The Moving Sidewalks

Grinding To a Standstill

Flash - Tantara 1968
Rating = 4

As a valued critic and society, I try to do everything I can to help out budding young mucousians. I know it's no cakewalk to be a young artist with stones in your pathway (eg lack of talent, no common sense), so I try to assist as best I can with my industry smarts and clout, and penis if it's a girl. But there's one piece of advice that I seem to give out over and over and over again to no avail. It's a key bit of learned knowledge that I long ago recognized as a crucial ingredient in the creation of solid working art, yet greenhorn guitar pickers keep ignoring me and making the same mistake decade after decade. For Christ's love, why won't anybody listen to me when I warn them that just because they're going to form ZZ Top in two years, that doesn't mean that they're Jimi Hendrix now?

Here's just one example of what I'm talking about. One time five years before I was born, a guitar picker named Billy Gibbons walked up to me in Soho, TX (just south of Houston) and said, "Hay Mark I'm going to form ZZ Top in two years, but listen to this grate band I'm in right now called The Moving Sidewalks." Now first of all, this was 1968; moving sidewalks hadn't even been invented yet, let alone served as the inspiration for a band name. But secondly and more disturbingly, this music didn't sound a thing like I figured ZZ Top would in 2 years when they were formed. Instead, Billy Gibbons was trying to be Seattle Supersonic Jimi Hendrix! And right then and there, I told him the same thing that I'd told dozens of musicans before him: "Just because you're going to form ZZ Top in two years, that doesn't mean that you're Jimi Hendrix now." "Plus this stinks."

In the most general sense, The Moving Sidewalks' Flash LP is a diverse yet underwhelming mixture of chunky rock, blooze, funky blue-eyed soul, garage rock and psychedelic experimentation -- sort of a Blue Cheer/Steppenwolf/Vanilla Fudge deal with some sub-Zappa noise dickery at the end. But more specifically, this is Billy Gibbons and three of his friends trying to be The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Texas Division. Hendrixy funk guitar licks like "You Make Me Shake" and especially "Pluto - Sept. 31st" (yeah, more like "Fire - Jimi. HDrx" if you ask me! He even uses the phrase "green haze" in the lyrics!!) are obvious enough on their own. Add to that a familiar wailing solo style, dopey PsYcHeDeLiC touches (echoed dramatic whispering, backwards drums, tape loops), and a very obvious attempt on Billy's part to vocalize like Jimi (self-aware 'cool' speak-sing, with lyrics like "Just-ah open your little mind up"), and mister you've got an album that fairly BEGS the advice "Just because you're going to form ZZ Top in two years, that doesn't mean that you're Jimi Hendrix now."

Many people are familiar with The Moving Sidewalks' popular garage rock Pebble "99th Floor." But see, that came out in 1967, before The Moving Sidewalks had toured with Jimi Hendrix. That's not what this album sounds like. This album sounds like, lousy.

"Flashback" is an exciting uptempo Mitch Ryder-style lead track that'll get your feet moving and your body grooving, but after that things get all Jimied up and undercompelling. Even the least Hendrixy songs (the slower, more straightforward blues numbers) fail to kick up any melodic or rhythmic steampower bubbles. And the last two 'songs' are just Pstupid Pscyhedelic tape fuckery that probably sounded dated two weeks after the record came out. Not as dated as "FX" by Black Sabbath, but let's not compare apples to Black Sabbath here.

So it's official. Just like I told Dusty Hill when he released an album called Are You Experienced? credited to "The Jimi Hendrix Experience (Featuring Dusty Hill As 'Jimi Hendrix')": "Just because you're going to form ZZ Top in two years, that doesn't mean that you're Jimi Hendrix now."

It's just like I told Frank Beard when he spraypainted his skin brown and had a lethal dose of wine forced down his throat by Cointelpro agents: "J

Reader Comments

Mike Hiltz
Weirdest thing... so I'm surfing the net, and for whatever reason start thinking about ZZ Top, who I never listen to... in fact, I was a little confused as to why they jumped in my head. So I go to your page to see what album you recommend to put on my shopping list, and then I'm done. I check my MySpace page, and see that you'd listed an update... of the Moving Sidewalks album that I just got from a friend 3 days ago!

And, yeah, it's just sorta OK.

I mean, I have a REALLY low tolerance for psych rock in general, unless it's got some nasty guitar wranglin', and I figured if it's Billy Gibbons, there's at least gotta be some guitar merit, and there kinda is, but it's underwhelming to me. More of a historical curiosity... maybe it's just me, or maybe it's the water in Texas, but I hear a little bit of 13th Floor Elevators, who I like, so that Texasy Psych thing inclines me to add a point or two, but it's not going to get above a 6 (or maybe 7 if I'm in a trippy kinda mood) from me...

Tom Troccoli
For all the yap I had been hearing for years on end about these guys, I finally got a graymarket copy back in the late 1980's which included a few a and b-sides. Absolutly without a doubt the worst Beatles cover (I Wanna Hold Your Hand) I have ever heard. The stuff doesn't sound psychedelic, it sounds angel dusted. And hey, I LOVE the Reverend Billy Gibbons...
Read your 'review' of "The Moving Sidewalks" old album from the late 1960's that is suddenly becoming known, and the comments added . . .

I can't seem to get on board. What's all the fuss about? Flashback was never a great collection of music. I had the lp right after it came out and it was disappointing. So, dragging it into the limelight after all this time as some sort of Billy Gibbons "find" is laughable.
You guys are crazy to put down Flash. It is a class act - from songs, to performance, to production.
Yes, a lot of it's charm is it's quaint psychedelic time period factor. But, that's the only reason to listen to it anyways. If you don't like that type of music then don't waste your time on this. All the reasons people put it down are the same reasons it's great. Echos, backwards stuff , phasing... It probably actually would suck it not for the fact that Billy Gibbons adds more than his 2 cents of cool on the proceedings. If you could imaging a young Billy Gibbons let loose in a professional recording studio in 1968...this is exactly what you would get! So shaddup already!
As for trying to be Jimi Hendrix...Hell, Jimi was doing the coolest stuff and Gibbons was just putting his own spin in the party, that's all. No shame in that. (Murray Harris)
I used to go see the Moving Sidewalks play on Friday nights in Houston, Tx. and they were a unique band way back then.

I have a mint copy of the original "Moving Sidewalks" album. This is not a copy or remake. Is anyone interested in buying it?
The Moving Sidewalks played our Senior Party at Victoria Country Club in 1969! Yeah ... they weren't ZZ Top yet.

To top it off, my husband played just before ZZ Top in Nacogdoches in 1971. Yes, they were way better by then.

Loved this critique.

Don Summers of The Moving Sidewalks
Just days before a major end of summer concert at The Catacombs in Houston in August of 68, three of The Sidewalks went to California to protest the handling of the Flash album. It was too long in production and they knew it had already become dated! Tom Moore thought it was a prank when the other three showed up with a trailer and their equipment past midnight on the 29th of 1968. The band wanted to go back into the studio to record more current material blues based songs. The release of the Album was not favored by all.

The cover of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” (we just called it “Hand”) was an anti Beatle cover that mocked the juvenile love theme of the original and had an early Punk feel.

Billy was influenced by Jimi as was Stevie Ray.

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