Album Review – Deguello

In the 70’s and 80’s, there was hardly a cooler band than ZZ Top. The long beards, the cheap sunglasses, the fuzzy guitars, the MTV videos, all made for legendary Rock and Roll. The trio made up of Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard were the epitome of ‘coolness’, consistently serving up a spicy blues version of rock and roll tunes about hot girls and hot cars. Deguello was the band’s sixth studio album, released in 1979. That little ol’ Band from Texas had a thing for Spanish album names, having already enjoyed a fair amount of success with Tre Hombres and Tejas. 

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Deguello means ‘complete destruction of the enemy without any mercy’, which is signified on the album cover with the bullets piercing through a white surrender flag. The inside album sleeve reiterates this sentiment with the phrase ‘Expect No Quarter!’ The wildly creative album art was designed by Bill Narum who was also the artist behind so many other ZZ Top albums.

Because the band had been in hiatus for a couple years, many critics thought maybe they were finished. ZZ Top was not finished though. They hadn’t surrendered at all. In fact, they were about to go on a run of success that would put many more songs on the charts; tunes that would live on in rock music infamy, and eventually propel them into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. 

Deguello boasts of several songs that still receive considerable radio play. I Thank You, I’m Bad I’m Nationwide, Manic Mechanic and Cheap Sunglasses are the anchor songs on the album that have maintained their staying power for decades. There’s a universal appeal to the kind of epic songs that provoke the irresistable urge to blast the car stereo and press down on the gas pedal, and that’s what ZZ Top does best with this album. The tough-guy, gearhead lyrics sung by those unmistakeable raspy voices laid over top of sassy guitar and tight drum rhythms compel you hit replay and come back for more. 

Well I was movin’ down the road in my V-8 Ford
I had a shine on my boots, I had my sideburns lowered
With my New York brim and my gold tooth displayed
Nobody give me trouble ’cause they know I got it made
I’m bad, I’m nationwide
Well I’m bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, I’m nationwide

Sometimes simple is best. No one would accuse ZZ Top of being lyricly clever. There is nothing complicated here. By the same token however, nothing says ‘coolness’ like Cheap Sunglasses:

Now go out and get yourself some thick black frames
With the glass so dark
They won’t even know your name
And the choice is up to you cause they come in two classes
Rhinestone shades
And cheap sunglasses
Oh yeah

ZZ Top is the kind of band that likes to throw a surprise or two into their music every once in a while. A horn section manages to find its way into the second tune on the album, She Loves My Automobile. The term ‘automobile’ and the use of horns in a Rock and Roll song doesn’t sound very hip, but ZZ Top pulls it off with matchless style in this catchy song. The muscle car engine revving in Manic Mechanic and machine gun shots in Esther Be the One adds a twist to the music that helps put those songs in a category all by themselves. We may wonder who Esther is (and her sister), but the song stands out as being ominously different from the rest. It’s a really well done tune and a great one to wrap up the album. 

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While all the charts have other ZZ albums listed higher in popularity and sales, Deguello is a really nice addition to any music library. It is a complete package of amazing album art, fun lyrics and super smooth Texas-style Rock and Roll sounds.

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