“He’s this fictitious character who was the only way that ZZ Top was going to get to play another ballad. The way he came up was, ‘How would a ZZ Top fan allow such a beautiful, lush bed of sound into their realm?’ The pretty music had to have a rough boy in it. He’s there. On El Loco we did ‘Leila’ which is ZZ Top-meets-the-Beach Boys. I don’t think it worked as well as, say, a synth programmer meeting a rap guy in an alley in New York. The only thing is, how long is it going to be before somebody says, ‘Hey, man! You the rough boy?’ How are you going to answer that?”
— Billy Gibbons, on Rough Boy
Today’s video of the day is the video for Rough Boy, a.k.a. ZZ Top In Space.
After spending the previous four ZZ Top videos changing lives and saving relationships, Billy Gibbons’s car, the Eliminator, achieved it’s final destiny by becoming a space shuttle and breaking free of the Earth’s atmosphere. In this video, the Eliminator docks into a space station, where it gets washed and impresses a robot about whom it can truly be said, “She’s got legs.” In fact, that’s all she’s got.
Rough Boy has a notably slower tempo than many of ZZ Top’s other songs and the same thing can be said of this video. It’s a good video but it still feels different from what we typically think of when we think about ZZ Top. This video says that the Eliminator and the band have both earned the right to take it easy and enjoy a good sponge bath.
Like the video for Sleeping Bag,Rough Boy was directed by Steve Barron. Barron is officially credited with having directed 74 music videos, including the famous animated video for a-Ha’s Take Me On.
“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, andLegs) 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.
“I was driving in Los Angeles, and there was this unusual downpour. And there was a real pretty girl on the side of the road. I passed her, and then I thought, ‘Well, I’d better pull over’ or at least turn around and offer her a ride, and by the time I got back she was gone. Her legs were the first thing I noticed. Then I noticed that she had a Brooke Shields hairdo that was in danger of falling. She was not going to get wet. She had legs and she knew how to use them.”
— Billy Gibbons, on the inspiration behind Legs
With Legs, the third of their Eliminator videos (following Gimme All Your Lovin’ and Sharp Dressed Man), ZZ Top showed that they knew better than to mess with a good thing. This video follows the same plot as the previous two videos, except this time it’s a young woman (played by Wendy Frazier) getting the help of the ZZ Top girls instead of a young man. I don’t know how the video’s heroine ended up working in the Hellscape that opens this video but it’s a good thing that the ghosts of ZZ Top were around to help her. As the video makes clear from the start, she does have legs and, after a trip in the Eliminator and a makeover, she knows how to use them.
The three ZZ Top girls were played by brunette Jeana Tomasino, blonde Daniele Arnaud, and Kymberly Herrin, who is identifiable by the red top she’s wearing. Tomasino and Arnaud appeared in the previous Eliminator videos while Herrin made her first appearance in this video.
Like the previous two videos, Legs was directed by Tim Newman. Though the girls and the Eliminator would return for one more video, Newman would not. Sleeping Bag would be directed by Steve Barron and we’ll see how he did tomorrow.
“Sharp-dressed depends on who you are. If you’re on a motorcycle, really sharp leather is great. If you’re a punk rocker, you can get sharp that way. You can be sharp or not sharp in any mode. It’s all in your head. If you feel sharp, you be sharp.”
— Dusty Hill, bassist, ZZ Top
The video for Sharp Dressed Man picks where the video for Gimme All Your Lovin’ left off. The three girls are still driving the Eliminator, the ghosts of ZZ Top are still giving away the keys to the car, and Peter Tramm is still stuck in a job where he gets no respect. In Gimme All Your Lovin’, Tramm was a gas station attendant. In this video, he’s working as a valet at an exclusive club and not even Truman Capote is willing to give him any respect. Luckily, the ghosts of ZZ Top have not forgotten about Tramm and, after one ride in the Eliminator, Tramm is ready to hit the dance floor and win the love of the young woman (played by Galyn Gorg) who earlier looked back at him while being dragged into the club by her boorish boyfriend. By the end of the video, even Truman Capote is getting down!
Sharp Dressed Man remains one of ZZ Top’s signature songs and this video is still among their best-remembered. It’s not surprising that the video was an MTV hit because, for many members of the then-young network’s audience, it was the ultimate in wish-fulfillment. No matter who you were or who was treating you with disrespect, there was always a chance that ZZ Top might appear and toss you the keys to Billy Gibbons’s car.
Like Gimme All Your Lovin’, this video was directed by Randy Newman’s brother, Tim. Tim Newman would return to direct the next installment in the adventures of the Eliminator and the ZZ Top Girls, Legs. Anyone want to guess what tomorrow’s music video of the day is going to be?
Judging from this video, the early 80s were a mystical time when the ghosts of ZZ Top haunted the desert and improved the lives of random people. That was the plot of three of ZZ Top’s best-known videos, the first one of which was for Gimme All Your Lovin’.
This video follows a gas station attendant (played by Peter Tramm) as he not only gets to go on an adventure with the “ZZ Girls” but also gets to drive the ZZ car, a red, 1933 Ford coupe known as “The Eliminator.” At the end of the video, he wakes up to discover that it was all a dream. Or was it?
Though ZZ Top had been performing since 1969 and had a dedicated fan base of Southern rock enthusiasts, the video for Gimme All Your Lovin’ was largely responsible for introducing them to the MTV generation. It also introduced some of the best-known parts of the ZZ Top mythology. In particular, the famous ZZ Top hand gesture started with this video. It wasn’t planned ahead-of-time. Instead, the members of the band had done several shots in which they watched the Eliminator drive by them and they came up with the gesture out of pure boredom.
The Eliminator belonged to Billy Gibbons and, by putting it in the video and on the cover of the band’s latest album (which was also named after the car), Gibbons was able to write off, as a business expense, all the money that he had previously spent buying and restoring the car. Gibbons may have simply been trying to get out of debt but the car went on to become the best-known symbol of the band.
This video was directed by Tim Newman, who was the brother of Randy Newman. Newman would also direct the two sequels to Gimme All Your Lovin’, Sharp-Dressed Man and Legs.
“Gimme all your lovin’ All your hugs and kisses too, Gimme all your lovin’ Don’t let up until we’re through.”
I didn’t know what blues and blues rock was when I first heard it on the radio and then watched it on MTV. I did know that they had a real unique sound that was very much like rock, but also had a sort of country vibe to it.
One of the first bands of blues rock that I really ended up being a fan of was ZZ Top and it was mainly due to their three videos for three singles off of their Eliminator album. The first one that I saw was for the track “Gimme All Your Lovin’“.
The video itself was just very cool. It had everything a young boy was curious about. Cars, girls and rock and roll. Well, mostly it was the girls and the video to this song introduced the “Three ZZ Girls”.
It was much, much later in high school that I went back to listening to ZZ Top and their songs and realize that they were pretty much singing about sex, sex and more sex to the tune of Texas boogie blues. I ended up loving the band even more then.