Put on your “Cheap Sunglasses” and do the “Tube Snake Boogie” as you “Party on the Patio” with ZZ Top’s newest offering. The Rick Rubin-produced Texicali EP which became available on June 5th, 2012 is a return to the more classic bluesy sound of earlier ZZ records before the synthesisers and drum kits of the 80’s took over. The four tracks on the EP are from the forthcoming, as yet untitled, CD due out before the end of the year. Rick Rubin is probably one of the most important producers of our time, having worked with many bands including Aerosmith, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Four Horsemen, Slayer, The Cult, AC/DC and Metallica. The Tres Hombres boogie their way through the four tracks and as one would expect after over forty years together, gel well and leave us anxiously awaiting the full-length recording. A quote from Classic Rock Magazine posted on ZZ’s website states “Three years in the making and nine years on from their last album, they’re back with a new record with Rick Rubin at the helm and a rocket up their ass.”
After listening to ZZ Top’s long-awaited new EP Texicali, I was reminded of a different time in my life. Twenty-two years ago as a seventeen-year-old kid trying to manage the pressures of daily life, schoolwork, parents and peer pressure, I, with the help of “That Little Ol’ Band From Texas” was able to bring an evening of joy and excitement to a close friend.
We had met at the start of the school year and quickly became best friends in the month that we had known each other. At the time, he was having an extremely difficult go in his home life and he spent a lot of time at my place with my family, becoming an “adopted” brother and son. We were inseparable and spent all of our free time together with ZZ Top being one of our common bonds, often performing the classic ‘finger sway” wearing our “cheap sunglasses” as we walked to and from school.
As soon as I heard the concert announcement I knew this was our thing! I presented him with the ticket on his birthday and the mounting excitement as we counted down the days, hanging out in my basement spinning the Afterburner record or the Recycler cassette side after side was almost unbearable for us. Finally the night of Thursday, October 11th, 1990 rolled around and we made the long trek from our small town north of Toronto to the bright lights of the big city.
This was probably my fourth or fifth concert by this time and I remember feeling an overwhelming sense of pride to be taking my best friend to his first ever show and hopefully bring some joy into his troubled teenage years. The excitement building and our hearts pounding in our chests we followed the throng into Maple Leaf Gardens, our feet barely touching the ground as we were swept to the merchandise booth. After surrendering our hard earned cash, we tightly clutched our swag, consisting of tour shirts, tour photo books and a silver keychain in the shape of the “ZZ” logo.
Eagerly finding and taking our seats, we settled in for the long wait until the opening act took the stage, amusing ourselves between the standard pre-concert tunes on the PA system and making a careful study of the female concert goers flowing around the arena. Every time that we would spot a young lady that we particularly admired, we would “cheers” each other by clinking our shiny new “ZZ” keychains together. Hey, we were seventeen and we thought we were cool!
After the opening act had left the stage the change of sets began and the seventeen-year-old angst of ogling girls resumed, the “ZZ” clink chiming every time, the chatter inevitably took on the subject of the dreams of being a roadie on tour with ZZ Top. The minutes flew by and before too long ZZ Top took the stage, blasting into “Planet of Women”. Their show included past hits as well as material from the latest Recycler album and all the ZZ gimmicks were present in full force, spinning fuzzy guitars, moving sidewalks, flashing lights, girls and flowing beards. Thoroughly pumped, we were on our feet, laughing and cheering on every song until finally Frank Beard, Dusty Hill, and Billy Gibbons thanked the crowd and left the stage. My friend started to collect his things and made a move to begin exiting the stadium. “Where are you going?” I shouted. Being his first show, he had no idea about encores! “If you scream and make noise as loud as you can, they will come back out”, I explained. The lights flashed back on as an uproarious cheer from the audience signified the Tres Hombres return to the stage and before I could say “I told you so!” the keychains were out and “clinking” as the opening notes of “La Grange” assaulted our ears.
That’s how I remember my experience twenty-two years ago seeing one of my all-time favourite bands. Although we lost touch when he moved some four hours away to live with his father not long after this concert, I feel that I helped to bring some happiness into the life of my troubled friend and to this day the “ZZ Top logo keychain” hangs in my room and wherever he is, I know that he’s doing just fine, cheers man………..”clink”.