Cheap Sunglasses

Album: Degüello (1979)
Charted: 89
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Songfacts®:

  • In a 1985 interview with Spin magazine, ZZ Top bass player Dusty Hill explained: "We wrote that song when we used to tour in cars. And every gas station in the world had a cardboard display of the cheapest and ugliest sunglasses you could imagine. I have bought a thousand pair of them."

    Guitarist Billy Gibbons added: "The hip trip for us was to throw them into the audience as an offering. We ran out and we couldn't get any more. So we now have to make to do with Sanford Hutton's creations out of New York. The Ray Ban Wayfarer was the original cheap sunglasses. You could buy a pair for six bucks originally. I saw a catalog from 1959, and by then they were up to eight bucks. We had to take a bad rap from an optometrist who said 'Don't wear ZZ Top's cheap sunglasses. They're bad for your eyes.' There was an optometrists' convention in Hawaii and there was a huge poster – this woman with a pointing finger saying, 'Don't wear cheap sunglasses.' I suppose I'll have to agree. There is a cutoff point where optical considerations must be taken into account.

    However, if you will subscribe to the lyrics:

    When you wake up in the morning
    And the light is hurtin' your head
    The first thing you do when you get up out of bed
    Is put on cheap sunglasses


    At that point in time, they are not intended to be used for negotiating the entire afternoon."
  • ZZ Top took some time off after their 1976 album Tejas. When they returned to action in 1979, punk rock had emerged, emboldening the band to cut loose, with less concern about what FM radio might play. That attitude led to songs like "Manic Mechanic" and "Cheap Sunglasses."

    The band also came back with a new look: Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill had their long, flowing beards for the first time with the album. Gibbons and Hill claim they didn't consult each other before growing them.
  • According to Billy Gibbons, the band wrote the song on a trip to Austin, Texas as they were passing La Grange. He came up with lyrics to all three verses in the span of 20 miles.
  • Billy Gibbons played the main guitar line through a 200-watt Marshall Major amp with a blown tube, which gave him the "bulbous, rotund sound." He told Guitar World: "There's also a little bit of digital delay for that Bo Diddley impersonation at the tail out, and a Maestro ring modulator, which produces the strange tag to each verse. It appears three times, and it's a pretty funny sound. That is one insane effect put to good use."

Comments: 4

  • Lyndon Massa from Tulsa, Ok In the early summer of 1975 I was working at a Sporting Goods store in high school after school and on weekends after my senior year. I was going to the zztop outdoor concert that evening at the Tulsa Raceway and our fairgrounds. I was running late almost and got back to the store after delivering the last charcoal cooker for the day and when I pull up there is a Dodge van outside, Orange I believe, with the outlline of the state of Texas on it and it says either Texas or ZZTop across the map outline of Texas. I did not pay much attention until I got inside the store and there stood Billy Gibbons and the guys waiting for someone to help them. So I walk over , knowing who they are but afraid to mention it. So he asks if we have any sunglasses, the stage that night faced the setting Oklahoma sun and it was hot! So I tell him that we really don't sell any of the "cheap sunglasses" but we had ones used for snow skiing, so he looked at them and took a pair to purchase. So we finally get to the register and I finally got up the nerve to tell them I was getting off work in a few minutes and was going to the show and asked if they could help me out with any back stage passes or anything but Billy just turns around and says "We'll check ya at the show"
  • Seventhmist from 7th HeavenThat repeated, discordant 3-note keyboard riff always brought the riff in Three Dog Night's "Mama Told Me Not to Come" to mind.
  • Dane from Lima,ohio, FlThe thing I like most about this song is how it just winds down,then finally stops.Songs today don't normally do that.Other killer ZZ Top songs:Blue Jean Blues,My head's in Mississippi,2000 blues,Sure got cold after the rain fell & brown sugar(not the Rolling Stones song)
  • Charlie from Bozeman, Mti used to love cheap glasses until i realized that they scratched easily not to mention i had no financial obligation to not loose them.it is a drag to wake up hungover only to realize that youve lost them the night before.great song though.
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