Meaning of Rough Boy by ZZ Top & Song Story

While working on the album Afterburner, ZZ Top decided on risky experiments with sound. The musicians moved away from the image of hooligan rockers and approached the border between rock and pop at a dangerous distance. Many fans even felt that they had crossed the line separating these genres. Especially fierce indignation of loyal fans caused excessive, in their opinion, the band’s passion for the synthesizer and drum machine.

However, time has shown that ZZ Top was moving in the right direction. The album rose high in the charts and became multi-platinum, and several tracks turned out to be international hits. Among them is the rock ballad Rough Boy (“Tough Guy”), designed in the style of a classic disco slugger.

The history of creation and the meaning of the song Rough Boy

The composition was composed by Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard.

Billy talked about who Rough Boy is about:

He’s such a fictional character that was the only way to get ZZ Top to play another ballad. He appeared as follows: “Under what conditions would a fan of ZZ Top let such a beautiful, sexy sound into his kingdom?” This lovely music had to have a tough guy in it. And there he is.

In El Loco, we included Leila, which can be called “ZZ Top meets the Beach Boys”. I guess it didn’t work as well as a synth programmer meeting a rapper in a New York alley. It’s just a matter of how long it will take before someone asks, “Hey man! Are you the tough guy?” What will you answer?

Spin, 1985

Release and achievements

The track Rough Boy was released as the third single from the Afterburner album. The song peaked at number 22 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 23 on the UK Top 40. Its highest peak was number five on the Billboard Album Rock Tracks chart.

Rough Boy

The music video for the song was directed by Steve Barron. The video features the Eliminator spaceship featured on the cover of the Afterburner album. In the story, he flies into an intergalactic car wash.

Let’s watch the clip of Rough Boy by the rock band ZZ Top.

Rough Boy Lyrics

What in the world’s come all over me?
I ain’t got a chance of one in three
Ain’t got no rap, ain’t got no line
But if you’ll give me just a minute I’ll be feelin’ fine

I am the one who can fade the heat
The one they all say just can’t be beat
I’ll shoot it to you straight and look in the eye
So gimme just a minute and I’ll tell you why
I’m a rough boy, I’m a rough boy

I don’t care how you look at me
Because I’m the one and you will see
We can make it work, we can make it by
So give me one more minute and I’ll tell you why
I’m a rough boy, I’m a rough boy

Billy Gibbons/Dusty Hill/Frank Beard
Rough Boy lyrics © BMG Rights Management

Rough Boy Lyrics

What the hell got into me?
I don’t even have one chance in three
There is no rap, no line,
But if you give me just a minute, I’ll be fine.

I am the one who can temper the ardor
The one everyone says can’t be beaten.
I’ll drive right up to you and look you in the eye.
So give me just a minute and I’ll tell you why
I’m cool, I’m cool

I don’t care who you think I am
‘Cause I’m the one and you’ll understand
We can do it, we can do it.
So give me one more minute and I’ll tell you why
I’m cool, I’m cool

Song Quotes

While the Rough Boys themselves are all eighties drum machines and synths, Billy Gibbons delivers one of his signature soulful solos that saves the song from becoming another faceless piece of glamorous MTV-era production.

Tom Johnson,, 2015

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