Following a massive 1976 tour during which the band spent $140,000 on livestock, Texas arena boogie unit ZZ Top took a three-year vacation from the music industry. While drummer Frank Beard disappeared to the Caribbean and lived the life of a hermit, the two guys not named Beard each grew enormous ones, separately and without the other’s knowledge. Purchased for a buck at the Great Escape’s outlet on Charlotte, 1979’s Degüello is the product of this bizarre sabbatical. In spirit and musical aesthetic, this entertaining heap of twisted, white boogie reminds me of NRBQ or Alex Chilton.
Ever since Canned Heat ate its first road pizza, white people (with notable exceptions) have tended to turn the blues into museum piece when not shitting all over it with alleged ability. ZZ Top does a little of both, but there’s a fun-loving, madcap nonchalance, a flashy economy to the playing and songs that makes it not matter.
Those not familiar with ZZ Top’s history: this is after “Tush,” before “Legs.” There are no disco beats or synchronized guitar tremolos, but Degüello isn’t exactly an Eric Clapton record, either. There are some deep laughs here, the first being the innersleeve’s photograph of “The Lone Wolf Horns,” depicted as Gibbons, Hill, and Beard, each holding a saxophone. Punchline: Rather than hire a horn section, the Top took saxophone lessons and tracked the parts themselves, note by note.
I realize just how far into it these guys are at the close of Side One, where “Manic Mechanic” tosses fusion, Texas car-talk, and science fiction…I think? Really, I can’t tell what’s happening here, but these guys appear to be artists. Find this record–there’s a lot to love in these Texas beirdos.
This week, Michelle and I scoped out the Great Escape‘s Charlotte Ave outlet. The store’s vast selection of dollar records is broken down into genres, so one won’t have to flip through twenty volumes 101 Strings to find that fair-condition copy of Aerosmith‘s Rocks. Good call!
It’s a pleasure to shop here. There’s always a fantastic selection of obscure promotional merchandise. I spied a BR-549 car air freshener on one visit, a Don Henley visor on another. Worth the trip, even if you’re an eastsider like myself.