December, 31 1980
I was half-way through my senior year of high school and was already feeling pretty done with it all. Just short of my 18th birthday I was ready to move on to something different. High school had mostly made me feel how completely inadequate I was. I never really seemed to fit in. I was athletic, but not quite athletic enough. I was too accepting of everyone, which had only set me up to be lumped into categories and name calling, which were not true, but still struck cruel blows anyway. I had little confidence and was already afraid that the world was not going to be different once I moved on. I also can’t say that New Years eve, the promise of a new year had ever meant anything to me. It still does not. Rosh Hashanah has so much more meaning, so much more promise.
I don’t remember New Year’s eve being any more special than any other night. I remember being home more and watching things on television rather than party hopping. We were kids though, and anytime we went out that meant driving around and going to parties if there were any. My friend Guy had tickets to a concert though and I was going with him. Going out with Guy, could be a raucous affair and Guy usually made pretty good plans. Neither of us were the legal drinking age, which was 18 at the time in Texas, like that could stop us. The band was one I had seen before and I enjoyed seeing live. We were expecting a really good time.
Guy picked me up early in his Trans Am that he drove like a mad man, which always had me laughing hysterically and holding on for dear life. The show was at Reunion Arena in Dallas which was a new venue but I had already been to a few shows. We were up high but that didn’t bother us and we ended up sitting with some awesome people, all young but older than we were. There were 6 to 8 of them and they were easy to talk to. Like many young people in that situation, they had no problem buying us beer so we settled in and watched the arena slowly filling up with people. For the record, Guy and I may have had a few before we got there.
The Bus Boys were the opening act. We didn’t know who they were, but they had several hits in the 80’s and made it to a few soundtracks. Looking up that concert I recently discovered Rick Derringer was also a part of that show but for the life of me I don’t remember him. The Bus Boys were absolutely great, they had the entire arena pretty much hopping and rockin’. I enjoyed them immensely. They did what opening acts did although Guy and I wondered why they came on so early. When their show was over the lights came up and I noticed that the arena was still filling up. Our new friends got more beer for us and it wasn’t too much longer that the lights went down and the band we had all come to see was on stage, early, way too early. ZZ Top played for about an hour. I say that just to be generous. They came out for one encore and wished everyone a Happy New Year and then the lights came up and everyone was filing out. It was by far the worst concert I had ever seen. We were home by 10:30. We managed to find a party and hung out for a while. The next day I searched for a review of the show to see if someone had been sick but found nothing.
ZZ Top back then was a rite of passage for any Texas boy. In college I would have friends from other states who reported that ZZ Top was a good rock band, but they were nothing like they were in Texas. They were as much a part of Texas culture as cowboys, Indians, oil and the Dallas Cowboys. Everyone grew up with their music and there likely was not anyone my age who could not rattle off a dozen songs at the drop of a ten gallon hat. Beer Drinkers Hell Raisers was our anthem, our call to battle. When we sang Jesus left Chicago we were sure he would stop in Texas to hang with the bearded boys. Every cover band of 70s rock and roll better have some ZZ Top in their repertoire to play. They just better.
I saw them after a couple of times, and they never disappointed me again. Maybe that night something was happening because they knew how to entertain a crowd and always did.
So let’s play the last of my collection as a shout out to that little band from Texas.