When ZZ Top Was Ignored By A British Synth-Pop Duo

Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark co-founder Andy McCluskey admitted in an interview with Substack music letter The New Cue that OMD didn’t pay much attention to ZZ Top when they appeared on the British music show ‘Old Grey Whistle Test’ alongside them in 1980.

Despite OMD’s lack of interest in ZZ Top at the time, it turns out ZZ Top was influenced by OMD’s performance, as McCluskey revealed:

“Somebody said, ‘Have you read ZZ Top’s autobiography?’ I went, ‘No, why would I read that?’ They said, ‘Well, you know, you did [British music show] ‘Old Grey Whistle Test’ with them back in 1980?’ I said, ‘Yeah, yeah, it’s not my cup of tea. They said, ‘You should read it, look at this page.’ We had treated them like a bunch of hairy blues wankers, didn’t say anything nasty to them, just ignored them, like ‘This is the old sh*t, we’re the new sh*t.'”

ZZ Top’s Unexpected Inspiration From OMD

The singer was surprised to learn that ZZ Top credited OMD for inspiring them in two significant ways. He noted:

“It turns out that they credit us for two things. One, they said, ‘The lead singer out of Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark, the way he swung his bass, we rip that off – all the ‘Eliminator’ videos where we’re swinging our guitars, we’re copying that guy from Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark,’ and they said, ‘And that’s when we went to electric drums and an electric sequencers and basses on ‘Eliminator,’ because of OMD.’ I wish we’d had the bloody sales that ‘Eliminator’ had!”

Potential Collaboration With ZZ Top

In a 2017 conversation with Parklife DC, McCluskey spoke about OMD’s openness to collaboration, mentioning his interest in working with musicians like Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, explaining:

“I would love to do something with Gary Numan. I would love to have Billy Gibbons play on one of our records. Some people find that a bit strange, but I would! [In the past, Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top has commented that seeing OMD on ‘The Old Grey Whistle Test,’ where ZZ Top also appeared, inspired his band to incorporate synthesizers into their work.]

So, ZZ Top were really impressed with OMD and started using a jerky dance in their shows. This experience also inspired ZZ Top to use synthesizers in their songs, which became a key part of their 1981 album ‘El Loco.’