Of all the 1969-based anniversaries – so many albums turning 50 and being reissued with bonus tracks and ephemera – my favourite 50th might be the fact that ZZ Top has been a band, the very same band even for 50 goddamn years. That’s a lot of boogie.
And though Billy Gibbons (guitar/vocals) was there with two others when the band started, Frank Beard (drums) and Dusty Hill (bass/vocals) were in mere months later. Since then not a line-up change and 15 studio albums of fried boogie-blues.
There is a big box-set to celebrate the birthday but there’s also this stripped-down single disc version – basically an updated greatest hits. Worth it over the 1992 compilation for one reason, 2012’s I Gotsta Get Paid, the unlikely but brilliant redirected energy of DJ DMD’s 25 Lighters.
Apart from that you know every twist and turn here from the snake-hipped La Grange and the synthesizer years (Sharp Dressed Man, Legs, Gimme All Your Lovin’) through the single-minded Cheap Sunglasses and I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide.
When you next listen to Tush ask yourself – just how did they fucking do it? So simple, so brilliant.
ZZ Top, deceptively simple. Utterly brilliant when on fire. Gibbons is the real magic – for sure. A gifted player, a great gritty voice. But Frank Beard’s fills on La Grange were beamed in from another planet. If the band had only made that song – been a weird one-hit wonder – I’d still be wanting to celebrate their 50th. That they are still there to do shows, that there’s a dozen great songs or more, all riffing on the very same thing – women and booze and dumb bogan fun – well, it’s not for everyone or every day, but then again, you know what, I think that was entirely the thinking, that was the aim.
Great band. Great players. Sum bigger and better than the parts.
Happy 50th ZZ. And a very recent Happy 70th Billy.
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