ZZ Top is a fun band. I liked their stuff but when they made the Eliminator album in 1983 they seemed to remake it over and over again from then on. Their music before that album is a little rawer and edgier. Billy Gibbons is a great guitar player and Jimi Hendrix was a fan of his.
This song was released in 1979 and didn’t chart but it remains one of my favorites of them.
They are a tight band and I was given a ticket to one of their shows in the early 80s and they were a lot of fun to watch. Never been a huge fan but they had a huge sound for a trio. I’ve heard Bruce Springsteen cover this song.
This song was inspired by Texas blues musician named Joey Long, who was good friends with the band. As Billy Gibbons tells it, Long didn’t have a driver’s license, but he always had new Cadillac that his beautiful wife Barbarella used to drive him to gigs.
The song is confabulated so Long is enjoying the company of a few lovely ladies during this ride, all wearing nylons, spike-heeled shoes and smoking Lucky Strikes – he was living large!
Long, who died in 1995, wasn’t as rich or famous as he’s made out to be in the song, but he was one of the most acclaimed blues guitarists in Texas and a mentor to Gibbons, who cites Long’s playing on the Barbara Lynn track “We Got A Good Thing Going” as a formative influence.
Billy Gibbons played what he described as “a multi-stringed mandolin-like instrument from Parral, Mexico” that Joey Long gave him on this track. “If you listen closely, you can hear close-miked mandolin-sounding rhythm accompaniment,” he told Guitar World. “The lead track was played on a custom-made, half-sized, real short-scaled guitar tuned to G. It was actually standard tuning cranked up three steps, which remained quite playable thanks to the guitar’s short scale.
The song’s tail end alternates between three distinct effects created by two pedals: an Echoplex doubler and a Maestro octave box alternating every third bar between having the octave up and the octave down.”
I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide
Well I was rollin’ down the road in some cold blue steel
I had a blues man in back, and a beautician at the wheel
We going downtown in the middle of the night
We laughing and I’m jokin’ and we feelin’ alright
Oh I’m bad, I’m nationwide
Yes I’m bad, I’m nationwide
Easin’ down the highway in a new Cadillac
I had a fine fox in front, I had three more in the back
They sportin’ short dresses, wearin’ spike-heel shoes
They smokin’ Lucky Strikes, and wearing nylons too
‘Cause we bad, we nationwide
Yeah we bad, we nationwide
Well I was movin’ down the road in my V-8 Ford
I had a shine on my boots, I had my sideburns lowered
With my New York brim and my gold tooth displayed
Nobody give me trouble ’cause they know I got it made
I’m bad, I’m nationwide
Well I’m bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, I’m nationwide