The Classic Midnight Album – ZZ Top Eliminator
Tonight (January 13) on the famous midnight classic album on Radio Nova, we’re playing ZZ Top’s Eliminator.
The album is presented in its entirety, without advertising or interruption.
Formed in Texas in 1979 by singer-guitarist Billy Gibbons, later joined by drummer Frank Beard and singer-bassist Dusty Hill, ZZ Top began life as a blues rock band. They scored their first American Top 10 album with Tres Hombres from 1973. In 1976, the trio took a three-year hiatus as Beard tried to shake off his drug addiction.
Upon their return in 1979 with the platinum record Degüello, Gibbons and Hill now sported their iconic beards, making ZZ Top one of the most recognizable groups in rock music.
In 1980, ZZ Top made an appearance on the BBC’s The Old Gray Whistle Test. New Wave Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark (OMD) was also featured on the show. Gibbons was won over by OMD’s synth sound and decided to incorporate synths and drum machines into ZZ Top. This first manifested itself on El Loco in 1981, but did find its way onto ZZ Top’s eighth album, Eliminator.
Along with engineer Linden Hudson, Gibbons became obsessed with using drum machines to create a tight tempo, with most of the songs on the album employing 120 beats per minute, a tempo typically associated with disco up to this point. . Gibbons and Hudson would write most of the music and lyrics for The Eliminator, with Beard playing golf for most of the process. Hill and Beard were largely absent from the recording process with a drum machine replacing Beard and Hudson’s keyboard bass overtaking Hill’s bass guitar.
Eliminator offers 11 tracks. On the A side is Gimme All Your Loving; put me under pressure; Pointed dressed man; I need you tonight; and I had all six. On side B are the legs; Thug; TV dinners; Dirty Dog; If only I could point it out; Bad girl.
Released on March 23, 1983, Eliminator became ZZ Top’s first international hit, reaching number three in the UK and number nine in the US. To date, it has sold over 20 million copies, making it ZZ Top’s best-selling album.
Much of Eliminator’s success lay in the band’s adoption of the music videos. Backed by distinctive music videos with a strong spin on MTV, Gimme All Your Lovin, Sharp Dressed Man and Legs all made the Top 40 in the United States, with the latter reaching number three on the singles charts. The Legacy promo won the MTV Video Music Award for Best Group.
Many traditional ZZ Top fans were unhappy with the band’s new commercial sound, accusing them of selling themselves. Hill compared the reaction to Bob Dylan going electric. Eliminator earned the group a new fan base among young MTV viewers. Critics were receptive to ZZ Top’s new leadership, finding their happy and lucky outlook refreshing compared to their more serious hard rock contemporaries. Rolling Stone ranks Eliminator at number 398 on its list of the 500 best albums of all time.
Put on your fake beard and sunglasses tonight at midnight when we play Eliminator in its entirety.