“Sleeping bags used to be a real drag to contend with, when you’re in the Boy Scouts and the best you can do is one of those Army sleeping bags. The old-timey kind that were heavy. Then in the late ’60s or ’70s, they came out with those down-filled bags that roll up into the size of a cantaloupe. It’s changed the whole idea of a sleeping bag. I had one of those that looks just like a mummy case. That’s where the line in the song comes from: ‘Sleep beside the pharoahs in the shifting sands.'”
— Billy Gibbons
“I used to own a sleeping bag. I used to go camping. But I don’t own a sleeping bag now. I own a sleeping bag in my mind.”
— Dusty Hill
Sleeping Bag was the first single to be released off of ZZ Top’s follow-up to Eliminator, Afterburner. Both the band and Warner Bros. felt that the perfect way to transition from the Eliminator songs to the Afterburner songs would be to make one more video featuring the ZZ Top girls and Billy Gibbons’s car. However, when director Tim Newman (who previously did Gimme All Your Lovin, Sharp Dressed Man, and Legs) was approached to direct the video, he wanted more money than the label was willing to pay. As a result, Steve Barron was hired to direct instead and the end result was a video that was much different from the previous three Eliminator videos.
In this video, the band and the ZZ Top Girls go from giving makeovers to saving lives. When a young couple (played by Heather Langenkamp and John Dye) is menaced by two rednecks in a monster truck, the Eliminator sacrifices itself to keep them safe. Don’t worry, though. Apparently, the ghosts of ZZ Top have been keeping a space shuttle in Egypt. It all makes sense when you consider that this was the 80s and everyone was obsessed with space shuttles and monster trucks.
Heather Langenkamp made this video a year after starring in A Nightmare on Elm Street and, not surprisingly, several parts of the video seem like they could have been lifted from Wes Craven’s seminal horror film. The shadows of the rednecks outside the tent seem like they are intentionally meant to bring to mind Freddy Krueger.
Steve Barron was another one of those directors who seemed to work with almost everyone. He would go on to direct ZZ Top’s next video, Rough Boy, which we’ll look at tomorrow.