Track of the Week: “I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide,” by ZZ Top

Track of the Week With a title like “I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide,” ZZ Top better deliver some  riffage bursting with plenty of attitude. Fortunately for us, this song delivers on the title’s promise. This song makes me want to grow a neck beard, wrestle a lion, drop-kick Randy “Macho Man” Savage and save 4 million orphaned puppies from a burning building. Ooh yeah!

And how does Billy Gibbons, the vocalist and guitarist for ZZ Top, convey the ultra-manliness on display here? With an aggressive tone driving sledge-hammer pentatonic-based blues riffs.

One of the benefits of improvising using the pentatonic scale is that the guitarist isn’t burdened with a ton of information to process from note to note. The pentatonic scale is a simple scale that doesn’t offer a ton of harmonic possibilities, but it does leave a lot of room for expression. That’s why the blues and rock solos are known for their intensity. The pentatonic scale affords the guitarist more musical gesticulation in exchange for less contemplation.

Billy Gibbons would never have sounded so manly if he used any other scale. If he used,  say, the mixolydian scale,  Gibbons would have pondered the harmonic implications of each note instead of melting your face off with pure rock power.

Melting people’s faces off…that’s pretty manly right? I think so!

For more information about me and the guitar lessons that I give in and around Baltimore, visit

One response to “Track of the Week: “I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide,” by ZZ Top

  1. One of my favorite ZZ Top tunes! The images that this song brings up in my mind are visions of a chopped top 32 ford looking bad ass, filled with booze, other contraband, and loose women, smokin Lucky Strikes! I absolutely loved ZZ Tops early sound! Raw unbridled kick-ass blues infused rock. When ya get a chance, spin the tune “Brown Sugar” from Rio Grande Mud.Texas blues infused rock at it’s best!

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