ZZ Top: That Little Ol' Band From Texas [Blu-ray]
(ZZ Top, et al / Blu-ray+DVD / NR / 2020 / Eagle Vision - Banger Films)
Overview: Produced by the award-winning Banger Films, 'ZZ Top: That Little Ol' Band From Texas' tells the story of how three teenage bluesmen - Billy F Gibbons, Dusty Hill, and Frank Beard – became one of the biggest, most beloved bands on the planet; all while maintaining a surrealist mystique that continues to intrigue fans and entice onlookers 50 years after the band’s inception.
This 90-minute documentary is packaged with 35 minutes of live performances, a mix of recent Gruene Hall and archival footage.
Blu-ray Verdict: If you are a fan of the band, you might well know most all that is revealed here by the trio along with other celeb talking heads.
But, if you are a casual passer-by who has found their music to be magically enthralling, well, trust me when I say that you will be blown away by what you see and hear on this quite magnificent delve into that little ol' band from Texas, ZZ Top.
From the off it's very clear that there was always more to ZZ Top than met the eye. When asked how they came up with the bands name, one says they will tell the interviewer three stories, whilst another one adds that none of them will be true!
Thus, the band with one of the most distinct and unmistakable sounds in music ever, lovingly showcase themselves as down to earth, fun-loving Texan's who just got into the business to play their brand of music to anyone that wished to listen.
Described as unique, eccentric, and as Billy Bob Thornton puts it, "Seeing them on stage was like seeing Bugs Bunny in person!", as the film shows us, they also had brains.
For straight from the off, ZZ Top were smart enough to hire people they trusted to handle their promotion, sound production, their image, their video work, and everything else that came a'knocking.
Connecting to the world of MTV videos almost like a duck to water, the band were sharp dressed, guitar-motivated, car-orientated, and dived right into promoting their sound as if it were the most natural next step of evolution for them (which of course, it was).
As this fascinating look into the band continues, it's revealed that they knew that they wanted to bring their Texas-branded style of music, singing and performing to the masses and that getting out there and playing as many shows as possible was the way to go.
Funnily enough though, and in a move I actually knew nothing about beforehand, the whole ZZ Top "mystique" was largely cultivated by their manager, the late Billy Mack "Bill" Ham.
The band would loved to have appeared on Johnny Carson and do interviews and perform, but Ham nixed all of that at the beginning, citing "You do your music, and make everybody come to you!"
That changed as Ham mellowed about the whole TV chat show appearances band persona over the years, but they still remained a rare sight for those fans wanting their late night ZZ Top fix!
Now, don't be thinking there is a lot of personal reveals going to be coming forth here, for that's now how this film was constructed. Indeed, aside from Beard's brief mention of leaving Dallas with a wife and a kid, and destroying a relationship with his substance abuse ("I got a check for $72k and spend it all on drugs! Every bit of it!"), there actually isn't much of anything "below the surface" here - which is mighty fine on one hand, slightly disappointing on the other, in truth.
As if it were still an MTV-inspired, heyday production, 'ZZ Top: That Little Ol' Band From Texas' wraps up with chats about 1983's Eliminator album and their infamous 'Gimme All Your Lovin'' and 'Legs' video shoots.
And as the film comes to a close, intercut with each of the guys talking around a table about why they think they have stuck it out with each other for so long ("I never wanted to quit this band … nor did I want to get fired!"), we get the really nice treat of a live performance of 'Blue Jean Blues' from 1975.
Complete with some rather "fuzzy" historical stills and video clips of the band's earlier incarnations (Hill and Beard with Lady Wilde and the Warlocks; Gibbons with The Moving Sidewalks), brief animations of key early moments (especially those involving their late manager Bill Ham), very short concert clips in their early prime, and memorable footage from their first music videos directed by Tim Newman for MTV in the early '80s, 'ZZ Top: That Little Ol' Band From Texas' is as magical as you could ever hope it to be.
Also inclusive of some rather candid (although, as aforementioned, nothing too under the skin) band interviews, and celebrity fan testimonials (Billy Bob Thornton, Joshua Homme and many more), it also comes complete with an intimate performance from the band at the legendary Gruene Hall; shot exclusively for this documentary. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) and enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of a Gruene Hall Bonus Performance and Ham Estate Archive Bonus Footage.
Gruene Hall Bonus Performances (18 minutes):
'Shuffle In C' / 'Fannie Mae'
'Brown Sugar '
'Blue Jean Blues'
Ham Estate Archives Bonus Performances (17 minutes):
'Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers'
'I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide'
Official Theatrical Trailer