“We treated them like a bunch of hairy blues wankers… I wish we’d had the sales Eliminator had!” How British synth-pop duo OMD unwittingly set ZZ Top on the path to mega-stardom

ZZ Top
(Image credit: Fin Costello, Getty Images)

Electro-pop pioneers OMD – Orchestral Maneouvres In The Dark to their mothers – influenced a new wave of artists doing poppy things with synthesizers in the late 70s and early 80s but there is one band that sticks out like a sore thumb when OMD co-founder Andy McCluskey looks back over the list: ZZ Top.

In an interview with Substack music letter The New Cue a few months ago, McCluskey said that a friend pointed him in the direction of a book by the bearded Texan rockers because his band had been mentioned.

“Somebody said, ‘Have you read ZZ Top’s autobiography?’,” McCluskey explained. “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 shit, we’re the new shit’.”

But despite McCluskey and his bandmates dismissing Billy Gibbons & co., it appears their performance had quite the impact on ZZ Top.

“It turns out that they credit us for two things,” McCluskey continued. “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!”

OMD didn’t do quite so badly themselves: the Liverpool duo, who released their 14th studio album Bauhaus Staircase last year, have sold north of 25 million singles and 15 million albums over the course of their career. But ZZ Top’s OMD-nicking Eliminator managed a whopping 11 million all by itself.

Now that you know where they got their moves from, you can watch the video to Gimme All Your Lovin’ below, cast in a whole new light:

Niall Doherty

Niall Doherty is a writer and editor whose work can be found in Classic Rock, The Guardian, Music Week, FourFourTwo, on Apple Music and more. Formerly the Deputy Editor of Q magazine, he co-runs the music Substack letter The New Cue with fellow former Q colleagues Ted Kessler and Chris Catchpole. He is also Reviews Editor at Record Collector. Over the years, he's interviewed some of the world's biggest stars, including Elton John, Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, Muse, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Depeche Mode, Robert Plant and more. Radiohead was only for eight minutes but he still counts it.