The weirdest of the weird has to be “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.” Three versions of it are probably two too many, but what the hell, it is pretty wild. Imagine Blue Cheer cranking their amps up not to 11, but to 12, and tackling the mop-tops’ first American hit and you’ll get some idea of what this crazed track is all about.
The final five tunes are from The Coachmen, who were Gibbons’ band prior to the Moving Sidewalks. The Coachmen songs break down to three takes of “Stay Away” and two of “99th Floor.” All five were recorded during sessions in 1966.
There is a lot of material here, and this whole set was obviously a labor of love. It is great, on many levels, and really brings the phenomenon that ZZ Top later became into perspective. One can see exactly where Billy Gibbons began, and how he progressed as a musician, beginning all the way back in 1966.
This Moving Sidewalks collection educated me in a completely unexpected way. I thought I was “just” going to hear a record I had long wanted to hear. But it very effectively presents the career of Billy Gibbons as a musician who I have much more respect for now than I did before.
Almost as significant as the music is the 56-page booklet. Bill Bentley takes the long look, with a highly inclusive look at the music scene of Texas. He goes all the way back to bluesman Blind Lemon Jefferson in the 1920s, and traces the music up to the Moving Sidewalks and beyond. The Complete Collection really is as good as it gets when it comes to definitive compilations of obscure bands.