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10 Of The Best ZZ Top Songs That Don’t Get Played Enough

best zz top songs

ZZ Top are famous for their good old-fashioned, no holds barred blues and pop rock that gets heads, toes, and booties boppin’ in equal measure.

But over the course of their 15 album discography, these in-ya-face rockers have released plenty of tracks that didn’t get all that much exposure.

Granted, some of these deep cuts weren’t exactly the band’s top work, but a lot of them are underrated masterpieces that simply never got a fair run.

Either buried by bombastic singles or shunned by the core fan base for diverging too far from the classic ZZ Top formula, the following 10 tracks are the band’s best that you may never have even heard!

The Top ZZ Top Songs That Don’t Get Airtime

10. “Delirious” (Afterburner, 1985)

“Delirious” is a full-force blues track that even veers into Motley Crue territory in places, which is no doubt one of the reasons why it’s not quite as beloved as some other Top cuts, but, power chords galore, big boomy drums, and relentless vocals make it a real romp for the ages.

Some fans weren’t too thrilled about the use of vocoders on the track, but ZZ Top have never been afraid to introduce electronic elements to their music, and I think it works pretty well here.

If I had one issue with “Delirious”, it’s actually the solo section, not that the lead work is bad, but the backing is a little thin. Besides that, it’s a great track!

9. “Move Me On Down The Line” (Tres Hombres, 1973)

“Move Me On Down The Line” isn’t a very polished song, but therein lies its charm, especially when it comes to Gibbons’ vocals.

The stripped-back production style reveals all the intricacies in his voice, amounting to an incredibly raw and human performance that portrays more emotion than perhaps the lyrics intend.

Instrumentally, it’s not the most exciting track, but it goes down incredibly easily.

I personally love to throw this song on when I’m walking around town on a summer’s day, as there’s a pleasant mildness in the chord progression that suits the sunshine.

8. “What It Is Kid” (Mescalero, 2003)

I would argue that pretty much every ZZ Top song that arrived after the millennium is pretty overlooked, as people really like to bask in the band’s glory days, but Billy and Dusty still bring it on their later records as evidenced by “What It Is Kid” off their 2003 release, Mescalero.

Taking a particularly FAT bass line for a walk, we hear Hill in his element on this track, and the swing on the beat ties the rhythm section off perfectly.

The singular autotuned “Oh yeah” no doubt left a lot of ZZ Top purists turning their noses up at “What It Is Kid”, but in my opinion, the guitar is what lets this song down.

It’s not that Gibbons is choosing poor notes or playing badly, but with the amount of distortion he’s using, the riff is just too choppy and prominent in the mix.

However, production missteps aside, ZZ Top give a great performance on this track.

RELATED: The Best Led Zeppelin Songs Of All Time

7. “Blue Jean Blues” (Fandango!, 1975)

It’s nice to hear Gibbons’ vocals right at the forefront of this gentle blues banger.

Combining an eerie, funereal rhythm guitar phrase with soft Delta lead stylings, “Blue Jeans Blues” is a novel approach to a plodding blues track, helping it stand out amongst the countless other steady-hand blues songs of the 70s.

The solos are fantastic as well, but my favorite guitar moment in the whole song is when Gibbons takes a rare deviation from the blues scale.

It makes up only a couple of notes, but it’s a welcome departure from an aspect of the band that can get a little tiresome across an entire album.

6. “Francine” (Rio Grande Mud, 1972)

In my humble opinion, the opening riff of “Francine” is one of Billy Gibbons’ finest, and although the bass line isn’t quite as imaginative, Dusty Hill’s steady pulse makes it an awesome driving track — It’s open-road music!

The vocals – although they don’t break the rock and roll mold – are some of the most dynamic across their 1972 Rio Grande Mud record, and the fleeting guitar solo dropped into the middle of the track gives us a taste of the ZZ Top magic that would follow as their discography deepened.

Now, being that this was the only single off their sophomore album, the true ZZ Top nuts out there will no doubt be screaming at their computer screens “How is this a deep cut?!!”

But here’s the thing… not many people know about this track, which is a crying shame, so it had to make an appearance on my list.

5. “Nasty Dogs And Funky Kings” (Fandango!, 1975)

I hear a lot of Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac in “Nasty Dogs and Funky Kings”, which in itself makes this track a contender, yet it never got the exposure it deserved, but you can change all that by giving it a spin today!

Slightly more progressive than Top’s typically blues rock blueprint, it’s refreshing to hear the members flexing their creative muscles, and with a brief 2:42 runtime, you’re always left wanting more.

Although the riffs take center stage on this barn burner, my favorite element is definitely Frank Beard’s funky beats complete with a persistent shaker and exquisite cymbal work.

The way his fills symmetrize the section codas is great too, adding some rhythmic intrigue to an already astounding track.

RELATED: The Best Hootie And The Blowfish Songs Ever Recorded

4. “Just Got Paid” (Rio Grande Mud, 1972)

Full of rip-roaring riffs that borrow a lot of groove from Delta blues icons such as Muddy Waters and BB King, “Just Got Paid” is as fun as the title suggests.

It coolly asks us to shake our moneymakers and get that payday change jangling in our seat pockets!

Lyrics like “I was born my papa’s son / When I hit the ground I was on the run” encourage a devil may care, let it all hang loose attitude, and you can’t help but get in the reckless spirit of the song and join ZZ Top in their end-of-month party.

Despite its infectious spirit and little accents of slide guitar bouncing all over the mix, “Just Got Paid” didn’t pop off like some of its neighboring songs on the Rio Grande Mud tracklist, but it’s classic Top at their best, so do yourself a favor and give it a spin!

3. “Apologies To Pearly” (Rio Grande Mud, 1972)

A Frankensteinian hybrid of T-Rex bravado and classic blues riffery, “Apologies To Pearly” is an absolute barn burner of a track, and I always thought that keeping it an instrumental was a clever move.

It evokes those feelings of wanting to apologize to someone but not being able to find your words.

And even though the words never do come for ZZ Top in this instance, This track sure can fill a dance floor and absolutely belongs on good times wedding playlists.

It’ll get your guests groovin’ posthaste — Even your grumpy uncle that thinks “dancin’s for squares”.

2. “Leila” (El Loco, 1981)

Here’s a prime example of a track that got the boot from hardcore ZZ Top fans for deviating from the band’s signature party blues aesthetic.

Granted, as a silky smooth cut that wouldn’t feel out of place as a final slow jam at prom, it does give you a sense of sonic shock in the context of the El Loco album, but as an isolated track, it’s absolutely stunning.

In fact, I think it’s a crying shame that Top didn’t explore their tender side on a few more songs, but the absence of anything else like “Leila” in their back catalog does give this cut a rather special sheen.

My theory is that everybody actually loves “Leila” on the down low, but we’re all just afraid to admit it to our beardy buddies. Hairy men cry too, folks. Let’s normalize it!

Another reason I adore this track is that it made ZZ Top far more accessible to a much wider audience, a gateway song, if you will, easing people into their sonic aesthetic until they’re fully submerged in pure blues rock fury and loving it!

1. “Sure Got Cold After The Rain Fell” (Rio Grande Mud, 1972)

Here’s another slower cut from the Top boys, but it hits the brakes in an entirely different way to “Leila”.

For one, it retains an essential blues tinge, but with his chorusy arpeggios, Gibbons adds a bit of Lynyrd Skynyrd flavor that keeps things nice and fresh.

Unlike a Skynyrd song, however, the solo doesn’t mark a change of pace, rather, it settles right into the pocket and luxuriates on the jangling rhythm guitar like a bird riding the wind.

It’s the kind of track you listen to with your eyes closed and a cheesy grin across your face, which is certainly off the beaten track for ZZ Top, but when you hear this slow burner, you’ll be glad you went off-road… trust me!

RELATED: The Best Classic Rock Albums Of All Time

Final Thoughts

With the death of longtime bassist Dusty Hill in 2021, it’s likely that ZZ Top have reached a logical closure point, but my oh my did they have a good run, and not just in terms of longevity either.

Any band whose lesser-known output is as good as theirs is surely a sonic force to be reckoned with, and although I’m sure many fans wished they’d hung up their bobble hats a while back, it’s a shame we’re not going to hear any more from this legendary band.

If you want to explore more about the incredible journey of ZZ Top and their band members, check out our story on the ZZ Top band members. Discover the fascinating tales of Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill, and Frank Beard, and gain a deeper appreciation for the blues rock icons.

Until next time groovers.