Apr 012020
 

Ever have one of those moments when you reflect and say to yourself, “It’s time I try being a better person; it’s time I give [insert thing you’ve never liked] a chance”? I had one of those moment last week, when I decided to give ZZ Top a chance.

Social distancing has opened my mind and heart to all sorts of things I’d normally not watch on Netflix, like Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop Lab series. How much more annoying could a ZZ Top documentary, That Little Ol’ Band From Texas, be than a 6-part series featuring Paltrow and her fellow vocal fry lackeys self-obsessing over touchy-feely subjects that first came into being to make us better people spiritually, not worse?

To my surprise and delight, to my edification as an evolved, better person, the ZZ Top documentary was not bad at all. I realized at least 5 things from watching this program:

  1. The members of ZZ Top are way more articulate and engaging than I was expecting.
  2. Billy Gibbons is and always has been much thinner than I realized. (What is with the insertion of the middle initial F, though?)
  3. The band spend most of its career looking like regular, cowboy dudes, which was a much less annoying Look than their bearded, sharp-dressed man shtick of the MTV age. I barely paid any attention to ZZ Top in their first 10 years, but had I, I would have been much less put off by simply looking at them. Hearing those old songs again, I still don’t get much pleasure out of them, but their instrument tones are sweet. Their surge in popularity thanks to the MTV hits explains so much of what I don’t like about that band. Had it not been for that evolution in their career, I could have happily ignored them through the glory years of RTH and saved Townsman hrrundivbakshi much heartache.
  4. I still don’t care for Prince.
  5. Beside some footage of vultures sitting back by drummer Frank Beard, which we’d uncovered years ago in our Bullshit On series regarding the alleged tour featuring livestock, there’s nothing more to prove that bison and bucking broncos and whatnot actually shared the stage with the band. Come on, an entire segment of the doc highlights this part of the band’s mythology, including an interview with a rodeo clown who was supposedly hired to wrangle the animals, and we don’t even get a still image of a bison sharing a mic with Dusty Hill? I smell a page taken from the playbook of that Scorsese doc on Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Review.
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Dec 242015
 

Flunk Punks “Guitar Tech” Paul Shields, with THE INFAMOUS YAMAHA DT 175 IN THE BACKGROUND!

Happy holidays, Rock Town Hall members and hangers-on!

As has become a bit of a tradition ’round these parts, on this festive day of the year, I present you with the annual telling of my greatest moment of rock embarrassment — namely, the story of The Day I Rode My Motorcycle On-stage at School Assembly and Proceeded to Suck Mightily. This year, however…there’s more!

First of all, there are pictures to share, culled from dusty old photo albums–including, as you’ll see above, a picture of the actual motorcycle! I wish I had pictures of all the members of the “band,” but there seem to be just a few in my possession. Perhaps more illuminating, I’ve managed to gather a few recollections of the event from other members of the Flunk Punks! This year, I managed to track down two: David “Bertie” Bertram and Peter Horn. Peter was characteristically taciturn about the whole affair, but Bertie remembered something I’d long since forgotten: the Flunk Punks “groupies!”

Anyway, the story proceeds below, followed by our star witnesses’ commentary. Enjoy, and–best wishes for the season, RTH!

HVB

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Apr 152014
 

He doesn't want to make it cry or sing.

He doesn’t want to make it cry or sing.

Townsman hrrundivbakshi may want to take a seat before reading this. If there’s a fourth member of his Holy Trinity of Rock (ie, ELO, Prince, and ZZ Top), it may be AC/DC. Here goes…

Reports are flying around that the band is going to call it quits in the wake of rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young‘s recent stroke. This is sad news, obviously. Although I’ve never been a big fan of AC/DC, years of prodding by my close personal friend Townsman Sethro, finally turned me onto the genius of their economical hard rock production power. The band has good hooks to boot, that I came around to enjoying as long as I could block out either of their meathead singers. Watching their videos over the last 15 years of my semi-enlightenment regarding the band’s merits, I was always struck by the dedication and focus of Malcolm Young on rhythm guitar. He seemed to define all that is right in a dedicated rhythm guitarist. He’s the rhythm brother that John Fogerty probably wished Tom would have been, or Mark Knopfler’s would-be rhythm brother, the one who “doesn’t want to make it cry or sing.” The guy was a rhythm machine, with seemingly no need to hog the spotlight. He just kept his head bobbing, his forearms pumping, and the band chugging ahead.

I’ve never known much about how AC/DC operated. I found this passage in the story linked above especially meaningful:

Continue reading »

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Aug 132013
 

Last week I was driving around and flipped the dial to my local Oldies station. Prince‘s “1999” was getting underway. That’s one of the few Prince songs I kind of like (although I don’t like it as much as Madonna’s “Like a Virgin,” which always sounds to me like a better version of the same song). I decided to stop flipping and listen to the entire song, anticipating the “I’m a bigger man” character building side benefits to come.

The more I tried to throw myself into the mild enjoyment I get from “1999” the more I felt myself getting perplexed by the song’s rhythm track. People like to dance to that song, don’t they? “It’s got a lousy beat, and you can dance to it!” I imagine some kid telling Dick Clark.

I don’t dance, but I was trying to imagine what elements of the song I might let flow through my hips, if my body ever worked that way in the presence of music. The electronic drums are nothing to write home about. There’s a repeating electronic tom-tom fill that’s especially annoying. The song has very little in the way of bass. What’s at the bottom end may be some kind of synth-bass that’s triggered by the artificial, never-varying drum beat. What in “1999” makes people feel like dancing? Is the rhythmic interplay of the funk guitars and the vocals enough? Is this how people dance to forms of folk music completely lacking drums and bass?

Following “1999” was a song that I can easily imagine dancing to, The Rolling Stones‘ “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” I focused on the drum-and-bass parts. Charlie Watts barely varies his simple kick-snare pattern. The bass is cool, moving all around that simple drum part. The maracas are outstanding. If I were capable of dancing, this is the kind of song that would draw me to the dance floor. Is it because the drums, however invariable, are real? Is it because the bass adds variety? Is it because the maracas are so outstanding?

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Aug 102013
 

Group shot of World Texas Tour road crew.

Group shot of World Texas Tour road crew.

You may recall a series of Bullshit On threads doubting tales of ZZ Top touring with longhorn steer, bison, vultures, goats, barnyard cats, and rattlesnakes onstage. The continuing quest to validate ZZ Top’s purported onstage livestock display for its 1976 Worldwide Texas Tour has taken a baby step forward with the following photo, provided by Townsman jungleland2. Let’s see who’s willing to shoot down the veracity of the flying bison pictured behind the band! Undeniable evidence…after the jump!

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Mar 132013
 

Mad props! Much love and congrats to a founding Townsman who’s wife has given birth to their first baby girl! I can’t believe all the time we spend shooting the breeze over important topics like ELO, Prince, and ZZ Top, yet I had no idea (or memory, most likely, considering all the brain space I tend to use contemplating the implications of the mysterious hitchhiker hippie character in Easy Rider) of this man’s most important delivery ever! I’ll let the man spread the news and his musical aspirations for his daughter on his own time. You will be a great dad, my friend.

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