“Do you remember
back in nineteen sixty-six?
Country Jesus, hillbilly blues,
that's where I learned my licks…”
As a 7th grader at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Elementary School in 1977, the inclement whether policy dictated that recess hour be held inside the classroom in the event of rain. The nuns and lay teaching staff would allow us students to bring in records from home to play on the classroom’s shitty all-in-one record player to keep our hormone raging bodies peacfully occupied. This was the setting for hearing for the first time many of the bands that I still listen to today. It is also where I first became an addict of rock-n-roll music. Most of the bands and records we listened to were borrowed from older brothers and sisters who were living out their super crush 70's highschool years. We’d drop the penny laden needle and listen to scratchy LP’s from Led Zeppelin, Eagles, Kiss, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Aerosmith, Ted Nugent, and Bad Company for the hour or so and get completely engrossed. Mostly, it was the girls who’d bring these gems in and us guys, wanting to look cool in their presence, would act like we had all of these records at home already and just forgot to bring them in that day. Nonetheless, thanks to these cool chicks at a Catholic elementary school in the late 70’s I got turned onto many classic records that stand tall to this day.
It was these same chicks whom I blamed for defying my dad and joining one of those "six albums for a penny" record clubs against his stern order not to even think about. When I decided to pull the trigger, I hid in my room with the little membership card that came inserted in the magazine fold and I carefully weighed my six “free” selections. After days of deliberations the smoke came out of the chimney and I mailed my postage paid card from the schools mailbox. Two of those chosen six were ZZ Top records, “Tres Hombres” and “Fandango!” Fandango! enjoyed heavy rotation during rainy day recess listening sessions and was an easy selection to make, an absolute must have.
I think it was recalling Billy Gibbons joining The Raconteurs at the MTV Video awards that prompted me to pull my copy of Fandango! out and give it a spin again recently. I must have listened to this record 20 times in the last ten days. It is one of those that lulls me into believing that somehow I knew what the hell I was talking about when I was in 7th grade, at least when it came to good music (my neice is in 7th grade and I cannot envision her ever listening to this record). This album kick so much serious ass it’s hard to begin to explain it all to someone who hasn't heard it. Most are more familiar with the later ZZ Top records along with their accompanying videos which enjoyed heavy rotation in the 80’s. Those singles and the records they came from are still pretty good, but MTV ruined them for me. My ZZ Top, before the big long beards and sexy chicks climbing on cars and such, was a band that invented Texas hillbilly punk and blues that made some ground breaking records. Don’t know what Texas hillbilly punk is? Check out the live “Mellow Down Easy” on side one. Nuff said. You can picture all the rednecks in the packed club pogo dancing and pumping their fists with their big belt buckles and ten gallon hats. I remember staring at the inner sleeve to this record imagining myself amongst the sell out crowd of 80,000 at Texas Stadium at the “First Annual Texas Sized Rompin’ Stompin’ Barn Dance and Bar B.Q.” back in 1976.
I must admit that I had a hard time selling ZZ Top to many of my friends once I moved to NY. They didn’t dislike it, but nobody ever got too jazzed about it, at least to the extent that I did. I do remember Milkyum going off to his year at University of Texas and coming back for Christmas break talking some serious ZZ Top shit. Hell, I wouldn’t doubt ZZ Top’s got a statue somewhere on campus. I remember discussing rich guitar tones utilizing a Mexican peso as a pick and all those awesome harmonics Gibbons got using one.
You know “Tush”, but I HIGHLY recommend the other eight tunes on this record. They are as solid today as they were back when the nun’s were shouting from behind their desks “Turn that racket down over there!”
“I heard it, I heard it, I heard it on the X…”
P.S. Oh yeah, If you don't own this album or don't go out and buy it right away you're dumb.