‘Same three guys, same three chords’: ZZ Top celebrates 30th anniversary of smash hit Eliminator

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For ZZ Top, 1983’s Eliminator was a turning point, in more ways than one. Billy Gibbons and Co. would never have more commercial success, but they would never sound more commercial, either — memorably experimenting with synthesizers, sequencers and drum machines.

The challenge, Gibbons says in the interview beloew, was updating the ZZ Top sound without losing the fun-loving attitude that had helped establish the band’s legacy in the first place.

“We were experimenting with different kinds of musical instruments,” Gibbons says, “and we were successful in immediately throwing the manuals away. We didn’t get too enmeshed in trying to learn too much. As long as we could twist some knobs and make them sound like garbage cans, we’d done our job.”

A worldwide No. 1 hit, Eliminator would sell more than 10 million copies on the strength of hits like “Sharp Dressed Man,” Gimme All Your Lovin,'” “Legs,” “TV Dinners” and “Got Me Under Pressure.”

Gibbons says there’s a reason the experimentation worked, even if the band occasionally struggled with all of that new technology.

“Adherence to ‘good time,'” Gibbons adds. “It was quite a challenge to iron out the kinks. When you’re out on the road, you develop some very peculiar habits, sometimes. When we came back into the studio, our focus was really on keeping that groove going, getting the time ironed out. The rest is just ‘turn it up, and let it go.'”

Of course, it’s been decades since then — Eliminator was released 30 years ago this weekend — but ZZ Top is still going strong, having just issued a well-received new album.

“As the saying goes,” Gibbons says, “we’re the same three guys, with the same three chords. But we’re loving it.”

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