
Bassist Dusty Hill takes one of his occasional turns on lead vocals on this highly traditional, and typically supercharged blues number from Fandango. Lyrically, ZZ Top songs can feature very subtle and clever double entendres, but sometimes, most notably this song, they decide just to come right out and say what it is they're after.
Without a doubt the most popular ZZ Top song of all time, this ode to a famous Texas whorehouse from Tres Hombres is inescapable on the radio, in TV commercials and as a mood-setter for numerous big screen films. Just as cliches are cliches because they're true, classic songs get overplayed because, well, they're awesome. So listen to this one with fresh ears from time to time to see how deceptively simple ZZ Top's music can be at its best.