If you have trace memories of immortal Houston blues-rock combo ZZ Top, it's probably of two bears with long beards spinning guitars, a drummer without a beard (named Beard), and legs ("she's got . . . 'em"). A few years before that, though, just before punk broke, Circus Magazine described the band as "blue-collar nihilistic" and "cornered animals gone nasty" (thanks, Chuck Eddy, for reminding us in your new pop genealogy Rock and Roll Always Forgets). This was the period when Lemmy started Mötorhead by playing a lot of ZZ Top covers, recalling the brutal, lysergic roots of the psychedelic trio's origins and most of its formative years. Third LP Tres Hombres is easily one of the top LPs of 1973, its road-tested swelter-boogie featuring a balls-out tribute to a bordello (first hit, "La Grange"), along with garage-gospel ("Precious & Grace") and the origins of cow punk ("Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers"). Inspired by greats like John Lee Hooker and the Stones, Billy Gibbons (vocals, guitar), Dusty Hill (bass, backing vocals), and Frank Beard (those so-tight drums) spent several '70s LPs being as soulful and organically powerful as peyote and BBQ. That's right up 'til 1979's Degüello, when the robot-rock set into their video-ready rhythms and they became ubiquitous on MTV three years later. Everything they did was as infectious as venom, but real riff fans grit their teeth at those stupid jokes about facial hair and synthesizers, knowing deep in their hearts that ZZ Top was as important as AC/DC and Sonic Youth, and sounded like both, often at the same time.
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