Life-changing Album Series, pt. 4 

Local musician and songwriter Doug Walters (of FunHouse, Torture Town, The Problems) recently put some words together about the albums that had the most profound effect on him and changed his life. This is the part four of the ongoing weekly series:

ALBUM(s) #4

ZZ Top’s Fandango and Degüello

0aa8/1240431385-fandango.jpg My uncle came over one day with a Sony Walkman. I thought it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen. I think I was in the seventh grade. He let me borrow it. The cassette tape had just hit the scene. I didn’t own any yet. So he gave me one to rock the Walkman with. It was a double album: Fandango on one side and Degüello on the other. I wasn’t hip to the Top yet, and what I thought was just a sample tape to enjoy the Walkman experience ended up being a life changing album.

Fandango is a two-part album. A live performance from New Orleans on one side, and a studio album on the other. I never completely connected to the live side, but the studio stuff was cool. Especially “Blue Jean Blues.” That song killed me. All that sweet guitar. With the simple, clean production, it really sounded like you were right there in the room with them. I’d close my eyes and imagine the scene. It was very easy to do with the headphones. It made the listening experience so much more intimate. And “Tush,” featuring Dusty hill on lead vocals, was a lot of fun. (Especially back then, before it’d been played a million times.) Who doesn’t love a song about booty?

The way Billy Gibbons played and sang really struck a chord with me. He’s another cat that hits you right in the heart. A real mutha. Like Hendrix, Gibbons was a lot of things rolled up in one: funk, soul, blues, boogie, rock, even a little country. With that big, beautiful tone. He pretty much started the Texas blues-rock thing. “Sexy tough,” my brother and I later named it. Probably my all time favorite sound. Stevie Ray, Ian Moore, Doyle Bramhall II, Chris Duarte, and Johnny Lang were a few of the many to follow in Gibbons’ bootprints.

It was Degüello that really knocked me out. Right from the start. From the Sam & Dave hit, “Thank You” to the somber closer “Esther Be The One,” I was hooked. Every song was cool. That is what makes an album classic. I still rock this album just as hard these days. If I ever want to lift the mood or if I ever get around to cleaning the house (it happens), Degüello is the go-to album. Of all the vinyl I own, I rock this album the most.

It had a lot of the same sensibilities as Skynyrd’s and The Allman Brothers’ work, but slightly less caucasian. And with a little more grease. And, also not unlike Skynryd, it had both the tongue in cheek humor I and the brawn too. A band and an album you could real get down and party with. Good time music. But also dig on seriously. “Cheap Sunglasses” is a good example. A chuckler at the beginning a mean barn burner at the end.

da96/1240765773-deg__ello.jpg I’ve always thought Degüello was perfectly sequenced. The flow of that album is just right. There is a fine art to that. ZZ Top always played the humble card hard, but make no mistake, their musicality is way up there. They trick you into thinking they are just a lil’ old band from Texas, but they got the shit down proper.

This is another album that me and my dad bonded on, giving it an extra special place in my heart. Billy Gibbons was one of the few things that me and the old man saw eye to eye on. We especially dug the little ad lib things Billy would throw in and the way he would say certain words. And of course, the sweet licks.

The Top is much more commercial these days, but they are still always honest and real and have the grit and the Texas down-to-earthness. I saw them when they came to the performing arts center last year. I had a front row seat right in front of Billy. He killed me. All the old times and the connection with my dad was on my mind. It put a smile in my heart, like they always do.


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