ZZ Top - Legs (1984)
- 80's score: 1.6
- Genre(s): Blues rock / Synth pop
- More of: ZZ Top
“Legs” is a song performed by the band ZZ Top from their 1983 album Eliminator. The song was released as a single ...
“Legs” is a song performed by the band ZZ Top from their 1983 album Eliminator. The song was released as a single in 1984 and reached number eight on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States. The dance mix version of the song peaked at number thirteen on the dance charts.
Although all three members of ZZ Top are credited with playing on the track, only Gibbons was actually present; engineer Terry Manning was responsible for all the musical parts save the lead guitar. However, David Blayney (ZZ Top stage manager for 15 years) explains in his book Sharp Dressed Men that the pumping synthesizer effect in “Legs” was introduced in pre-production by Linden Hudson. During the final tracking sessions, Terry Manning (final Eliminator tracking engineer) called Linden Hudson and asked how he did the synth effects for “Legs”, although Terry could have easily pulled it off if he needed to.
The single remix of “Legs” is much more synthesizer-driven than the album version (although a synthesizer can be heard throughout the latter, it is toned down). There is also a three-note guitar riff heard throughout most of the album version of “Legs”, and it is a minute longer than the single version.
The “Legs” video was the third and last of the Eliminator series of videos that introduced the now-iconic 1933 Ford, “Eliminator girls”, and ZZ Top-as-benevolent-spirits tropes, all of which have become firmly established aspects of the band’s iconography. “Legs” was important in this regard as it diversified the subject of transformation from man (“Gimme All Your Lovin'” and “Sharp Dressed Man”) to woman.
After stepping in a mud puddle and bumping into tough-looking but polite bikers at a crosswalk, a pretty salesgirl (Wendy Frazier) enters a burger joint. She places a take-out order but suffers harassment by everyone there except a handsome young cook (David Wakefield) who is also bullied by his co-workers. The salesgirl takes her order, escapes the place and her tormentors, but in her haste leaves her glasses and a food container. The cook retrieves the items and runs after her to the shoe store where she works.
At the shoe store, the store owner and the senior salesman both shove the salesgirl around, while a customer laughs raucously at her misfortune. The cook dashes into the shop and then to the stock room to return the girl’s items. She thanks him shyly, but the owner and the salesman burst in, and heave the cook out of the store. ZZ Top’s trademark showcar, the Eliminator, pulls up with the Eliminator girls (Jeana Tomasino, Kymberly Herrin, and Danièle Arnaud). The Three help the cook to his feet, dust him off, then slip into the shoe store through the back door. The Eliminators find the dejected salesgirl, put her abusers in their place, then present the salesgirl to ZZ Top, who magically appear to bestow her the Eliminator’s keys.
The three women whisk away the salesgirl for a complete makeover: new hairstyle, makeup, and sexy new wardrobe (pink stockings and garters, a matching short skirt, lace-trimmed ankle socks with spike heels). The Eliminator arrives at the burger joint, where the salesgirl debuts her confident new self. She strides into the restaurant with the Eliminator Girls and, with the help of the friendly bikers, uses muscle to keep the more aggressive men at bay. Taking her fella, the cook, by the hand the happy pair leaves the restaurant and ride a dune buggy into the distance. The burger joint’s female owner and the rowdy customers watch them leave, sullen over being put in their place. The Eliminator girls invite some of the friendly bikers to join them and the Eliminator drives away as ZZ Top magically appear one last time to wave at the camera.
The video marked the debut of Gibbons and Hill’s fur-covered Dean guitars, which have been used for live performances of “Legs” ever since.
The video won the 1984 MTV Video Music Award for Best Group Video. This was the first year the award was given. The commercial and music video director, Tim Newman, provided direction and cinematography for this as well as the ZZ Top music videos “Gimme All Your Lovin’,” “Sharp Dressed Man,” and “My Head’s In Mississippi” (as well as “I Love LA,” for his cousin Randy Newman). 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.
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. In the scene, hospital orderly Luther (Eric Laneuville) falls asleep as the radio is playing “Legs”, and he dreams the Eliminator girls come to his aid, helping him to seek revenge on security staff who have oppressed him.
The May 9, 2017 episode of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon featured a parody of “Legs” as part of the show’s recurring “First Drafts of Rock” segment. Host Jimmy Fallon portrayed Dusty Hill, while guests Chris Stapleton and Kevin Bacon portrayed Billy Gibbons and Frank Beard, respectively. The song referred to body parts other than legs, with sample lyrics including “She’s got hands, she knows how to wave them/She’s got eyebrows, she knows how to raise them”. During the song’s last verse, Beard begins naming objects that are not body parts, only to be corrected by the other band members. He finally settles on “she’s got a neck”, at which point the band decides that “this song is called ‘Neck'”.