HAPPY BIRTHDAY ZZ TOP! G.O.A.T.: I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide by ZZ Top (1979)

THE GREATEST OF ALL TUNES (G.O.A.T.) is a salute to the greatest songs of all time, one song per artist. Want more? Go to the G.O.A.T. Page for all the GOATs so far!

ZZ Top played their first show on February 10, 1970!  So, it’s time for a GOAT.  But with multiple platinum albums under their beards and over a dozen big hits, how to pick just one?  Well, I started broad and went narrow.

Deguello is the best ZZ Top album.  There were others that had more hits, many more hits, and made them much more famous.  There were others that had much slicker production.  But Degüello, which was the term for the bugle call of the Mexican Army used during the siege of the Alamo, is the perfect example of the muscular, guitar-driven blues that ZZ Top did so well.   The album led off with an amazing cover of Isaac Hayes’ “I Thank You,” which left such an impression on me that for years I thought Hayes wrote I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide.  Those two songs from Deguello are so amazing I’d flip them in my memory.

But no, I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide is 100 percent Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard.  The album also featured terrific songs like She Loves My Automobile, Cheap Sunglasses, and a rocking cover of Robert Johnson’s Dust My Broom.  The entire record is a masterpiece.  And “I’m Bad…” is the best song on the record.

Further listening: Lots of good ZZ Top songs out there, but candidates for one of the Greatest Of All Tunes would have to include I Thank You and Cheap Sunglasses, off Deguello, and these: Tush, Gimme All Your Lovin’, Sharp Dressed Man, and La Grange.

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