The ZZ Top Movie

ZZ Top – That Little Ol’ Band From Texas (Official Trailer)

I smiled throughout.

The question is, will classic rock be to Gen Z what the blues were to the boomers?

That’s right, the explosion that arose with the Beatles didn’t come out of a vacuum, all these English bands had influences, the Mississippi bluesmen.

But back then the records were hard to find.

But right now they’re hiding in plain sight.

But today, when you hide in plain sight, no one sees you. Even though all those records exist online, there are not clubs devoted to them, when you go deep you go alone, hoping to ultimately find someone who feels like you do.

Dusty, Frank and Billy felt the same way, they listened to the same Mexican radio stations, they had the same influences.

And they wanted to play music.

Most stars no longer want to play music, they want to be rich and famous. Playing music is different. You do it for the time on stage, and off stage too, hanging with cool people who get it. Yes, musicians used to be cool, a separate club that you could not be a member of unless you played too.

The money was just a byproduct. It was more about attitude, lifestyle. You worked damn hard, but you were your own boss, and your life was based on fun, remember FUN?

Now ZZ Top was on a terrible label, i.e. London Records. All the English acts who released records on that label jumped as soon as they could. But some, like Ten Years After, left too late, the band was already over by time they were on Columbia, the world had changed.

So if you were living on the east coast, ZZ Top was a band you heard about, but rarely heard. They were rare, foreign, the other. And you’d read some of the publicity, but couldn’t relate to it. Like the farm animal tour. HUH? What was the point?

The point was to invest in their career. You’ve got to spend money to make money. And those who knew, knew.

And by the late seventies, “La Grange” and “Tush” were FM staples, then again at that time I was living on the west coast, for all I know the east coast still overlooked the little ol’ band from Texas.

But then I heard “I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide.”

Well I was rollin’ down the road in some cold blue steel
I had a bluesman in the back and a beautician at the wheel
We going downtown in the middle of the night
We laughing and I’m jokin’ and we feelin’ all right


Yes, the groove was undeniable, the almost stutter, but the lyrics? THEY CRACKED ME UP!

Come on, just picture it! A bluesman in the back and a beautician at the wheel? I’m laughing just thinking of it, what imagery! Who’d imagine a beautician at the wheel? This ain’t a model, someone internationally famous, just the girl who cuts hair in the neighborhood. And why a bluesman in the back? B.B. King?

I had to buy the album, “Deguello.”

Of course, it started with a killer version of “I Thank You,” which eclipsed Bonnie Raitt’s cover, that gave a twist on the Sam & Dave original…an elixir of guitar and vocal, with a heavy bottom, you dropped the needle and instantly fell in the groove.

And “She Loves My Automobile” was a tear, and such a funny concept, a workingman concept. This is not some rich Wall Street guy drawing the opposite sex based on his wealth, this is a guy who’s never been twenty miles from home.

And also on “Deguello” was “A Fool For Your Stockings,” with its muddy groove, and the classic, “Cheap Sunglasses.” In other words the album was successful musically. as well as financially, after all, ZZ Top were now on Warner Brothers.

But that was 1979.

1981 brought “El Loco” with “Tube Snake Boogie” and “Pearl Necklace,” which were au courant as opposed to rearward-looking like most of the early stuff, but was that a matter of perception, the band now being on Warner Brothers.

Now no act makes it without a manager. And the biggest ones have the best. And it’s easy to criticize in retrospect, but don’t forget Brian Epstein built the Beatles, and he helped invent the business, no rock act had ever been this big, and remember, Capitol didn’t even want to put out the initial material in the U.S., “She Loves You” came out on Swan.

And Bill Ham was against TV, he was into mystery, and this restricted the footprint of the band, but it allowed them to blow away fans who’d only heard them on record, if there. That’s how it used to be, you went to see a great act and they blew you away. You beamed at your buddies in the audience and subsequently told everybody you knew about them.

And then came “Gimme All Your Lovin’.”

You see Frank Beard was watching TV and saw videos so he called up Frank and then Billy tuned in too, and after four hours they were wondering how long this special was gonna last.

This was MTV. Not that they knew. America was much more regional back then, you didn’t necessarily know what was going on.

And the videos for “Gimme All Your Lovin'” and “Legs” made ZZ Top international superstars.

Now we saw this documentary paradigm twenty years ago, with VH1’s “Behind The Music.” Which became formulaic. Band makes it, gets hooked on drugs, has no money and then reunites and you can buy tickets for the tour right now!

Today you make the documentary yourself. Technology allows you to do it on the cheap and everybody can get distribution, maybe for free on YouTube instead of money on a pay service, but you can play, the means of production and distribution are in the hands of the proletariat.

Now at first, you think this flick is a deep dive. But then you watch it long enough to realize it’s the same sales pitch as “Behind The Music,” you’ve got to buy a ticket to see the band RIGHT NOW!

But the difference this time is all the classic acts are long in the tooth and this truly might be the end. Yup, if you wanna see the Stones, GO NOW!

ZZ Top is a little younger. And the band is intact, all its members are alive and kicking, a rarity these days.

So the flick starts out in Texas. That’s a big point in this movie, how not only is ZZ Top from the state, but that Texas is its own state of mind, Dusty says you learn about state history before national history.

And they sound like they’re from Texas, all with accents, speaking slowly.

And all three of them started at a young age. And they paid their dues. First Dusty and Frank in Dallas, and then the band coalesced in Houston.

Billy Gibbons was the hot guitar player. Music is a small community, you always know who the gunslingers are. And Frank Beard got up his gumption and asked Billy to play with him. It’s always about the ask, without it you rarely get.

And when they clicked, Frank called Dusty to come on down.

Now some of the footage is mind-blowing. Especially of Billy. He used to be beardless, he looked a bit like an intellectual. And for a very brief moment he dances and you realize he too was infected by the music, just like you.

And they hone the act.

And they play regionally. And there’s one great story of the curtain rising and…

I won’t ruin the tale, but ZZ Top is not interested in making themselves look good here. Hell, they know it was three hot babes and three ugly guys in the videos, they know who they are.

And what I always loved about ZZ Top is they wore the coveralls, the cowboy hats, had the beards, they were not constricted by society, they did whatever they wanted. They talk of opening for the Stones and Keith Richards wearing the same dirty white pants every day. Yup, the acts were scruffy and just didn’t care.

And ZZ Top kills, get an encore but are not mentioned in the reviews.

It’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock and roll. And it’s not a straight line.

And Frank Beard testifies to spending all his money on drugs and loving them all the while and…

These are not bankers, these are not techies, they’re rock stars. There’s no school that’ll get you there. There’s no prerequisite, you’ve just got to know how to PLAY! And get LUCKY!

And like I said, this flick is really an ad for the tour. But the twist here is the band performs live in the studio throughout, demonstrating their chops. Such a big sound from such a little band. A guitar, a bass and drums was and still is enough in this era where most people fake it, with players behind the curtain or on hard drive.

So if you were there, you’ll remember. All of it. Not that you won’t gain insight, but you’ll marvel at once was.

And if you weren’t, ZZ Top will appear to be a phenomenon, a unique act that seemed to come out of nowhere, that made it all by themselves. And that’s exciting and inspiring.

So how long will it be until bands start playing in the garage, and practice as opposed to promoting on social media. After all, it does come down to music. And people always want a new sound, and sometimes just a slight twist on what came before can open an entire avenue.

So, ZZ Top had soul. And power. And a sense of humor.


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