ZZ Top: Eliminator – [Record 198]
Eliminator is the eighth studio album by the American rock band ZZ Top. It was released on March 23, 1983, by Warner Bros. Records. Recorded in Tennessee during 1982, the album was produced by the band’s manager Bill Ham and peaked at the top of the charts in many countries. “Gimme All Your Lovin'”, “Got Me Under Pressure”, “Sharp Dressed Man”, “TV Dinners” and “Legs” were released as singles. A Diamond certified album, Eliminator is ZZ Top’s most successful release with sales of over 10 million copies in the United States.
The band wanted to expand on the synthesizer sound of their 1981 record El Loco. Influenced by new wave, Eliminator′s tracks were recorded with a combination of the synthesizer, drum machine and sequencer. The album used music videos as successful promotional tools — the videos for “Gimme All Your Lovin'”, “Sharp Dressed Man” and “Legs” all received regular rotation on MTV. A customized 1930s Ford coupe, depicted on the album cover, could be seen in the videos. Following Eliminator′s release, ZZ Top embarked on a worldwide concert tour.
Eliminator received widespread critical acclaim, centered on its songwriting and use of synthesizers. Often considered ZZ Top’s most popular release, the record has appeared in several publications’ best albums lists. It was ranked at number 396 in Rolling Stone magazine’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time and was listed at number 39 in The 100 Greatest Albums of the 80s.
After the success of “Legs”, Eliminator was reissued with the song’s edited single mix replacing the original version. The single version was also used when Eliminator was issued on CD in 1984. In 2008, Eliminator was remastered and reissued, with the addition of bonus tracks and a DVD containing music videos and live performances. The original version of “Legs” was restored, making its first appearance on CD, while the single mix of the song remained on the album as a bonus track.
1. Gimme All Your Lovin’.
2. Got Me Under Pressure.
3. Sharp Dressed Man.
4. I Need You Tonight.
5. I Got the Six.
8. TV Dinners.
9. Dirty Dog.
10. If I Could Only Flag Her Down.
11. Bad Girl.
In 1976, Billy Gibbons met with Don Thelen of Buffalo Motor Cars in Paramount, California, to build a customized 1933 Ford coupe. The car was built with a Corvette-style engine fabricated by the So-Cal Speed Shop. It was finished in 1983 and called the Eliminator. The car has become recognizable for its red finish and graphics, which can be seen in several of the band’s music videos. The Eliminator has also made worldwide appearances in television, movies, auto shows and charity events.
In 1979, ZZ Top reunited after a two-year break from touring and signed a new recording contract, switching from London Records to Warner Bros. Lead vocalist Gibbons and bass guitarist Dusty Hill grew chest-length beards which, along with black sunglasses, have become distinctive aspects of the band’s image. ZZ Top’s sixth studio album Degüello was released in August 1979. The album went platinum and sold over a million units in the United States. El Loco (1981) experimented with the sounds of synthesizers. It went gold and initially sold over half a million copies. “Tube Snake Boogie” went to number four on the Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart.
Recording: In 1982, ZZ Top convened at Ardent Studios in Memphis, Tennessee. Ardent had become the group’s main recording studio since 1973. Production was handled by the band’s manager Bill Ham, while Terry Manning was responsible for the engineering. Recording occurred in Studio A and included an “SpectraSonics by Auditronics” mixing console that was a permanent fixture until 1985. Both Gibbons and Manning took charge of the studio sessions to make an album with various electronic instruments. Despite the credits on the album, Hill and Frank Beard did not attend most of the sessions.
Gibbons used a Dean Z electric guitar that had DiMarzio Super Distortion humbuckers. Manning recalled that the guitar was “very resonant”, always on the verge of feedback, and difficult to keep in tune. He often edited Gibbons’ guitar parts to eliminate extra noise. Gibbons used a Legend Rock ‘n’ Roll combo amplifier, a 50-watt hybrid amp with a single 12-inch Celestion speaker. According to Manning, an AKG C414 B-ULS condenser microphone captured the amp and was placed about five inches from the speaker cone, slightly off-axis.
There is some dispute as to the writing credits for the songs on the album. According to their former stage manager David Blayney (15 years with ZZ Top) in his book, Sharp Dressed Men, the sound engineer Linden Hudson co-wrote much of the material on the album as a live-in high-tech music teacher to Beard and Gibbons. Despite continued denials by the band, it settled a five-year legal battle with Hudson, paying him $600,000 after he proved he held the copyright to the song “Thug”. Additionally, Blayney wrote that Hudson was involved in the writing and recording of a demo of the song “Under Pressure”. According to Blayney, Gibbons and Hudson wrote the whole song and recorded a demo all in one afternoon without the involvement of Hill or Beard. Hudson created the bass on a synthesizer, created drums on a drum machine and helped Gibbons write the lyrics; Gibbons performed the guitars and vocals. David Sinclair, of The Times, writes in his book, The Story Of ZZ Top, that Hudson suggested to Gibbons the possibility of using a drum machine for the final recording of the Eliminator album. Deborah Frost, writer for Rolling Stone magazine, described in her book ZZ Top—Bad and Worldwide how Hudson researched popular song tempos, then presented Gibbons with the results of his studies. Linden’s data suggested that 120 beats per minute was the most popular tempo in the rock music market at that time. Gibbons decided to go for it and recorded most of the Eliminator album at that tempo.
Promotion and release: Eliminator was released worldwide on March 23, 1983. The name of the album derives from a term for winning a drag race. The front cover is an illustration of the Eliminator coupe by Tom Hunnicutt. Three of Eliminator’s five singles appeared in the top 10 on the Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. “Gimme All Your Lovin'”, released in April 1983, went to the number two position.
In 1983, ZZ Top made several music videos in California. “Gimme All Your Lovin'” was filmed at a gas station in Littlerock, while “Sharp Dressed Man” was filmed at night on the streets of Downtown Los Angeles. “Legs” took place at a restaurant and shoe salon in Newhall; Gibbons and Hill had custom Dean Z guitars made with authentic sheepskin covering the body and tuners, as well as a unit to make the guitars spin in a complete circle. With Tim Newman as director, the “Legs” video won an MTV Video Music Award for Best Group Video in 1984. The Eliminator coupe, along with three Playboy models, made an appearance in the videos.
Critical reception: In 2005, Eliminator was listed in Rock Hard magazine’s book of The 500 Greatest Rock & Metal Albums of All Time.
Electric Six covered the song “I Got the Six” on their cover-album Mimicry and Memories (2015).