King’s X

King’s X is an American progressive metal band notorious for their spiritual lyrics and sophisticated music.

The group has its beginnings in 1980, when Doug Pinnick and Jerry Gaskill, who had met before on recording and touring with Phil Keaggy and toured with the Christian rock band Petra, recruited Ty Tabor to join them. Calling themselves The Edge, the group performed extensively on the Springfield, Missouri bar and club circuit. The band specialized in doing Top 40 covers. By 1983, the band’s name had changed to Sneak Preview and they began recording original material. Sneak Preview released the self-titled LP in 1984 with only original material.

The group moved to Houston, Texas with the promise of a recording contract, but the deal fell through. However, it was there that the group met Sam Taylor, then the vice president of ZZ Top‘s production company. Taylor quickly became the band’s mentor and convinced them to change their name to King’s X. Taylor was the instrument that helped the band secure a contract with Megaforce Records in 1987. Taylor would soon become the band’s manager, producer and mentor, and was declared the fourth member of the group.

The group released their first album as King’s X, titled “Out of the Silent Planet“, in 1988. Despite being well-treated by critics, the album did not do well commercially, peaking at number 144 on the album chart from Billboard. The band’s 1989 release, “Gretchen Goes to Nebraska” did slightly better from a commercial standpoint. Significantly, the video clip “Over My Head” received moderate support from MTV and radio. The increased exposure proved beneficial when the band released their third album “Faith, Hope, Love” in the fall of 1990.

Faith, Hope, Love was the band’s first album to reach the US Top 100, with the help of the hit single “It’s Love“. The band opened for AC/DC on a US and European tour during the first half of 1991. They also toured with Living Color at the peak of their popularity. The band signed with Atlantic Records for their next release.

The band released their fourth album, “King’s X“, in the spring of 1992. But tensions that surfaced with Taylor led to it being the group’s most unfocused effort, and the album didn’t sell as well as “Faith, Hope, Love“. The single from the album – “Black Flag” received only moderate support from MTV. Shortly after the release of King’s X, the band got rid of Taylor. Details of the separation have not been made public, but it is believed that there was a strong fight. Then King’s X took about a year to consider their collective future. The band members pursued other non-musical purposes, notably guitarist Ty Tabor doing semi-professional motorcycling.

In any case, by 1992 grunge was at its peak, and the band’s signature sound didn’t quite match that of commercially successful acts like Soundgarden or Pearl Jam (even though, ironically, King’s X was largely responsible for inspiring grunge, Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament once said: “King’s X invented grunge“). Looking for a new sound and flavor (though not necessarily grunge), the band enlisted producer Brendan O’Brien, who had recently produced the first album for Stone Temple Pilots and the second for Pearl Jam.

The album that resulted, 1994’s “Dogman“, featured a much more muscular and heavier sound from the group, along with less abstract and spiritual lyrics. The album received a major promotional push from Atlantic and the band enjoyed a very successful tour, with an appearance at the Woodstock 94 festival in August. But despite the group’s Top 100 return, the album did not achieve the sales Atlantic hoped for, and the label’s support for the band quickly faded.

The band’s third release with Atlantic, 1996’s “Ear Candy“, would also be their last (not including a subsequent compilation) with the label. Although it sold well to the band’s fans, it lacked the mainstream success of previous efforts. The album was soon unavailable, and it seemed that the group’s opportunity for commercial success had come and gone.

The group switched to Metal Blade Records in 1998. Their first album for that label, “Tape Head“, signaled a new era for the band. They modified their creative methods by writing and recording the album together in the studio, rather than coming together to record songs that the band members had written individually. The next two albums, “Please Come Home … Mr. Bulbous” and “Manic Moonlight” were created in this same way.

For their next album, “Black Like Sunday“, the group arranged and recorded an album filled with songs that the band had performed regularly before releasing their first album for MegaForce Records, “Out of the Silent Planet“.

Live All Over The Place” was the band’s final album for Metal Blade Records, and their first official live release. In the period with Metal Blade, the members of King’s X (as a group and individually) were musically prolific, releasing a number of solo albums (such as Doug Pinnick’s PoundHound and Emotional Animal albums, Naomi’s Solar Pumpkin, Moonflower Lane, and Safety by Ty Tabor, and Jerry Gaskill’s musically intriguing Come Somewhere), and side projects (such as Ty Tabor’s work with Platypus, Jughead, and The Jelly Jam). Doug Pinnick replaced Living Color lead vocalist Corey Glover on the European tour of August 2006.

The band’s last album, titled “Ogre Tones“, was released in September 2005 through the InsideOut Music label. It was produced by famous rock producer Michael Wagener (Dokken, Extreme, Stryper, White Lion, Skid Row) at WireWorld Studio.

King’s X has struggled in the past with being identified as a Christian rock band. Many of their lyrics have a clear message of influence, but it comes from the individual faith of the members, and not from an attempt to enter the market in the way that groups like Stryper did. Their albums used to be heavily marketed in Christian bookstores, but after Pinnick announced in 1998 that he was gay, the albums were removed from Christian places. This also caused the band to lose a large number of its Christian fans.

Ty Tabor has indicated in several interviews that King’s X was not a Christian rock band. King’s X’s spiritual lyrics are less prominent on their latest releases, despite the band continuing to use spiritual themes in their music.

I took pictures of King’s X on October 29, 2004 at Starlite ROom in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada:


ZZ Top

ZZ Top is an American rock band that was formed in 1969 in Houston, Texas. With their mix of Texas blues, blues rock, boogie, southern rock and hard rock, ZZ Top had great success, especially in the 1980s, and filled concert halls and stadiums on extensive tours. The band members since 1969 are Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard. Since the late 1970s, Gibbons and Hill have been wearing the long full beards that have become the group’s trademark, appear in long trench coats and wear heavily tinted sunglasses and stetsons.

After the end of Gibbons’ band, The Moving Sidewalks, he decided in the summer of 1969 to put together a new band with which he wanted to orientate himself more towards blues and rock music. Billy Etheridge, who had played with Jimmie Vaughan, offered to play bass. In addition to Gibbons keyboardist Lanier Greig and drummer Dan Mitchell joined the original line-up of the band, which shortly thereafter renamed itself to ZZ Top.

According to Gibbons, the name pays homage to his musical role models Z. Z. Hill and B. B. King. However, the combination ZZ King made too much reference to B. B. King, so he decided on ZZ Top. Top is an equivalent to King because a king is always at the top.

A little later Greig left ZZ Top. The remaining trio made their first musical attempts on a ranch in Texas and decided a little later to put the marketing of the band in the hands of a manager. The choice fell on Bill Ham, a friend of John Mayall. Shortly thereafter, ZZ Top recorded their first single Salt Lick / Miller’s Farm at Doyles Jones Recording in Houston. Since the record deal with London Records was not yet signed, Bill Ham released the single on his record label Scat Records. The single had modest success, aired on local radio stations, and given the group appearances across Texas.

Within a short time the line-up was changed again – Dusty Hill took over the bass and Frank Beard the drums. Both had played in American Blues. In this line-up, ZZ Top first appeared on February 10, 1970 in Beaumont. In the summer of 1970, the recordings for the debut album “ZZ Top’s First Album” followed, which was officially released in January 1971.

In the months that followed, ZZ Top toured with various Texan musicians and bands such as Doug Sahm and Sunny and the Sunliners, and the group supported Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Janis Joplin. During the tour, ZZ Top wrote the songs for the second album Rio Grande Mud and recorded it during the tour breaks. The album was released in 1972 and brought ZZ Top the first listing on the Billboard 200 at number 104. The single Francine reached number 69 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Due to the success, the group made their first tours as headliners. With the 1973 album Tres Hombres, ZZ Top consolidated their image as a “Texan Braggart” and landed their first hit, La Grange. Following the album, the band toured the US for several years with almost no breaks, only interrupted by the studio recordings on the B-side of the 1975 album Fandango!.

This tour marathon ended with the 1975 Worldwide Texas Tour. For this tour, ZZ Top had its own stage developed, which thematically revolved around the state of Texas. The band took around 75 tons of sound and lighting technology with them to around 100 appearances in the USA. The highlight of the show was the presentation of animals native to Texas such as buffalos, bulls and snakes on stage. With the tour, ZZ Top made about 10 million US dollars.

Outside the US, the tour did not bring the hoped-for commercial success. Band biographer Jürgen Seibold suspects that this was not insignificantly due to the fact that the animals could not be brought abroad because of the quarantine regulations.

Gibbons described the years of almost uninterrupted touring as a “grueling and horrific experience” and after the release of Teja’s next album in early 1977, the three musicians took a break.

Frank Beard retired to the Caribbean, Dusty Hill to Mexico and Billy Gibbons to Europe. During this time, the musicians maintained loose contact by telephone or fax. Gibbons and Hill grew their full beards, which later became their trademark. The complete absence from the tour and the media fueled rumors that ZZ Top had broken up. In 1979 the Warner Music Group signed ZZ Top and released Degüello.

At the beginning of 1980, ZZ Top went on tour again after a three-year break. The appearance on April 19, 1980 in the Rocknacht of the WDR is seen as the initial spark for the commercial breakthrough in Europe. The show was broadcast by numerous European channels as part of Eurovision and it was the first time that ZZ Top was shown live on European television.

The final international breakthrough came with the 1983 album Eliminator. The band combined their guitar blues with modern synthesizers on this and some of the following albums. This approach to contemporary tastes and the widely acclaimed video clips in the then still young medium of music channels such as MTV resulted in sales of several million for the album. The most successful singles were Gimme All Your Lovin’, Legs and Sharp Dressed Man. ZZ Top finally became a top international act.

1983 turned out to be the most commercially successful year in the band’s history to date. The tour for the album recorded 56 stops in the USA with around 1.5 million tickets sold, and around four million copies of the album were sold worldwide. The musicians were particularly pleased with the commercial success that began in Great Britain on 1984, as English musicians such as the Rolling Stones or Lemmy Kilmister from Motörhead were among the main influences of the band.

Also in 1984, Gillette offered Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill $ 1 million each for beards shaved off for an advertising campaign. The musicians refused the offer. With the 1985 album Afterburner, ZZ Top reached the climax of their musical career. In the USA alone, around 3 million copies were sold and the album reached the top ten in numerous national hit parades.

The world tour, which began in December 1985, comprised a total of 212 appearances. The tour concluded in March 1987 in Honolulu. During the tour there were disputes between the main sponsor Miller Brewing Company and the opening act The Black Crowes, because the band saw their independence restricted by the rules of the sponsorship agreement. Just a few weeks after the tour began, this led to the support band being kicked out.

After the tour there was a three-year break, during which the band barely appeared musically. Around 1987, the band’s management took legal action against a representation in the popular adventure game Space Quest I from Sierra Entertainment, where they were shown in a space bar, because of a copyright infringement. In order to avoid a legal dispute, Sierra voluntarily removed the relevant passage.

ZZ Top made further headlines when the musicians announced in October 1987 that they had booked three seats for the first passenger flight to the moon. In 1988, ZZ Top donated $1 million to the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale. The participation of ZZ Top in the film Back to the Future III caused further sensation. Initially, the band was supposed to contribute a song to the film soundtrack with Doubleback and for this reason visited the filming in 1989. Director Robert Zemeckis took this opportunity and shot a scene with the three musicians in which they played doubleback on traditional instruments in a saloon.

Recycler was released in the fall of 1990, followed by a tour of North America. The special thing about the album was that there were six tips on the inside of the CD booklet that could be used to save planet earth. Although the theses should not be understood as deadly serious, the musicians have developed a basic awareness of nature conservation, which they wanted to express with these theses.

The year 1991 was dominated by the murder of the wife of the band manager Bill Ham. In 1992, after the release of the best-of album Greatest Hits, the record deal with Warner ran out. ZZ Top won a new contract with RCA Records, which was endowed with a total of around 55 million US dollars.

The next album Antenna was originally supposed to be released in early 1993, but wasn’t released until January 1994. In the mid-1990s, ZZ Top was represented with two titles in the soundtrack of the feature film From Dusk Till Dawn. After the obligatory tour, the follow-up album Rhythmeen was released in 1996.

In 1999 ZZ released Top XXX, followed by an extensive world tour that took the band to Australia and New Zealand. After the tour ended, the band went back to the studio to record Mescalero, which was finally released in 2003. Also in 2003, ZZ Top took part in the TV show Crossroads, where country musicians met artists from other genres. ZZ Top’s partner was Brooks & Dunn.

In 2004 the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. On the occasion of the Billboard Music Awards 2006 Billy Gibbons played the song Tush from the 1975 album Fandango! Together with Nickelback and Kid Rock.

After a long break, the next studio album La Futura was released at the end of 2012. In 2019, a British-Canadian-American documentary was made with the title That Little Ol’Band From Texas.

Since the 1970s, cars have been the second essential component of the band’s image, alongside the flair for attractive women. The first vehicle was a Ford Coupé, built in 1933, which ZZ Top had restored from the mid-1970s and converted into a hot rod. As the Eliminator Coupe, the vehicle graced the cover of Eliminator. The second vehicle that caused a stir was the Leapin’ Limo, which was first seen in the Velcro Fly music video. It was a Pontiac Streamliner “Silver Streak” from 1948, which was stretched 40 inches by a Californian tuning company. Frank Beard competed in various IMSA races from around the mid-1980s.

In addition to their cameo in Back to the Future III, the band made short appearances in various television productions. Billy Gibbons played the father of Angela Montenegro in the US TV series Bones between 2005 and 2011. ZZ Top also made a cameo on the television series Two and a Half Men. In Season 7, Episode 21 (The Grandfather Clock) they appeared twice to drugged Charlie Harper at his beach house.

ZZ Top songs have also been used in wrestling series. In 2002, Kid Rock covered the song Legs for the WWF sampler WWF Forceable Entry. Wrestler Jimmy Valiant was inspired by ZZ Top for his outfit and appeared in fights as a Boogie Woogie Man with a full beard like Hill and Gibbons.

I took pictures of ZZ Top at Stage 13 music festival in Camrose, Alberta, Canada on July 11, 2004: