With over 100 bands performing at Bonnaroo 2013, it’s nearly impossible for anyone to be familiar with all of them. Fortunately, sites like Youtube, Spotify, and Pandora have made it easier than ever to discover a band’s catalog.
But where to begin? In this series, we will profile notable songs from selected Bonnaroo 2013 performers. These won’t necessarily be the biggest hits or the songs most likely to be played live, but a selection of songs that showcases every facet of the artist’s work. We’ve already profiled Jim James, who will be playing two sets at Bonnaroo 2013, and Weird Al Yankovic. Today, we look at one of the most seasoned bands on the Bonnaroo lineup, ZZ Top.
ZZ Top’s sound has evolved quite a bit over the years, requiring a sampling from numerous albums to get the full range. From their beginnings as a blues rock band on albums like “Tres Hombres” to their evolution into more synthesizer driven songs on albums like “Eliminator”, ZZ Top has constantly re-invented themselves.
Here are 5 songs we think provide the best sampling of ZZ Top’s entire catalog.
While much of ZZ Top’s early work was very much rooted in the blues, “Tush” of their album “Fandango” was a trip into straight up guitar rock. “Tush” is also one of the best examples of a theme used often in ZZ Top’s work, the double entendre. “Tush” is most commonly associated with a female derriere, but also can mean something “plush or very luxurious” according to bassist Dusty Hill. Either meaning works in the context of the song so it’s left to the listener to decide how dirty he wants his mind to be on each listening.
While “Tush” took double entendre to a new level, “La Grange” leaves nothing open to interpretation. It’s a song about a brothel and has become one of the songs most associated with ZZ Top. From the guitar lick based on John Lee Hooker’s “Boogie Chillin” to the leathery vocals, it’s probably the best song to introduce someone to what ZZ Top is about.
While ZZ Top had played around with adding synthesizers to their sound for several albums, it was the album “Eliminator” that saw them dive head first into the deep end. “Legs” was the most successful single from that album and of ZZ Top’s career, making it to #8 on the Billboard charts.
“Sharp Dressed Man”
Another “Eliminator” mega-hit, this is the song that has become ZZ Top’s signature tune. Their on-stage look of suits, hats, and dark sunglasses fit perfectly into this song’s theme. The song’s omnipresence on classic rock radio makes this the song that people who don’t really know ZZ Top are most likely to know.
“Jesus Just Left Chicago”
One of the most blues rooted songs in ZZ Top’s catalog, “Jesus Just Left Chicago” plays around with numerous themes on that genre. As evidenced in the title, ZZ Top tinge their usual Texas blues with a little bit of Chicago style blues, some New Orleans sound, and a good dollop of African American spiritual blues. Along with companion song “Waiting for the Bus”, it’s a good introduction into the hardcore blues side of ZZ Top’s work.
You can catch ZZ Top at Bonnaroo 2013 on June 13-16 in Manchester, Tennessee. Joining ZZ top on the lineup are headliners Paul McCartney, Tom Petty, and Mumford & Sons, along with a wide range of artists from The Lumineers to Pretty Lights. Tickets are on sale here.
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