ZZ Top

Vinyl Friday #12: ZZ Top “Fandango”


A good chunk of albums I own belong to my parents. I’ve said this before that it was the two of them that helped me dig out the old turntable. Their legacy in the record collection is a bit uneven, but almost always worth keeping. Since this Sunday is Father’s Day, I decided to go with a pick an album of my dad’s and why not choose one from his favourite band? Yes indeed, ZZ Top’s 1975 album Fangango!

ZZ Top is a band that has pretty much staked its claim as the band always making an appearances at every family gathering at our household. That Southern blues bland is pretty much one long sound of my childhood. Dusty, Frank and Billy were probably some of the first musicians whose names I learned. I thought “Legs” and “La Grange” were as great as the songs on the first CD I ever owned – Aqua’s Aquarium.

It goes without saying my dad loves ZZ Top a lot and we never go very far without them.

Parents being youngin’s in the 70s.

This was my first taste of blues music at that age. That’s the joy of growing up with everyone’s music around you at such a young age. Somedays it was my mother’s jazz radio station, other days it was my sister’s boy bands she worshiped, and there were even days I listened to Tejano music when my oldest sister became fully immersed in Selena-fever. But it was always my dad’s music that prevailed over all (mostly because Dad is in charge of everything).

My parents are pretty shy when talking about their early years, but I do know a few things:my dad owned an orange Dodge Charger, my mom would skip school and they were both total hotties. It was the 70’s in Wisconsin. I can completely picture my father driving in that sports car to meet his friends – drinking beer and listening to ZZ Top.

Fandango! is a half-live, half-studio album fresh off the back of the band’s first to-be-iconic album Tres Hombres. The split sound makes for a bit of an unusual record. A majority of the live tracks like “Jailhouse Rock” and “Mellow Down Easy” are covers. They are an incredible live band (I saw them live in 2011 and they were still great) and the first sounds as boozey as you’d like. Side B would have been a great start to a studio album to live up to Tres Hombres. The decision to make each a half instead of two wholes is a bit puzzling, but still enjoyable.

Yes this could have been a lot better, but it’s still one of the best releases the band has to date. Fandango! is everything you’d expect from what’s written on the label label. It’s bluesy, no-nonsense music with great guitars.

I’ll always maintain the idea that my parents are some of the coolest cats ever. They’ve had their hands full with three daughters, but have yet to crack. I think it’s that reason why their favourite music feels a bit special. Even at the height of my twee phase, I always had time for ZZ Top. It’s beer-guzzlin’, balls-to-the-wall blues music. It might not be pretty, but it is pretty damn fun.

What albums remind you of your father?

P1010189Inner sleeve text: “ZZ Top’s first annual Texas size rompin’ stopin’ barndance & Bar B.Q. Austin – Summer ’74 with 80,000 friends.” The live album was recorded at The Warehouse in New Orleans. Close enough.

Not going to quote Peter, Paul and Mary.

As usual, time has gotten away faster than I could have ever imagined. What then felt like ages ago is now tomorrow: I am leaving to visit home. Indeed, we are taking the ‘London’ out of ‘American of London.’ For two weeks this blog should be ‘American back home in that place she hated growing up in’ or ‘American can finally go to the dentist’ or even the thought provoking ‘Person.’ Regardless, in a day I’m getting on a plane and being shipped back off to the Midwest. Frightening.

I’ve always believed that music sounds different according to your geography. Take Junior Murvin in the States, UK or Jamaica and each time ‘Police and Thieves’ is on it will mean something entirely unique. Where we are shapes the social context. Magically changes the sound. So I complied a list of songs that sounded like home (or what I remember it to sound like).

This may or may not be what I actually listen to when I go home. Chances are it will be all 80s pop and hair metal (80’s Night Downtown, am I right?). Each song was chosen with a purpose. I had to start everything off with Fankie Yankovic’s version of the ‘Beer Barrel Polka.’ Nothing is more painfully Wisconsin than that song. ZZ Top and Tommy James were picked to represent my dad and mom respectively.

But most of the songs were chosen because they remind me of that space and clean air of home. I’ll miss London a lot while I’m gone, but it will be so good to be in America again because that’s where McLean sounds the best.