Legs (song)

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"Legs"
Legs - ZZTop.jpg
Single by ZZ Top
from the album Eliminator
B-side"A Fool for Your Stockings"
Released1984
Studio
Genre
Length
  • 4:35 (original album version)
  • 3:33 (single mix)
  • 7:48 (dance mix)
  • 4:31 (greatest hits)
LabelWarner Bros.
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)Bill Ham
ZZ Top singles chronology
"TV Dinners"
(1983)
"Legs"
(1984)
"Sleeping Bag"
(1985)

"Legs" is a song by the band ZZ Top from their 1983 album Eliminator. The song was released as the fourth single in May 1984 more than a year after the album came out. It reached number 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States, and the dance mix version of the song peaked at number 13 on the dance charts.[3]

A video was made for "Legs", depicting a timid young female store clerk who is given confidence by a trio of sexy women, with the band mysteriously appearing and disappearing. "Legs" was the third installment of a trilogy of similarly themed videos shot by Tim Newman for Eliminator, and it won the MTV Video Music Award for Best Group.[4] The video was placed into heavy rotation on MTV, which helped to lift the single high on the charts.

Like other songs on Eliminator, the musical style of "Legs" shows the band's new interest in electronic music elements, driven by singer-guitarist Billy Gibbons who was pushing to incorporate new wave and synth-pop styles. Pre-production engineer Linden Hudson established the song's pulsing synthesizer line during rehearsals. "Legs" contains electric guitar and vocals from Gibbons, but the bass guitar of Dusty Hill and drums of Frank Beard were replaced in the final mix by engineer Terry Manning who played keyboard bass and drum machine to achieve the style sought by Gibbons.

Recording[edit]

The band ZZ Top developed the song "Legs" at the home of drummer Frank Beard on the outskirts of Houston, Texas, in the band's rehearsal studio.[5] The studio held recording equipment installed and operated by live-in engineer Linden Hudson.[6] To give the song a sense of propulsion, Hudson created an unusual synthesizer sound by routing the synth's audio signal through a noise gate that was triggered externally by continual sixteenth-note hi-hat samples from a drum machine. As a result, the synthesizer chords pulsed to a sixteenth-note beat at a tempo of 125 beats per minute.[7][8] Gibbons played a Dean ML guitar for both rhythm and lead parts, and sang the lead vocal part.[9] Beard played drums, and Dusty Hill played bass guitar. Gibbons, Beard and Hill were credited on the album as songwriters.[10]

The band recorded the Eliminator album professionally at Ardent Studios in Memphis, Tennessee, under the guidance of band manager Bill Ham and longtime band recording engineer Terry Manning. Manning phoned Hudson to ask how he had generated the pulsing synth effect. The whole band recorded their parts at Ardent, then Beard and Hill returned home to Texas.[8]

Music video[edit]

The "Legs" music video follows a mousy young female shoe store clerk who is harassed by nearly everyone around her. The trio of women featured in previous music videos for Eliminator singles, drives up in the vintage Eliminator car to give her confidence and take revenge on the bullies. The band shimmers in and out of visibility, spinning their sheepskin-covered guitars, finally giving the clerk the keys to the car.[11]

Production[edit]

The "Legs" video was directed by Tim Newman, who had directed the successful videos for the Eliminator singles for "Gimme All Your Lovin'" and "Sharp Dressed Man".[12] He declined to return to shoot the video for "TV Dinners".[13] For "Legs", record executive Jeff Ayeroff pleaded with him to return. Newman bargained hard and asked for "points"—a percentage of the profit—but Warner feared this would set an expensive precedent. Instead, they offered Newman a fixed payment every time the album was certified for another 250,000 units sold in the US, earning Newman more money than he expected.[13]

The "Legs" video concept started with Newman suggesting that the main character should be a young woman this time.[13] He cast actress Wendy Frazier who had recently played the love interest in the little-seen Baxter Robertson video for the Robertson song "Silver Strand", also directed by Newman. As the crew set up to shoot the "Legs" video in February 1984, Frazier turned 21.[14] Much of the video was shot in Valencia, California, the area now called Santa Clarita.[15]

The three Eliminator actresses—Jeana Tomasino, Kymberly Herrin and Danièle Arnaud—were paid more than $2,000 each (approximately $5,000 in 2020 dollars), a higher fee than usual, according to Herrin.[16] Tomasino had been a Playboy Playmate in 1980;[17] so was Herrin in 1981. This was Herrin's first ZZ Top video, and established Eliminator models Tomasino and Arnaud tended to push her to the rear. Herrin and singer-guitarist Billy Gibbons became friends during the shoot.[16] Gibbons said that he kept in touch with Herrin for years afterward, calling her a "groovy hippie chick from Santa Barbara". Newman dated Frazier for a while, but only after she was cast in the part. He said, "Look, you spend time with these people. What can I tell you?"[13]

The single entered the Mainstream Rock Airplay charts in June 1984.[18]

Spinning guitars[edit]

Dean guitars used in the "Legs" music video, displayed at the former Dallas Hard Rock Cafe

Dean Guitars created the pair of matching guitars shown in the music video, based on the Dean Z model, but painted white and covered in fluffy white sheepskin. Dean also painted the band's "ZZ" logo extending the length of each fretboard. Gibbons had picked up the sheepskin while touring in Scotland, and sent it to Dean for the custom project. Both the 4-string bass guitar and 6-string standard required the sheepskin to be trimmed away from the strings so that they could sustain. The glue was still drying on the sheepskin covering the tuning pegs when the guitars were couriered to the video shoot.[9][19]

The custom style was duplicated in late 1985 by Gibson for the band's Afterburner Tour, based on a pair of Gibson Explorer models. Fabricated by Matthew Klein, the Gibsons were purposely made lighter in construction than the Deans, weighing about six pounds each (2.7 kg).[20]

Awards[edit]

The video won the 1984 MTV Video Music Award for Best Group Video.[14] Frazier and Newman attended the awards ceremony, and Newman accepted the award on behalf of the band.[21] This was the first year the award was given. Sim Sadler and Bob Sarles edited "Legs," for which both received nominations for Best Editing in the first MTV Video Music Awards, in the Billboard Music Video Awards, and in the American Music Video Awards that year.

Chart performance[edit]

Personnel[edit]

Cover versions[edit]

Parodies[edit]

The video was parodied in a 1984 episode of St. Elsewhere in which the Eliminator girls appeared, though the band was played by members of the show's cast.[39]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Gundersen, Edna (December 21, 2013). "Catalog box sets sum up Beatles, Dylan, Eagles, Ramones". USA Today. Retrieved May 7, 2015.
  2. ^ Diehl, Matt (February 2, 1996). "ZZ Top: Rhythmeen". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on May 25, 2009.
  3. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Hot Dance/Disco: 1974-2003. Record Research. p. 287.
  4. ^ Black, Elizabeth (August 25, 2016). "A Look Back at The First Ever MTV VMAs: Bette Midler & Dan Aykroyd Co-Hosted, Herbie Hancock Swept the Awards". VH1. Archived from the original on August 31, 2016. Retrieved September 20, 2021.
  5. ^ Sinclair, David (1986). Tres Hombres – The Story of ZZ Top. London: Virgin. p. 45. ISBN 0-86369-167-6.
  6. ^ Sinclair, David (1986). Tres Hombres – The Story of ZZ Top. London: Virgin. pp. 39–41, 75–76. ISBN 0-86369-167-6.
  7. ^ Bomar, Scott B. (2021). Southbound: An Illustrated History of Southern Rock. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 191. ISBN 978-1-48035-519-4.
  8. ^ a b c Blayney, David (1994). Sharp Dressed Men. Hyperion Books. p. 227. ISBN 0-7868-8005-8.
  9. ^ a b Fanelli, Damian (April 11, 2018). "The Story Behind ZZ Top's Spinning Fur Guitars". Guitar World. Archived from the original on June 20, 2018. Retrieved August 22, 2021.
  10. ^ Eliminator (LP credits). ZZ Top. Warner Bros. Records. 1983.{{cite AV media}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  11. ^ Sheffield, Rob (July 29, 2021). "How ZZ Top Conquered MTV with the 'Eliminator' Trilogy". Rolling Stone. Retrieved September 3, 2021.
  12. ^ Sinclair, David (1986). Tres Hombres – The Story of ZZ Top. London: Virgin. pp. 77–78. ISBN 0-86369-167-6.
  13. ^ a b c d Tannenbaum, Rob; Marks, Craig (2012). I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution. Penguin. pp. 115–120. ISBN 9780452298569.
  14. ^ a b Rosen, Craig (August 5, 2013). "ZZ Top's 'Legs' and the Women Who Own Them". Yahoo! Music. Archived from the original on August 11, 2013. Retrieved August 11, 2013.
  15. ^ "ZZ Top 'Legs' Music Video Filmed in Old Orchard Shopping Center – A Little Bit of History". Santa Clarita. January 31, 2019. Retrieved September 3, 2021.
  16. ^ a b Nobleman, Marc T. (July 15, 2013). "The Girl in the Video: 'Legs' (1984), part 2 of 3". Noblemania. Retrieved September 3, 2021.
  17. ^ "Playmates: Jeana Tomasino". Playboy. Archived from the original on August 12, 2014. Retrieved September 3, 2021.
  18. ^ "ZZ Top – Mainstream Rock Airplay". Billboard. Retrieved August 31, 2021.
  19. ^ Zelinsky, Dean (January 13, 2017). "ZZ Top Spinning Fur Guitars". Dean Guitars. Retrieved September 2, 2021.
  20. ^ Carlson, Angie (January 3, 2008). "Sheepskin and Rhinestones: The Story Behind the Legendary ZZ Top Guitars". Gibson. Retrieved September 2, 2021.
  21. ^ Nobleman, Marc T. (July 14, 2013). "The Girl in the Video: 'Legs' (1984), part 1 of 3". Noblemania. Retrieved September 5, 2021.
  22. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970-1992. St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  23. ^ "ZZ Top – Legs" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved May 31, 2013.
  24. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 6797." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved May 31, 2013.
  25. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Legs". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved May 31, 2013.
  26. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – week 20, 1985" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40. Retrieved May 31, 2013.
  27. ^ "ZZ Top – Legs" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved May 31, 2013.
  28. ^ "ZZ Top – Legs". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved May 31, 2013.
  29. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved May 31, 2013.
  30. ^ a b "Eliminator – Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved May 29, 2013.
  31. ^ "CASH BOX Top 100 Singles – Week ending JULY 21, 1984". Cash Box. Archived from the original on October 1, 2012.
  32. ^ "Forum – ARIA Charts: Special Occasion Charts – Top 100 End of Year AMR Charts – 1980s". Australian-charts.com. Hung Medien. Retrieved June 14, 2014.
  33. ^ "Top 100 Singles of 1984". RPM. Vol. 41, no. 17. Library and Archives Canada. January 5, 1985.
  34. ^ "Top 100 Hits for 1984". The Longbored Surfer. Retrieved June 14, 2014.
  35. ^ "The CASH BOX Year-End Charts: 1984". Cash Box. Archived from the original on September 30, 2012.
  36. ^ Frost, Deborah (1985). ZZ Top – Bad And Worldwide. Rolling Stone Press. ISBN 0020029500.
  37. ^ Sinclair, David (1986). Tres Hombres – The Story of ZZ Top. London: Virgin. pp. 39–41, 75–76. ISBN 0-86369-167-6.
  38. ^ "Sound Tracks". Billboard. Vol. 114, no. 11. 16 March 2002. p. 24. ISSN 0006-2510.
  39. ^ O'Brien, Glenn (February 1986). "Life at the Top". Spin. Vol. 1, no. 10. p. 40. ISSN 0886-3032.