ZZ Top is a prime example of how the sound of even established rock acts changed during the electronic music explosion of the 1980s. Long a Southern Rock favorite, the band’s blues sound changed during the early 1980s to incorporate keyboards and even sequenced drums. The sound allowed the group’s 1983 album Eliminator to become of the best sellers of the decade and ushered in a commercial resurgence for the group.  The group’s long beards became a pop culture phenomena, especially for fans who had either never heard of the group or who were unfamiliar with their look.

Eliminator featured five hit singles, and has sold over 10 million copies in the U.S. Many of the music videos followed a similar storyline. The “male fantasy come to life” included the Eliminator car, along with the members of ZZ Top as sort of guardian angels who would provide the keys to the car to the video’s protagonist. Attractive women were also a key element to the videos. The series started with “Gimme All Your Lovin’” and then continued through “Sharped Dressed Man” and concluded with “Legs”.  The second video is my personal favorite.

In the 1980s it was not uncommon for credible rock bands to include keyboards, even ones that sounded very synthetic. As such, ZZ Top never lost credibility with rock audiences when they also became popular with fans of top 40 pop.  With “Sharped Dressed Man” this rock appeal is helped by a long guitar solo outro by Billy Gibbons.

After Eliminator, ZZ Top’s next several albums continued with the electronic elements. The group’s last studio album was in 2003 though the group continues to tour.