ZZ Top Sucks. There, I Said It.

zztop_concert may 15.jpg
Photo by Marco Torres
Tell me what's so awesome about ZZ Top. Please.
Today ZZ Top is releasing their 15th studio album and first in nine years, LA FUTURA. By all accounts is it much-anticipated. But I'm going to out myself here and now: I do not get why people love ZZ Top. If you are one of those people, can you explain it to me like I'm five years old?

Chances are you are one of those people. According to various online sources, the band has sold more than 50 million albums in their 43 years together. They're in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In the mid-1980s pretty much every dude I knew wanted to be just like them. One of their most-famous songs was riffed on in a pantyhose commercial, for the love of Marvin Zindler.

And their popularity is not just a Texan thing. A few years ago I was visiting my sister in Prague and doing some sightseeing. I met a very nice older man who was walking his dog. He asked me where I was from and I said Texas. His face immediately lit up and he said "Zed Zed Top!"

Yes, dude, Zed Zed Top. That is what our fine state is exporting to former Communist nations. (It's better than the people in Korea who would respond to the Texas question by saying "George Bush" and making a sour face.) I played along because I didn't have the heart to tell him I think the band is the worst kind of schlock-rock around.

I've heard from various sources that Mr. Billy Gibbons is a perfectly nice guy, hanging out at local bars, playing benefit concerts with his bandmates. Dear God, I hope he's not actually reading this. Mr Gibbons (and Mr. Hill and Mr. Beard and any ZZ Top assistants who have Google alerts set up for the band name), I apologize in advance, but I just don't like your music. But hey, there's no accounting for taste.

Perhaps it's because I wasn't raised in Houston? But honestly, that should't matter, because when I was a baby music-lover in Oklahoma, my dad and uncle were die-hard Tres Hombres fans, playing covers of the band's biggest hits in late-night garage jam session, and posing for snapshot photos a la the choreography in the "Legs" video. My dad probably still has his Flying V.

I've read that the band has incorporated punk and new wave influences into some of their songs. Where is this? I can't seen to find it past the hair, furry guitars and mariachi suits.


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104 comments
nosdrahcir
nosdrahcir

People who don't like ZZ top don't like good music.

glasgowcharlie
glasgowcharlie

My apologies for the auto correct features that have mangled my response... The iPhone sucks and I would hate to be mistaken for somebody from Oklahoma. (g)

glasgowcharlie
glasgowcharlie

All the way from Omaha and I'm here to tell youWhat I do know. That first ZZ Top album withThe intro to Brown Sugar conjured up visions ofan ancient black man with a whiskey throatand fingers of steel. Next thing that grabbed me was the sound of the minor pentatonic blues bluesWrenching out a soulful sound on a Gibson Les Paul through Marshall plexi and I wasSold! I was hammered to the wall by Billy Gibbon's guitar and voice before the rest of the band even kicked in. If you can't listento the intro of Brown Sugar and not sell yoursoul to the devil for a for a tone only 1/8th asGood as his, than you have no soul and wouldBe better suited to the depths of Taylor Swift. I'mSure the Ardmore Thrifty Nickel could use Someone with your considerable talents. ExcuseMe now while I go back to playing some bluesGuitar. Thank you Rev Billy for the inspiration...

mistersnappy05
mistersnappy05

 What is there to love? Well, I can only speak to the era I love, which is 1971 through 1976 roughly. I'm a guitar player, so, that colors my thinking a lot. Gibbons and his engineers really knew how to mix different tones into a thick soundscape. I think it was all tongue -in-cheek from pretty much the git-go. It was/is party music. I know many listeners have to get hooked by the lyrics first- I suggest going back to the early ZZ. Take "Squank" for example: Some of the lyrics are deceptively "deep":

"And soon we'll be all breathin' out of tanks
if somethin' ain't done about the squank."

What is Gibbons singing about? Pollution? A metaphor for something? Actually, I think it fits in with the best tradition of ambiguous rock lyrics. Look them up and decide for yourself. You may not be blue-collar, but, a song like "Just Got Paid" did and does speak to a segment of society.

They had/have style. Its showmanship out of the old school, which is so frowned upon these days in contrast with the self-important, shoe gazing that critics love. Are they always poking fun at the establishment or critics? Who knows? Ask Gibbons, but, you won't get an easy answer, I bet.

mistersnappy05
mistersnappy05

I think you article would be better titled "I don't get ZZ Top" because you don't really explain why you think the "suck"- it reads (to me) more like you jsut don't get them. If you really think they suck, explain why. Thus, it looks more like a hook to get folks to read.

ronnieboudreaux
ronnieboudreaux

anything that stirs up this much shit is great. you did your job today, collect that paycheck. you deserve it.

johnblakearnold
johnblakearnold

As a junior at Spring Branch High School in 1985, perhaps the peak of Z.Z. Top's fame, I couldn't understand either.  And then a couple of years out of college I heard Z.Z. Top's First Album, which I had heard when I was a wee child along with disks such as Johnny Winter's Second Album and albums by Lynyrd Skynyrd through the parents of friends' partying with my parents.  The sound struck me as a child and then it took 20 years before I was able to hear it again.  I believe your difficulty is viewing Z.Z. Top as a rock band rather than a blues band-- the logical extension of the blues tradition in Texas and the South.  I believe they have more in common with Lightning Hopkins and Freddy King than with Aerosmith or Kiss.  Rev. Billy Gibbons also takes the time to instruct young guitarists in this tradition-- such as his Gretch YouTube instructional video citing Jimmy Reed.  That no one has died in Z.Z. Top and there have been no morbid VH-1 "Behind The Music" moments, is almost unheard of in Rock N Roll.  Yet Gibbons routinely supports young and old Houston musicians, both known and unknown, and our oldest Houston musicians such as the recently past Huey Long.  I saw Billy at Huey's Birthday Party at the Vietnam Restaurant on 19th street a couple of years back.  Wealthy mega stars simply don't do this and take the time.   Yet this is quite common among blues musicians.  Being from Oklahoma, I am sure you can't understand, but Z.Z. Top probably doesn't care if you like their music, but they certainly don't suck.  Oklahoma has the Flaming Lips, and I'll take Z.Z. Top any day!  But finally, given that you have obviously not taken the time to listen to their discography, but were willing to make an incendiary headline which outlined hyperbolic ignorance, perhaps you should find another line of work or simply shut the hell.  'Nuff said...   

Vandellish
Vandellish

Hey Brit!

You know you got some cheap sunglasses somewhere!!!!

jimi
jimi

On an appearance on Johnny Carson, Jimi Hendrix mentioned Billy Gibbons was his favorite guitarist.

 

Pulling off a successful 3-piece band isn't easy, and there aren't that many of them--especially nowadays. Cream, The Hendrix Experience, Rush, The Police, Nirvana, etc. If it works, there must be something there.

comunadesantos
comunadesantos

'Britt is a Skrillex fan.. Sure maybe like reggaeton too,

MkalCICMB
MkalCICMB

 @MadMac  I'm sure we both "get it" a lot more than either of us would think of each other. She shows no love therefore, she gets none.

MkalCICMB
MkalCICMB

@ wildcard35 It's not the difference in opinion that is offensive, it's her timing, location and lack of any sensibility.  I could put a grand on the fact that there are more homeless individuals living in our streets that could write a more convincing article.  If you dont like it and are trying to gain said understanding, thats fine. The question itself yields good writing. This bitch titled the article "ZZ Top Sucks... There I said it." as if she was bursting some long standing bubble amongst Houstonians.  Shes, just a drama-writer and looking for a reaction.  Like a 5 year old resorting to screaming when the final straws have been pulled; it gets your attention but for the most non-beneficial reason.  Other than her raving about how ZZ Top has nothing to praise, she gives no insight only opinions.  Hate will make you famous only because it's the easiest reaction to attract.  It's people like Brittanie Shey that are soon to put Houston Press back in the financial hole it came out of in the 90's.  Even FPSF robs the little man and discounts corporate accounts.  As a Houstonian I am saying, screw Houston Press and Screw this useless okie.  This city needs love, not hate.  If you cant understand that then you shouldnt be writing for it.

Wildcard35
Wildcard35

While I slightly question the sanity of a journalist doing a piece on how "ZZ Top sucks" in a Texas publication, I have to hand you the fact that you've got some very sizable journalist lady-balls. I  have been a fan of ZZ Top for many a year, but I don't need other people to like them for me to enjoy Billy Gibbon's slide playing or funky riffs, so I don't take offense like many a reactionary Texan will. Difference of opinion is a good thing. If we all liked the same thing, life would be boring.

Anyway, I am a guitar player probably not so different in musical tastes from your dad...I like guitar tones that remind me of old-school blues and rock'n'roll, and ZZ Top has that in spades. Billy Gibbons has forgotten more cool licks than most guitar players have ever learned. I suggest listening to the "Chrome Smoke and BBQ" set up on Spotify. Maybe start with "El Diablo" (pay attention to the drums at the end. They sound like a helicopter taking off) or "She's a Heartbreaker" to hear some of their honkytonk influence. A better country song I have never heard. Their live-recorded version of Elvis's Jailhouse Rock from Fandango (also on the set) just smokes.

If you make it through the Chrome Smoke and BBQ set and don't find something you like, you probably just don't like ZZ Top, which is okay, too. Zed Zed Top, indeed.

MkalCICMB
MkalCICMB

Why write an article about something beneficial to millions that you do not benefit from? Brittanie Shey, you come off as a foolish hen squawking in the lions den. Learn to not hate on the people who give you something to write about in the first place, clown.

Dirty_Dingus_McGee
Dirty_Dingus_McGee

Let me reiterate what many other commenters have said, Brit Brit: YOU suck.

baduserexperience
baduserexperience

"It's better than the people in Korea who would respond to the Texas question by saying "George Bush" and making a sour face."

 

Don't you think the people of Iraq would have made a better example? Don't you think?

dunstan
dunstan

only memory of seeing them live: the Outlaws (who I really came to see) opened with a giganto band of two drummers, four guitarists, two bassists...you get the idea, wall o' southern sound. Then ZZ Top came out and their sound was like a knife versus a mallet.

other than that observation, I can't imagine listening to an entire album.

tejasbulldawg
tejasbulldawg

I went to the Warehouse in New Orleans in 1972 or so to see my favorite band, the Allman Bros. This was not long before Duane died. The opening act was one I'd never heard of - ZZ Top. Three dudes came out, the lead guitarist was a skinny dude in a teeshirt, jeans and greaser hairdo. I thought - who the hell is this? Then they cut loose, I think with Just Got Paid, and after that no one cared if the ABB came on or not. As it happened, some of the ABB got busted during the break, so ZZ Top finished the show and blew everyone away. ZZ Top are great musicians, cool as hell, and balanced enough to still be alive, healthy, and making people happy - unlike Hendrix, Duane, Berry Oakley, Jim Morrison and so many others. 

Carlos Martinez
Carlos Martinez

Well at the risk of offending my pals whose musical tastes I respect, I pretty much agree about ZZ Top and SRV. Sure do love Francine though.

PapaKin
PapaKin

Honestly, I can look past your bad taste in music. You are entitled to listen to and like whatever you choose (i.e. Lady Gaga). That's not what offends me. What offends me is your thoughtless decision to write/publish your infantile ramblings and dislike for ZZ Top, ON THE MAIN PAGE, of the Houston Press. You make this decision the VERY day Houston's own rock band releases their new album (under the title "ZZ Top Sucks.") Way to support the "home team." Please go back to Oklahoma, and take your piss-poor journalism with you.

Bubba77002
Bubba77002

Please take it easy on Brittanie; clearly this is her manifesto before she gets fired. As she states, she is from Oklahoma so more than likely her room doubled as a meth lab and evidently the chemicals have destroyed her brain.  No Pearl Necklace just Tres Leches to her face

MarcSmall
MarcSmall

That is like saying you hate Texas which I am pretty sure is what you are saying without having the Balls to say it.

 

Your Dad should have spent more time teaching you Guitar cause you write like shit.

zztopfan
zztopfan

ZZ TOP is less about the music than it is about the attitude. They have big blues riffs, cool production, and an "I don't give a fuck" attitude that makes them stand out above the rest.  Personally, I'm a fan but I understand what you don't enjoy about their music.  They're tight, the musicianship is top-notch, and there's some classic hooks in there but they aren't exactly re-inventing the wheel and they never have been.  ZZ TOP is about having a good time.  Anyone who is actually offended by you not "getting" ZZ TOP is some jaded old timer who probably hasn't enjoyed a new album since 1979 and says things like "They just don't  make music like they used to, with all this hollering and noise blah blah blah".  WHO CARES?  I would have rather read a review of the new record, personally.

Zztopfan
Zztopfan

Just skimmed through your piece of shit and saw ghost world mentioned. Nuff said....

DuckDuckGoose
DuckDuckGoose

Trolling for page views so you have a 'shocking' headline. Funny. Back it up with some actual content next time.

 

ZZ Top - greatest band ever? Nope. But what they do, they absolutely nail.

kyndbrah
kyndbrah

please kill yourself while listening to whatever skinny jean band you choose.

KilgoreTrout
KilgoreTrout

Regarding the Top's lyrics: I like their songs because they remind me of the old jump blues/big band songs by guys like Cab Calloway and whatnot. Those old black musicians would make buried references to sex and drugs buried in double entendres and code words that only their audience could usually get. It is true that ZZ Top's lyrics are quite a bit more obvious than that, but I like the silliness. All these indie rock softies need to get a sense of humor. But no worries. We all have our preferences. The fact that a column like this could set off such a shitstorm is amusing.

Bill Grady
Bill Grady

All this shows is that "Rocks Off" doesn't have an editor.

a7xryche
a7xryche

Nobody has to explain anything to you.If you don't like them.You don't like them.Who cares?

scott745
scott745

Reasons: their amazing tone, tightness, the ability to successfully bring the American Institution of Blues into the 21st century, the riff on "Just Got Paid", the lead on "Just Got Paid, the fact that Jimi Hendrix said Gibbons was one of his favorite guitarists, their wicked sense of humor, an eye for detail (i.e. no floor monitors on the stage to mess up fans view of band), their marketing saavy (amazing bRand recognition practically everywhere in the world, as you point out), that they're still around doing what they love after 40 plus years, knowing they're from & that they reference our fair city in some of their songs ("out in the sticks on Highway 6") - just to name a few. 

PapaKin
PapaKin

Let's be honest Brit-brit. You probably don't like them because they haven't been auto-tuned to a regurgitated dance beat that you can grind to at a night club.  You also don't like them because they don't look like Adam Levine or John Mayer. You also don't like them because you have a narrow sense of musical culture outside of Taylor Swift and Katy Perry. Sigh. I honestly never thought I would see such a ridiculous waste of an article on the front page of The HOUSTON Press. Sad day.

mileslong
mileslong

Please stop posting about music.  With a name like Brittanie, im not surprised you don't get it. You should probably stick to reviewing Katie Perry's new album which i'm sure you just love, OMG...

kejo66
kejo66

 @MkalCICMB 

Simmer Down Mkal, pot/kettle much??you need love not hate.

So a young girl doesn't like the Top, big deal. you probably don't like her favorite band either.  

Why don't you explain to her why they are awesome?  like she asked you to.....instead of ranting like a baby over a silly topic.

MadMac
MadMac topcommenter

@MkalCICMB "This city needs love, not hate." Yeah. Considering the invectives you used, you obviously "get" what this city needs. MoMo.

Mitch.Cumsteen
Mitch.Cumsteen

@MkalCICMB you are with out a doubt correct. Is Houston press a newspaper or social network that's printed on paper? if so they just lost a friend

MadMac
MadMac topcommenter

@elijah.c.wolford Misogyny much?

BrittanieShey
BrittanieShey moderator

 @scott745 Now THIS is the kind of comment I was hoping for. The monitors thing is genius, and shows that it really is about the fans. Thanks!

BrittanieShey
BrittanieShey moderator

 @mileslong You are so awesome. I guess your parents let you pick an awesome name when you were just one day old. Like, totally, right?

MadMac
MadMac topcommenter

I like how @PapaKin indicts @BrittanieShey for shallow, sweeping generalizations while employing...shallow, sweeping generalizations. Next Gov'nur o' Texas right there, y'all.

MadMac
MadMac topcommenter

Me, Casper Weinberger, and Ima Hogg are gonna fight this. @BrittanieShey @mileslong

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