I enjoyed watching the new documentary on ZZ Top on Netflix the other day.
ZZ Top is one of those bands rooted in my high school and college years, starting out with hearing songs like "LaGrange" and "Tush" on WAAL, followed by the years when the band blew up world wide with the release of "Eliminator" in 1983 and the memorable "girls, guitars & misfits" videos that aired all over MTV and "Friday Night Videos".
It was fascinating to see the early days of ZZ Top as a Texas bar band and especially old clips of Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard. I'm sure somewhere in my mind I knew that Gibbons and Hill didn't always have those long beards, but to see Gibbons walking around as a clean-shaven guitar virtuoso from the '60s was mind-blowing.
The film focuses mostly on their origins and early band days and success, and closes out with their video heyday. ZZ Top is still alive and well, releasing albums and touring, but there is no mention of Eliminator's follow-up, "Afterburner" or "Recycler," or the more recent stuff like "La Futura".
I'm sure that pleases those who grew up with '70s Top and albums like "Tejas" and "Tres Hombres". There's often an attitude from fans who grew up with bands in the '70s -- they often say that the bands' '80s music isn't as good. I hear it over and over again with groups like Heart, Genesis, Kansas and others. Sometimes I agree and sometimes I don't.
What the "it was better in the '70s" fans don't understand is the '80s was a time of experimentation, brought on by the punk and synth bands, and musicians -- if they're good -- don't want to sit around and do the same thing year after year. They want to stay interested and expand.
This is addressed in "That Little Ol' Band From Texas" and I was glad to see it. Never again, will I feel somehow sheepish that "Eliminator" was the first ZZ Top album I ever bought and that it remains my favorite. I won't feel guilty for liking the videos, the slickness or the synths. ZZ Top still rocked on that album, which was released in the final few months of my senior year in high school and will be celebrating its 37th anniversary two weeks from now. I remember buying it on a hot August night, somewhere between "Gimme All Your Lovin'" and "Sharp-Dressed Man," at the record store in the mall, a couple stores away from the department store where I worked.
I've recently listened to that album again for the first time in awhile and as polished as some people accuse it of being, it's still down, dirty and raucous, like any ZZ Top album.
So hop in The Eliminator and we'll get going. Here's the track list. It's time for Match the Song Title:
Match the Song Title: Eliminator, ZZ Top
Track 1: Gimme All Your Lovin'
The first song released, the catchiest song on the album and one of the most famous videos of the MTV era. From the roaring introduction of the Eliminator car, to the first moment Jeana Tomasino steps out of that car, you knew this song/video combination would stay in your brain forever. The video takes place at a gas station, filmed in Littlerock, California. Former Phillies and Tigers player Glenn Wilson bought a gas station, after the 1985 season and operated it proudly during the off-season for a number of years. Appropriately, the station was located in Montgomery, Texas, not far from where the ZZ Top boys got their start.
Track 2: Got Me Under Pressure
A typically wild Top song that addresses a cocaine-loving dominatrix who likes whips and chains and wields a nightstick. The most bizarre lyric is something about "flipping out with great danes". I have no idea what that is, but it's the reason that Tommy Kahnle is shown. Follow me here: Kahnle is from Latham, N.Y., a suburb of Albany. His wife, Victoria, is studying for her masters at the University of Albany, whose sports teams are known as "The Great Danes".
Track 3: Sharp Dressed Man
"Every girl crazy about a sharp-dressed man ..." It worked for Kemp with Rihanna. For a little while anyway.
Track 4: I Need You Tonight
The slow-burnin' blues tune on the record. I didn't appreciate stuff like this when I bought this as a 17-year-old. I do now. The first words of the song set the stage: "It's 3 o'clock in the morning." So let's go to the most recent baseball game that lasted to 3 in the morning. It was the Cardinals and Diamondbacks on Sept. 24 (and Sept. 25) last season. Ildemaro Vargas hit a home run in the ninth to tie the game, then hit a walk-off single in the 19th, well past 3 a.m., to give the Diamondbacks a 3-2 victory.
Track 5: I Got The Six
The blistering B-side to Sharp Dressed Man (A "B-Side," kids, is when ...). This song isn't about hopping a subway train in NYC. It's about the uniform number on Cole's jersey. Cue Bill and Ted.
Track 6: Legs
The first song on Side 2 and also the song that caused many diehards to accuse ZZ Top of selling out. But if they had been paying attention to "El Loco," the album that came out before "Eliminator," this wouldn't have been a surprise. ZZ Top is rooted in the blues but they also wanted to make people dance. This is how you made people dance in the '80s.
There are lots of legs on that Red Legs card. I'd like a little more cardboard on it though. Got to upgrade.
Track 7: Thug
As close to new wave as ZZ Top got. A song about a dude who broke out of prison. Doug Glanville's Phillies teammates called him "Thug Life," after rapper Tupac Shakur, because Glanville was as un-thugish as he could be. Ah, that baseball humor.
Track 8: TV Dinners
The last single released off of "Eliminator" and a humorous, left-field bit of pop that continues in the vein of songs like "Party on the Patio". This song title offers an opportunity for me to link to one of my favorite commercials featuring a baseball player promoting a Swanson's TV dinner.
Track 9: Dirty Dog
I loved this song from the moment I bought this album. "GIT THAT DOG OUTTA MY YARD!" There is no shortage of baseball players with dog-related nicknames, but after trying too long to find one of those players all dirtied up, I settled for Rex The Wonder Dog with a dirty right pant leg.
Track 10: If I Could Only Flag Her Down
Allyson Felix is one of the top three female sprinters of all-time. Try to catch her.
Track 11: Bad Girl
Admittedly, kind of a filler track to end the album. I probably could have found a more obvious bad girl than Ali Larter. But I just love this card and no one made quite the "bad girl" entrance like Larter in her whipped cream bikini.
OK, that's where the needle comes off the record.
ZZ Top begins a tour this month and, my goodness, it lasts deep into the fall. God bless 'em, the blues might make you feel old, but I guess it keeps you young.
Listening to this record certainly makes me feel young.