Any fan of the mostly bearded blues band knows that the only ZZ Top member without a beard is named Frank Beard. But some fans and casual listeners may not realize that the group’s lyrics are equally misleading.
Many of lead singer Billy Gibbons’ most memorable lines are thinly veiled wordplays depicting sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll with the subtlety of a drunk uncle who just can’t keep the conversation clean around the kids. Gibbons’ deep, growling voice — an instrument in its own right — helps shroud his innuendos and double-entendres further, often making them difficult to discern without reading the lyrics. So we thought we’d help.
Here are some of ZZ Top’s dirtiest lines you probably never knew carried such a filthy subtext:
“Tube Snake Boogie”
As far as double-entendres go, “Tube Snake Boogie” is as cryptic as “Puff the Magic Dragon.” Gibbons introduces a few girls who “do the tube snake boogie,” a dance that, as it turns out, is best done naked and supine.
“Gimme All Your Lovin’”
This tune reveals Gibbons’ want for affection. And by “affection,” we mean sex. It’s coded enough to pass FCC standards and gain incessant radio play, even as Gibbons chimes, “If I blow my top/Will you let it go to your head?”
The pearl necklace is a trope of opulence and purity. It’s also a term used to describe ejaculation on or around a woman’s neck. Kinky? Yes. Subtle? Sort of.
In the song, Gibbons describes a woman’s want for, well, a pearl necklace. “She wanna pearl necklace,” the singer growls.
Got it. But as the story unfolds and he relates how “She was gettin’ bombed/And I was gettin’ blown away,” it’s clear he has no intent to purchase this poor girl any actual pearls anytime soon.
“Big Shiny Nine”
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ZZ returned with wordplay on its most recent album, La Futura, with “Big Shiny Nine.” Maybe the song was referring to his gun or maybe a favorite power tool. But odds are ZZ Top is probably talking about a penis.
Gibbons rumbles, “Big shiny nine, she’s mine all mine/Flowin’ down the front of my old blue jeans.” Later he adds, “It’s all right now/I’m fingering my big black shiny nine.”
Double-entendres and innuendo have long let artists slip censorable content past the FCC. And ZZ Top established itself early on as a practitioner of this wordplay. Along the way, it managed to rock a ton of unsuspecting fans into singing about things they doubtfully realized meant something totally different.
ZZ Top with Jeff Beck. 7 p.m. Friday, May 8, at Coral Sky Amphitheatre, 601-7 Sansbury’s Way, West Palm Beach. Call 561-795-8883, or visit cruzanamphitheatre.net. Tickets cost $11 to $69 plus fees via livenation.com.