Moving Sidewalks – Flash
Rock Beat – 2022
11 tracks; 44 minutes
Back in the mid-60’s a young Billy Gibbons was just starting out in music. He got involved in bands while at Art School in California and formed Moving Sidewalks when he returned to Houston in 1967. The band consisted of Gibbons on guitar and vocals, Tom Moore on keys, Don Summers on bass and Dan Mitchell on drums. The band had a considerable following in Texas and supported several well-known acts including The 13th Floor Elevators (a major influence on the band), The Doors and Jimi Hendrix. After several reasonably successful singles the band released its only album Flash in 1969. The album contained material written by all members of the band, Gibbons being the main writer, along with the band’s manager, Steve Ames. The band folded when Moore and Summers were drafted into the army, but Gibbons and Mitchell then formed the original incarnation of ZZ Top and the rest is history.
The album opens with “Flashback”, very typical of 60’s psychedelic music, distorted vocals, freaky guitar breaks, swirling organ and obscure lyrics. Mind you, Moore’s “Scoun Da Be” gets even weirder lyrically as Gibbons demonstrates his Hendrix influence on the guitar. The tune there is arguably blues-based but Gibbons’ first writing credit “You Make Me Shake” is more like early Who, with some resemblance to “Happy Jack”, particularly in the bass lines. The pace drops for “You Don’t Know The Life”, an organ-led ballad, before “Pluto – Sept. 31st” which is very Hendrix-influenced, both in the guitar work and ‘far out’ lyrics, even including studio trickery like backwards tapes and spoken asides. This track definitely sounds like an outtake from an Experience album!
More commercial in sound is “No Good To Cry” which was released as the ‘B’ side of “Flashback”. “Crimson Witch” combines a chugging guitar riff with rousing drums and lyrics like “I’m so far out I can’t remember my face” before the longest track on the album, “Joe Blues”, also released as a ‘B’ side, this time paired with “I Want To Hold Your Hand” (yes, the Beatles song, not included on this collection); it is a proper blues, complete with some solid guitar work, lots of reverb and echo on everything, Gibbons even adding some anguished harmonica. The original album then closed with “Eclipse” and “Reclipse”: both tracks have lots of studio messing about, silly voices, ticking clocks, fake commercials and shouts of ‘Take 1, Take 2’ etc.; there is even an orchestral section! Simply irritating to these ears, they may have sounded better after some recreational drugs as the noise switches between the speakers in true 60’s style! Added to the original album is “99th Floor”, the band’s debut single from 1967; shorter in length and more tightly arranged, it is a pretty commercial piece of pop with a few additions like the background harp.
The Moving Sidewalks were clearly very much of their era. There is one blues song here and a few influences but in the main we are a long way from the blues here. Potential buyers should be aware that the album has been re-released before, notably a Complete Collection in 2012 that included this material, plus some earlier material from Billy’s first band The Coachmen. However, this re-release contains the whole Flash album remastered, along with the debut single “99th Floor”.