In December 2019, I took the whole month off work. All that accrued holiday that I was unable to use in a stupidly busy year was splurged on a whole month of doing "not a lot".
And as I wasn't working, the razor stayed in the drawer and slowly ran out of charge, whilst I developed a lustrous beard.
(for "lustrous", read "patchy, with bits of grey")
And then came New Year and time to return to work, I kept the facial hair, trimmed it down a bit, and returned to work for a full 3 months until Covid took hold, and I've been working at home ever since.
The beard is now part of me, and I'm not getting rid of it. I have harboured ambitions of getting it to ZZ Top standards, but for one dissenting voice shouting "oh no you're bloody not!".
The most famous beard wearers in all of Rock Music (apart from the drummer who is ironically called Frank Beard), Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard have been working together since 1969, with just a few solo sojourns in between.
(Are they the longest surviving band with no personnel changes? They may very well be)
The early years of the band weren't as hirsute - Beards and tache, yes. But not until 1979, and the release of 'Degüello' was the full length topiary that made their legend first seen.
My entry point to ZZ Top (like may others I'm sure) was 1983s 'Eliminator' - a bright, clean sounding but bluesy rocking slab of 12 tracks, which spawned 4 singles "Gimme All Your Lovin", "Sharp Dressed Man", "TV Dinners" and the lascivious "Legs". The look of the band, and the visuals created by the album and it's sound sat them in prime position for MTV, and lap it up they did.
Although I didn't know it at the time, 'Eliminator' was another evolution of the bands desire to innovate and develop their sound - starting on the aforementioned 'Degüello - enhancing their basic 3 piece Bar Blues sound, using a range of synthesisers and studio technologies.
And what's so wrong with innovating and trying to stretch yourself? Absolutely nothing, and fair play to them for doing so and keep it interesting.
But if anyone asks me (and they haven't yet) my advice would be that a fine place to start the ZZ Top journey is at the beginning in the swampy-blues sound of 'ZZ Top's First Album' (1971) or 'Rio Grande Mud' (1972).
Over and above those though, my go to "you must hear this" choice would be 1973s 'Tres Hombres'.
This is their third album and they've now got feel for the studio, and are becoming more adept at recreating their sound in the studio confines - not going in, plugging in, and laying it down. This album feels stronger than previous efforts - the playing is more solid, certainly at the bottom end - allowing the guitars to sit above the groove and the songs to bloom, rather than replicate what you would hear on stage.
There is much to like (and move your feet to) on the album. From the somewhat funky-blues-boogie of opener "Waiting For The Bus" through "Jesus Just Left Chicago" to "Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers" and "Move Me On Down The Line".
But surely the standout track is "La Grange" - a John Lee Hooker-like Boogie, with a searing guitar bolted to it.
Undoubtedly one of the highest points in ZZ Tops's half decade, and one often overlooked in favour of the Beards, Cars, and Girls videos of 'Eliminator' and 'Afterburner'