The rest of the world didn’t know it at the time, but 1980 would be a pivotal transitional time for that little ol’ band from Texas, ZZ Top. After having stayed dedicated to the Texas blues for a decade, and following their Worldwide Texas Tour, which brought the sights, smells, and sensations of Texas to arenas around the US in 1976 and 1977, the band was in need of a change.
While their commercial fortunes had improved, their impact on popular music was largely non-existent. ‘La Grange’ and ‘Tush’ had come up just short of making significant impacts on the pop charts, while the band’s placement on the Billboard album charts fluctuated up and down throughout the ’70s. The band had a solid image, punctuated by the mammoth beards of guitarist Billy Gibbons and bassist Dusty Hill, but had yet to have made any true crossover material.
‘Dust My Broom’ was not going to be the song that turned ZZ Top’s commercial fortunes around. For one, it was an old school delta blues song from Robert Johnson, which was about as far away from the bright and sleek ’80s aesthetic that was beginning to come into vogue thanks to British synth-pop songs like Gary Newman’s ‘Cars’ and M’s ‘Pop Muzik’. Compared to them, ZZ Top was at the complete end of the visual and sonic spectrum.
Still, ‘Dust My Broom’ found its way into the ZZ Top setlist, of course, handled by the dustiest cowpoke in the group, Dusty Hill. The band gave it all the fire and groove that they could muster, and the German crowd gathered together for the legendary Rockpalast programme got to see an especially inspired and dirty version of the tune.
The band’s performance at Rockpalast is mostly representative of their pre-MTV era, with no synthesisers and no slick production style. ‘La Grange’ is trotted out, as is ‘Tush’, but the set mainly relies on the band’s bluesy rock classics like ‘I’m Bad I’m Nationwide’, ‘Tube Snake Boogie’, and ‘Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers’. But there would also be signs of things to come, namely with ‘Cheap Sunglasses’ and its slightly smoother edges. Little did anyone know that these three Texas boys were about to become honest to god pop stars.
Check out the performance of ‘Dust My Broom’ down below.