ZZ Top were never considered sex symbols or fashion icons, but they were convincing in this song about how rich, well-dressed men are irresistible to women. This being the '80s, a silk suit was considered fashionable, although ZZ Top were much more comfortable in denim.
In a 1985 interview with Spin magazine, bass player Dusty Hill explained: "Sharp-dressed depends on who you are. If you're on a motorcycle, really sharp leather is great. If you're a punk rocker, you can get sharp that way. You can be sharp or not sharp in any mode. It's all in your head. If you feel sharp, you be sharp."
According to Billy Gibbons, he got the idea for this song when he saw a movie and a character was listed in the credits as "Sharp-Eyed Man" (possibly the 1981 film The Amateur).
The music video was the first that was a sequel. It picked up the story from the "Gimme All Your Lovin'" video of the down-on-his-luck gas station worker who is swept away by three beautiful women. In "Sharp Dressed Man," he's a valet, and he encounters the same three girls and is once again given the keys to the Eliminator, Billy Gibbons' 1933 Ford Hot Rod.
This was one of the first ZZ Top songs to use synthesizers. Mixed with Billy Gibbons' distinctive guitar, it gave them a new sound without alienating their old fans. It also helped that ZZ Top used their synths for bass, keeping the sound more heavy and less Human League. Gibbons called it "a successful marriage of a techno beat with bar band blues."
After the second chorus, Billy Gibbons solos on guitar for over a minute before the third verse appears. He filled this section with lots of twists and turns to keep it interesting, and layered two guitars to create a compound track. For one of those guitar lines, he played a Fender Esquire with a slide; the other he played on his 1959 Les Paul ("Pearly Gates") in standard tuning.
The final chorus ends three minutes into the song, followed by another minute or so of instrumental outro.
These instrumental sections were truncated on the single, which was cut down to 3:01 from the 4:13 album version. The video used the full song.
This song attracted a slew of new fans to ZZ Top when the video ran constantly on MTV. Their long beards made them instantly recognizable and the babes certainly helped, but the car was the real star.
Previous ZZ Top albums had a Tex-Mex vibe, but when it came time to sort out visuals for the album, the hot rod was finally ready - Gibbons had been working on it for years. It was good timing, giving them an MTV-friendly focal point just when they needed it. They had never made videos before and had no acting experience, but their videos provided everything MTV's target audience craved: girls, rock and roll, and a really sweet ride.
ZZ Top performed this at the 1997 VH1 Fashion Awards while male models walked the runway. In order to keep up their strictly heterosexual image, a bunch of beautiful women danced around the band during the performance.
The video vixens included Jeana Tomasino and Danièle Arnaud - nobody seems to know the identity of the third girl. Tomasina would later become Jeana Keogh and star in The Real Housewives of Orange County.
Eliminator was one of few albums that have sold over 10 million copies in America, earning Diamond certification.
Barry from Gagetown NbI'm Happy to say I saw them live again last summer 2018 ... The first time was 1980 ... I think they rock even harder NOW!
Heather from Leeds, EnglandThis song is mentioned alongside Velcro Zipper in Stephen King's Dark Tower book III The Waste Land - as the characters come across the God drums, Eddie Dean is convinced that the drumming could belong to either Velcro Zipper or Sharp Dressed Man by ZZ Top. Probably one of the ways that the book links to King's novel The Stand.
Randy from Rio De Janeiro, -30+ years later, that's still a great rock tune and music video.
Deethewriter from Saint Petersburg, Russia FederationSteven Tyler, Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, and Jonny Lang have teamed up as the supergroup The M.O.B. to cover ZZ Top's "Sharp Dressed Man" for a V/A Tribute Collection ' ZZ Top: A Tribute From Friends', coming out on October 11th, 2011 A.D.
Tom from Cleveland, OhBilly Gibbons plays on the track "Run Rudolph Run" on Eagle Records' 2008 Christmas compilation - "We Wish You A Metal Xmas and A Headbanging New Year" featuring Motorhead's Lemmy Kilmister on vocals, and also featuring Dave Grohl [Nirvana /Foo Fighters]
Austin from Smallsville,new England, --Kid Rock covered this with Nickelback
Jak from Helsinki, FinlandThis song is featured in: Evan Almighty. in tv series: late night with Conan o Brien, til death, the simpsons, Beavis And Butthead it has also appeared in S&K suit commercial,Cold Case, and stephen king´s mini series The Stand. In video games:guitar hero. Covered by: Debbie Harry, Nickelback.
Michael from Morris County, NjOne of the greatest songs in the world. It's my ringtone.
Matt from Urbandale, IaThe band appeared on the 80's TV show St. Elsewhere. One of the actors fell asleep in a closet and dreamed he was in the video. When he awoke, the keychain was there. Awesome.
Steve from Winnipeg, Canadapretty good song
Chris from Harrisonburg, VaBilly has a book coming out this fall...in which he reveals the real truth behind the name of the band...It has more to do with legends BB King and ZZ Hill than rolling papers.
Ken from Louisville, KyZZ Top performed this along with "Tush" on "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson" in 1986. When the camera cut back to Johnny, he was wearing a fake "ZZ Top" beard!
Screamin' Armadillo from Fort Worth, TxThe truth is, the true origin of the band's name has never been revealed. Billy Gibbons has given multiple non-responsive answers in regard to the question, and nowadays, he says, "We really don't remember where it came from." The rumor about Zig Zag/Top rolling papers is the most popular version of the story.
Tanner from Vancouver, CanadaThey were the kings of the power cord! - Tanner, BC, Canada
Martijn from Helmond, NetherlandsI became in instant fan the minute I heard that the only one without a beard is called Beard. And because of the Reverend's guitar playing of course. Billy G. has the greatest guitar sound ever. Period.
Julia from London, Englandthe reason why ZZ top usea lot of hot playboy models and cars in the video is because Frank Beard said in an interview that the band realised that the girls were a lot better lookin' than the band was, even the cars were better lookin' than they were, so they decided to put the good lookin' things up front, while they dropped in and out so their fans know it's them. oh and it is true that every girl is crazy about a sharp dressed man
Chris from Victoria, TxThis song rocks especially BLACK TIE!!! Me and my friends rock this song and that part is just an awesome adder in for it.
Deana from Indianapolis, InAnd the Eliminator is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Rachel from Waurika, Okif dudes took this song more seriosly they might get more chicks cause every girl is crazy about a sharp dressed man. (most of then anyway)
Luke from Manchester, EnglandYeah, I know my spelling is crap but sue me, I've been drinking
Luke from Manchester, England1) ZZTop's name is the amalgamation of ZigZag (ZZ) and Top 2 popular brands of rolling papers.
2) They staryed out without beards but got told they'd sell with a gimmick, so they grew the beards.
3) Their drummer, Frank Beard is the only one WITHOUT a beard