May 6, 2014 by Dan Swinhoe
45 years a long time in any industry, but that ZZ Top have managed to ride it out in a business obsessed with trends and ‘the next big thing’ is all the more impressive and testament to their enduring popularity. Seems strange then that there are so few books dedicated to their musical exploits.
This book looks to rectify that, providing a full guide to the musical history of Billy Gibbons & Co. Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers: A ZZ Top Guide, published by Soundcheck books, provides a tidy little introduction to the music and mind-set of the ever-present bearded blues-rock. It’s the latest written by Neil Daniels, whose published works include books on various rock luminaries including Iron Maiden, Journey, Bon Jovi and for some reason Linkin Park.
The book goes through the history of the band, starting with Gibbons’ early musical exploits with the Moving Sidewalks into the formation of the ‘Top, through to their 80s heyday and inevitable 90s hangover, right up to the release of 2012’s La Futura. The detail about the music is thorough; We’re given insight into their recording habits for each stint in the studio, the reception of each album in the form of various reviews from the time and details about each of the many, many tours the band has embarked on. There’s also plenty of trivia and background knowledge on their place in the musical canon.
While there’s plenty of information, there’s little in the way of first-hand accounts of things, with a lot of it coming from second-hand sources. There’s a feeling that the book could have done with more colour in the shape of anecdotal interviews and tales from the road – more hell-raising and less information to digest over a beer. And while it says on the cover it’s only a guide, it does at times feel like a bit like a ZZ Top encyclopedia.
Overall, it’s a solid, well written book. Fans will obviously enjoy it, although the hardcore faithful are unlikely to find any startling revelations newcomers will get a thorough guide to the band’s entire discography and get start their own journey to becoming Sharp Dressed Men.