And here it is – with this album, the transmogrification of ZZ Top was complete. People view Eliminator with amusement nowadays, wondering how this rinky-dink piece of plastic ended up selling over 10 million copies and making icons out of the band.
The end result wasn’t a radical change to people who were either jaded followers of the group or just jaded after following them for 10 plus years. To the band members, the making of the album was most likely something truly different.
From most accounts, inspired by New Wave and the band’s own piecemeal experimentation with synthesizers on tracks like “Groovy Little Hippie Pad”, the album was essentially a collaboration between Billy Gibbons and sound engineer Linden Hudson.
Frank Beard and Dusty Hill, for the most part, sat on the sidelines, their contributions not needed as they had been replaced by banks of synthesizers and drum machines allegedly programmed by Hudson.
Of course, they received credit in the form of fame, fortune, and notoriety thanks to the numerous amounts of airplay the videos for tracks like “TV Dinners”, “Gimme All Your Lovin”, and “Legs”, while Hudson had to fight out in the courts to get any sort of compensation whatsoever.
I point this all out because when you actually listen to the album, it’s hard to get away from the assembly line feel of the affair. Nearly every song follows the same tempo, and the tone never really changes from one track to the next.
About the only real difference here are the lyrics – if anything, they push the envelope even further from El Loco to this album, in that they are dirtier and more sexist than ever before. This, of course, was reflected in many of the videos as well – especially “Legs”, “Got Me Under Pressure”, and “Gimme All Your Lovin”.
This is a big reason why Eliminator worked on such a visceral level at the time. The hot rod, the ZZ key, the spinning fuzzy guitars, the model chicks in the videos – this was the window dressing which added to the allure and the grandeur of the experience, and it would wear thin soon enough.
I don’t think it is an accident that Gibbons slipped in lyrics like “she likes cocaine/and flippin’ out with Great Danes”, as he did for “Got Me Under Pressure”, or that the entirety of “TV Dinners” is a spoof about microwave food we probably have not heard before or since this record. It all seems frivolous now, yet taken as a whole it refuses to be ignored.
Simply put, Eliminator is a strange, stiff, extremely sexist, yet still fascinating beast of an album which should be put on occasionally as a reminder of just how truly discombobulated an era the early to mid-80’s really was.