ZZ Top est un groupe de Blues rock originaire du Texas (ville de El Paso) aux É.-U., qui a connu le sommet de sa célébrité pendant les années 1970 et 1980. Les membres de ce trio sont Billy Gibbons (chant et guitare), Dusty Hill (chant et basse) et Frank Beard (batterie).
ZZ Top (pronounced [ˌziziˈtɑp]) is an American blues rock band formed in 1969 in Houston, Texas. The group members are Billy Gibbons (guitar, lead vocals), Dusty Hill (bass, vocals), and Frank Beard (drums, percussion).
Le groupe a pris ce nom comme un pari, il s’agissait pour eux que leurs albums soient toujours les derniers dans les bacs à disques (vinyls, à l’époque) chez tous les disquaires. En effet, le classement dans ces bacs, était alphabétique.
Ancré dans les bases du blues et du rock, le groupe est connu pour avoir un son de guitare tranchant et un chant puissant, mais plus encore pour leur apparence particulière. Le style cow boy texan avec stetson et santiags jusqu’à l’album Tejas laissera la place, après une pause de deux ans, à partir de Deguello au look barbu version prospecteur que l’avènement de l’ère du clip rendra mondialement célèbre au début des années 1980.
Gibbons et Hill apparaissent alors toujours avec des lunettes de soleil, un chapeau de cow-boy et une barbe démesurée qui leur arrive à la ceinture. Curieusement, le dernier compère, Franck Beard – « Beard » signifiant « barbe » en anglais – n’en porte justement pas ! En 1984, la société Gillette a offert à Gibbons et Hill un million de dollars pour tourner dans un spot publicitaire où ils raseraient leur barbe, mais ils ont refusé. Lors de leurs prestations scéniques, Gibbsons et Hill sont connus pour faire les mêmes gestes en même temps.
Leur plus grand succès est l’album Eliminator en 1983, avec les titres Gimme all your lovin, Legs et Sharp Dressed Man.
Le groupe véhicule un humour typiquement cow boy « texan » dans le choix des titres de chansons célébrant fréquemment les plaisirs simples de la bagarre (Beers Drinkers and Hell Raisers), de l’alcool (Arrested For Drivin While Blind) et des femmes (A Fool For Your Stockings), même celles de petite vertu pratiquant leur profession dans des établissements spécialisés (La Grange).
Billy Gibbons qui a commencé sa carrière au sein du groupe blues et psychédélique The Moving Sidewalks possède un toucher guitaristique bluesy reconnaissable à la première note. Il ne s’est jamais caché d’être avant tout un bluesman même si sont également présentes les influences rock avec plusieurs reprises d’ Elvis Presley (Jailhouse rock et Viva Las Vegas) ainsi que le psychédélisme (la reprise de The 13th Floor Elevators Reverbation sur la compilation Tribute to Roky Erickson). Le groupe est le mécène du Delta Blues Museum.
Une activité importante existe autour du groupe avec notamment le site web « non-officiel » de Peter Zurich, Little ol’ band from Texas. Une véritable archive mondiale de concerts s’est organisée autour de Gregory K. Deeter (Houston) et de Albert Phelipot (chargé de remastering pour plusieurs enregistrements devenus des références historiques -France-) sur le site ZZ Live.
1971 ZZ Top’s First Album
1972 Rio Grande Mud
1973 Tres Hombres
1981 El Loco
1999 XXX (album)
1977 : The Best of ZZ Top
1992 : Greatest Hits
1994 : One Foot in the Blues
2003 : Compilation + inédits Chrome, Smoke & BBQ »
2004 : Rancho Texicano
2006 : The Beginning Of ZZ Top
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They hold the distinction of being among the few rock bands still composed of its original recording members after more than 35 years and until September 2006, the same manager/producer, Bill Ham.
They reached the peak of their commercial success in the 1970s and 1980s, scoring many hit songs during that era, but they remain together today and are still touring and releasing albums. ZZ Top was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on March 15, 2004. Summarizing their music, Cub Koda wrote, « As genuine roots musicians, they have few peers; Gibbons is one of America’s finest blues guitarists working in the arena rock idiom … while Hill and Beard provide the ultimate rhythm section support. »
Their song lyrics often feature sexual innuendo and humor. Gibbons and Hill are also famous for their custom guitars, many of which were co-designed by Gibbons with master luthier John Bolin of Bolin Guitars. Hill requests that his basses have a similar neck profile to the 1950s Fender Precision Bass he used extensively in the early days of the band.
Nearly as well-known as their music is the group’s appearance: Gibbons and Hill are almost always pictured wearing sunglasses (a nod to their 1979 song « Cheap Sunglasses »), similar if not matching clothing, and their trademark chest-length beards; ironically, Beard sports a mustache, but rarely a beard. In 1984, the Gillette Company reportedly offered Gibbons and Hill US$1 million apiece to shave their beards for a television commercial but they declined, stating « We’re too ugly without ’em ».
They reached new heights of popularity with the 1983 album Eliminator, boosted to prominence by memorable music videos for the tracks « Gimme All Your Lovin' », « Legs » and « Sharp Dressed Man » each of which featured a small bright red 1933 Ford Coupe 3 window hotrod called The Eliminator and a trio of mysterious, beautiful women who travel around helping various people. The album also featured a distinctive synthesizer-laced sound—a rarity in the blues rock genre—, which added a modern, electronic edge to the music, and helped the album become successful and a fan favorite. Eliminator remains their most successful album to date.
Their next album, Afterburner, mostly featured the same blend of synthesizers, blues rock and the use of sequencers. But on subsequent albums, less and less synth- and sequencer-influenced music is heard. An occasional song with those elements and instruments is included on recent albums as a nod to their past.
In 1987, they released the three-disc set, The ZZ Top Six Pack. When Warner chose to remaster six select albums from 1970 to 1981, they (along with the members of ZZ Top) remixed the back catalog to make it sound like their new music output. All the drum tracks were re-recorded and other random digital effects were applied. In an attempt to fit six albums on three discs, some tracks were faded out sooner than their original release versions. At the same time, individual remixed CD releases were released. The band’s actual sixth album, Degüello, was spared the « Six Pack » treatment because of a legal issue involving the estate of Elmore James, whose song « Dust My Broom » was featured on the album.
Recycler was released in 1990, and proved to be the band’s last album under their contract with Warner Records. Recycler was also the last of the albums often considered a distinct trilogy in the ZZ Top catalogue. It marked a move back towards a more guitar-driven blues sound which continued in later albums, losing some of the synthesizer sounds and pop bounce of the previous two albums. This move did not entirely suit the fanbase that Eliminator and Afterburner had built up, and while Recycler did achieve platinum status, it never matched the multi-platinum sales of Eliminator and Afterburner.
ZZ Top also contributed to the soundtrack, and appeared as the band in the dance scene in the 1990 movie Back to the Future III.
In 1992, ZZ Top signed a five-disc deal with RCA Records. Sales were good, but not up to earlier standards. Many fans (or, as they refer to themselves, « fanzz ») feel that the recordings of this era are as artistically strong as the earlier London and Warner Bros. recordings but have expressed disappointment with RCA’s promotion of these releases.
In 1993, ZZ Top inducted Cream into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
In 1997 ZZ Top recorded a song for amateur wrestler Nicholas « Wild Thing » Bauer, by request of WWE Hall of Famer Stone Cold Steve Austin.
In July 2000, while on tour in Europe, Hill was diagnosed with Hepatitis C, which forced the cancellation of several dates in that tour. Hill has since recovered.
RCA impresario Clive Davis wanted to do a collaboration record (in the mode of Carlos Santana’s successful Supernatural) for their 2003 release Mescalero.
As per an interview in Goldmine magazine, singers Pink, Dave Matthews, and Wilco were among the artists slated for the project. The band members declined this offer, and Davis and RCA subsequently shuffled the band to second-tier status.
A comprehensive collection of recordings from the London and Warner Bros. years entitled Chrome, Smoke & BBQ was released in 2003.
In 2004, ZZ Top was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones gave the induction speech, after which ZZ Top gave a brief performance, playing « La Grange » and « Tush. »
Expanded and remastered versions of the original studio albums from 70s and 80s are currently in production (removing the digital remixes of the Six Pack compilation). So far only two of these CDs have been released (Tres Hombres and Fandango!). Marketed as « Remastered and Expanded, » both CDs include additional live tracks which were not present on the original recordings.
As of 2006, it was reported that ZZ Top were recording their 15th studio album, however this album failed to appear, and on September 17, 2006 the band ended their contract with RCA Records and left their manager Bill Ham, president of Lone Wolf management. No reasons were given for these changes.
In December 2006, Sanctuary Management added ZZ Top to its roster, however the band is still not currently signed to a label.
An article on Billboard in May of 2007 quotes Dusty as saying that the band is eager to sign a new contract and resume recording in the near future, but no hints at timescales have been made. Dusty did suggest that a live tour DVD is in the works. Whatever the outcome of contract negotiations, the band will have to complete their current tour before any new studio recordings take place. In a later interview on VH1’s Top 20 Countdown, the band said « A new album will be coming out as soon as our tours are done and when we get a record deal. »
The band were honorees by Nickelback at the second annual VH1 Rock Honors on May 24, 2007, along with Ozzy Osbourne, Genesis and Heart.
ZZ Top’s « Sharp Dressed Man » is a song on the video game Guitar Hero, for the Playstation 2 & their song « La Grange » is a song in Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock.
Dusty Hill did a voice over for an episode of King Of The Hill portraying him as a cousin of the show’s star Hank Hill.
Billy Gibbons appeared on the Nickelback album « All the Right Reasons » on the tracks « Follow You Home », « Fight for All the Wrong Reasons », and « Rockstar ». He also appeared in the newly released video of Rockstar.
The band’s most recent (and currently ongoing) tour was kicked off in the intimate surroundings of the House of Blues on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood. Since then, they have moved back on to larger venues, and their 2007 USA tour will keep them on the road until the end of August, with only the month of July being free of US tour dates.
July was originally intended for a whistlestop European tour, however this has been cancelled for medical reasons. A press release issued by the band quotes Dusty’s otolaryngologist, who stated that Dusty was to receive treatment for a benign inner ear growth affecting his hearing.
This press release confirmed rumours of the European cancellation, which had been circulating in northern European newspapers for several days. At present, there is no indication that any dates in the USA will be affected by Dusty’s treatment.
1971 ZZ Top’s First Album
1972 Rio Grande Mud
1973 Tres Hombres
1981 El Loco
The Best of ZZ Top (1977)
The ZZ Top Six Pack (1987) (First five albums, plus « El Loco », their seventh, remastered on three CDs)
Greatest Hits (1992)
One Foot in the Blues (1994) (Compilation of previously released blues songs)
Chrome, Smoke & BBQ (2003) (Comprehensive 4-Disc Box Set of London and Warner Bros. recordings)
Rancho Texicano (2004) (2-Disc Greatest Hits Compilation of London and Warner Bros. recordings)
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