How ZZ Top Nailed the ‘Velcro Fly’ Dance ‘In an Hour’
Even though ZZ Top can be subtle and clever when called for, there's more to them than meets the eyes and ears. Look no further than "Velcro Fly" for proof.
"I had heard about a Levi's limited run," singer and guitarist Billy Gibbons tells UCR about the song, which was recorded for the Texas trio's 1985 album Afterburner. "They were experimenting with Velcro as a pants fastener. Inspiration struck, and we ran with it in a zipless manner."
The single was released in July 1986, hitting No. 35 on the Billboard Hot 100, No. 15 on the Mainstream Rock Songs chart and even No. 43 on the Hot Dance Club Play survey.
The band and producer Bill Ham even employed some real Velcro during the recording of the song. "We used the real deal," Gibbons confirms. "I find the stuff endlessly fascinating, even on a par with bubble wrap." Fortunately for ZZ Top, the folks at Velcro - which is a trademarked brand name, after all - were just as enamored with the group.
"They turned out to be ZZ Top fans and followers," Gibbons recalls. "That exchange illuminated an interesting factoid that the concept of Velcro-like fastening was initially a plant-based discovery by Swiss electrical engineer George de Mestral back in 1941. While taking his dog Milka for a walk in the Alps, he wondered why burdock seeds clung to his woolen socks and coat, as well as the coat of his dog Milka. That discovery led to the creation of what we know as Velcro. Their enthusiasm gave us the green light to let 'er rip - or shall we say, let 'er grip!"
Part of the song's success came from its Egyptian-themed video, helmed by future James Bond director Daniel Kleinman and choregraphed by up-and-comer Paula Abdul, who worked with Gibbons, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard, as well as a trio of dancers who also appear in the clip.
Watch ZZ Top's 'Velcro Fly' Video
"Paula came around our room in North Hollywood during a ZZ Top filming session and came up with the suggestion that we take up her series of dance moves for the shoot," Gibbons says. "Basically, it was Paula who helped us invent doing the Velcro Fly. She was, of course, very innovative working out a lot of hand gestures and some daring footwork, and we executed our moves to the best of our meager ability. She's a real sweetheart, a sensation as a singer, and remains a pleasure to work with. The dancing extras seen in the clip also pulled off some extreme moves that Paula put together that seem inspired by the hieroglyphics etched into the pyramids."
Abdul said during a 1986 TV interview that she had just as much fun working with ZZ Top. "They were incredible to work with, a lot of fun, real energetic," she said. "When they contacted me they wanted me to do a real tongue-in-cheek dance for them called the Velcro Fly. They wanted, like, a hand-jive type of routine, so it was really the first comical routine I've ever done. ... I just created some hand movements for them that would work with the song, and we rehearsed the day before we shot and, I'm telling you, they learned it in an hour, went home and practiced it and the next day they came and they knew it."
"Velcro Fly"'s afterlife beyond Afterburner includes a mention in the Stephen King novel The Dark Tower III: The Waste Lands (it's also sampled in the audiobook) and appearances on the compilations Chrome, Smoke & BBQ, Rancho Texicano: The Very Best of ZZ Top, The Very Baddest and Goin' 50. The clip itself is included in Greatest Hits: The Video Collection.