Friday, January 4, 2013

ZZ Top, "Just Got Paid"

More than any other rock band, ZZ Top has the world figured out. The same three guys for over forty years, setting standards for the perfect amount of chords, styles, dances, cars, girls, fashions, guest appearances and hand motions for a rock band to have. They had the prescience to hop into synth-rock in the '80s, and the sense to stay away from the '90s alternative. There's never too much or too little with Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard. Drama, conflict, excess--the themes that most rock bands count on are nowhere to be found on ZZ Top records.

"Just Got Paid," an album track from 1972's Rio Grande Mud, predated both Aerosmith and AC/DC in inserting the blues into hard rock, and unlike either of those bands' songs (or nearly all Zeppelin, for that matter), "Just Got Paid" could have been released on Chess Records. It's Top'd up with a slide guitar solo and a breakdown, and it rocks hard enough for Mastodon, Steve Albini and Ministry to have all covered it. Each version, even in Ministry's melodramatic hands and Albini's abrasiveness, brings out the tres hombres in its performer, proof that ZZ Top's composure isn't just in the stars, it's in the songs.

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