Tuesday, February 5, 2019

"Rough Boy" by ZZ Top

Song#:  2670
Date:  03/29/1986
Debut:  65
Peak:  22
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  After reaching the Pop Top 10 with "Sleeping Bag" (#8), ZZ Top grabbed a second hit from their Afterburner album with "Stages," a #1 Rock track that just barely missed out on the Pop Top 20 (#21). Next up from the LP was this out-of-character ballad from the band. The song eased itself into the #5 position at Rock while at Pop it nearly matched the peak of their previous single. The hits would mark the first and only time ZZ Top would place three singles from one album in the Pop Top 30.

ReduxReview:  While this song is an improvement on "Leila" (see below), it's still not all that great. Pop balladry is just not in ZZ Top's wheelhouse. If they wanted to tone down the tempo, I'm sure they could have come up with some bluesy tune that had a bit of bite to it. My guess is this was just something driven by the band and/or the record company to further commercialize their sound. Hard rock bands around this time were having crossover success releasing pop-centric power ballads and this basically falls in line with them. The best part of the song is really the guitar solo, which nearly takes up the entire second half of the song. Oh, and how can I not mention the song's crazy video that had the Eliminator going to an outer space car wash where the disembodied parts of the band performed the song while a legs-only female attendant takes care of the car. Truly bizarre.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  ZZ Top had tried the ballad approach before, but it was a far less successful experiment. They recorded the more pop-oriented tune "Leila" for their 1981 album El Loco. It was pushed out as the LP's first single and the response was less than positive with the song only getting to #77 on the Pop chart. Fans of the band's Southern boogie sound were less than pleased with the tune with several folks online calling it their worst song. The band skipped the ballads for their next album, the multi-platinum Eliminator, but it seemed for Afterburner they were ready to give it another try and they came up with "Rough Boy." However, while not identical, there are similarities between the two ballads that have led people to believe that "Rough Boy" was just an updated or rewritten version of "Leila." Whether or not ZZ Top recycled their own song is up for debate, but at least the results were much better this time around.


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