April 2003 Archives
After having procrastinated for five months, I finally got the message board, er, guestbook to look like it's a part of this site. Same content, fresh new look. I know it's the least traveled part of the site, but maybe now the look of it won't drive people off. It's got the site color scheme, the header, and nav links at the top. Come on, go take a look and leave a message. Ya know ya want to!
The Dean Martin of the Blues
by Jeb Wright
I remember driving around with the top down and the stereo cranked up listening to G.T. while wearing dark shades and drinking a beer. Whether it was
John Easdale - Network Magazine
George Thorogood should be declared a national treasure. For more than 25 years, Thorogood and his Delaware Destroyers have been blowing the roofs off of every possible rock & roll venue, from clubs and small theaters to stadiums and Enormodomes worldwide. And from the beginning of his career, Thorogood has been preaching the Gospel...according to John Lee Hooker, Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley, all of whom are represented on his new album, Ride 'Til I Die, which is due in stores March 25 courtesy of the fine folks at Eagle Records.
And here's the best part: George Thorogood circa 2003 is almost exactly the same as George Thorogood circa 1980, or 1990, or at any time during his career. If anything, like a fine wine, he's improving with age. But one needs only to give a single listen to Ride 'Til I Die to hear it for him or herself. Using Grammy-winning producer Jim Gaines (Santana, John Lee Hooker, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Blues Traveler), Thorogood has come up with his finest collection in years, if not all time. Or, as Thorogood himself puts it, "If it's not the best, then it's just as good as the best album I've ever done."
And we heartily concur. In a recent conversation, Thorogood discussed his new album and his own musical philosophy:
You're an East Coast boy originally, right? Are you living out here in California now?
Yeah, I made it. I escaped and made it to the promised land--where all rock & rollers are supposed to end up.
The new album sounds really great; it's not what you'd call a great departure from the rest of the George Thorogood oeuvre. I was joking with somebody and I said, "You wouldn't believe it; he does a Chuck Berry song, a John Lee Hooker song and a Bo Diddley song!"
Yeah, you wouldn't believe that, right?
But at the same time, you just do what you've always been doing, and it's amazing.
Well, I look at it this way; even if you're married for 25 years, the marriage is there and you're more into your wife every day. I look at what we do as far as albums go, and [people may say] "Well, it's the same as what he did." I say, Woody Allen's movies are all the same, but they're not the same. If you look at Bananas or Take The Money And Run, but then you turn around and look at Hannah & Her Sisters or Broadway Danny Rose, they are the same, but they're better. You can say, "Well, you see one Woody Allen movie; you've seen them all." I say that's not so. If you watched all four back-to-back, you'd say, "I see the thread and the similarity, but they're not exactly the same." And Woody might put out a movie once every five years, but he just gets Woody Allen people to go see them. That's all he does, and that's what we do.
I just want George Thorogood people to listen to our record. I'm interested in keeping the friends that I have. If I make a couple more on the way, that's fine, but I'm more interested in sustaining and keeping a great relationship with the fans and friends we have and branching out from that.
Besides, do you think America is a racist country in general? I think musically it is, because if you're a white guy and you make an album of, say, cover songs, Rhythm & Blues stuff, for your first couple of records, they go, "Oh, it's really great. This guy could be the next boom." So when you don't become the next boom, they have that attitude that you're supposed to go on writing songs and you're supposed to turn into Tom Petty or Bob Seger or The Rolling Stones or Van Morrison. You're supposed to start on blues, then you're supposed to start writing your own stuff and then you're supposed to start writing rock operas and doing concept records. Now when you don't do that, they say, "Hey, he's a flop; he never reached his full potential."
Aretha Franklin, is she the greatest soul singer in the world? She's the greatest singer in the world; she did great soul records for years. Then she cut a record that was a departure from all that and she got panned by the critics something fierce. They said, "Come back to us, Lady Soul." Stay in the same bag, do the same old thing. If a black person gets out of that--with the exception of Marvin Gaye, who did that very well--it's like, "No, no, you're supposed to be doing this." If I did an entire album of originals and let's say I branched out and tried to do what Van Morrison does, all the critics that have been waiting years for me to do that would just look at it and go, "What's Thorogood doin'? What is this? He's the one-chord boogie guy." See what I mean? You can't win and you can't lose, so I just stick with the same old thing, which I am the master at this point. John Lee Hooker is not alive; the J. Geils Band is broken up. We are what you call the champs by default.
The stuff that you're doing still sounds like you did in the '70s and '80s, by which I mean it's not dated. It's just timeless.
Well, I picked that to begin with. I picked something I figured would never go out of style. If I opened up a store, I would have a store with Budweiser in it, I would sell bread, I would sell eggs, and I would sell milk. I'd say these are the staples. Your store is never gonna go out of business if you have these things. You might have Dom Perignon and wine sitting on the shelf and you sell maybe four bottles, but you can't make a living on it. They're not gonna buy that kind of stuff everyday, because the average person doesn't have that kind of money. So I figured that if you stay with something you know. Besides, that's what I love anyway. I grew up a fan of the first three Rolling Stones records.
It came across at the beginning of your career, and it still comes across. People weren't familiar with the work of John Lee Hooker or even Bo Diddley back when you were making your first records. You certainly opened a lot of minds and opened up a whole galaxy of music that a lot of us had never heard because they weren't playing too many '50s blues records on the radio. It's great that you're continuing that tradition.
Well, we may have turned on a lot of new people to that, but to me, I was just carrying on something that had been going on for at least two decades. Even Chuck Berry, when he started, and Bo Diddley--although their thing was very unique, their roots were blues. Chuck Berry's idol was Muddy Waters. Bo Diddley's idol was Howlin' Wolf. Then Howlin' Wolf's idol was Charlie Patton and Muddy Waters' idol was Robert Johnson. So it's just a continuation of something that people have done long before me and done much better than me. I always say that I went to the same school that Keith Richards did, but it's just that he graduated with top honors and I squeaked by with a C+. But at least I went to the right school.
Thorogood Rides On
Looking back, it seems fitting that George Thorogood's signature song, the self-penned "Bad to the Bone," was a staple for years at various Major League Baseball stadiums across America. After all, the Delaware native and longtime New York Mets fan played in the minor leagues before choosing to make his regular living on concert stages instead of baseball fields.
Thorogood reportedly decided to change careers after seeing a 1970 performance by blues musician John Hammond Jr. Favoring tradition over trends, Thorogood opted to play music that "will never go out of style" -- and to him, that was rowdy rock and raw blues.
After assembling his original Destroyers lineup, the singer-guitarist moved with the band to the Boston area, where blues fan John Forward saw them perform circa 1975 and subsequently served as their liaison with Rounder Records, an independent label based in Cambridge, Mass.
George Thorogood and the Destroyers, released by Rounder in 1977, established the template for almost all future Thorogood albums -- plenty of familiar and obscure covers, plus a token original (sometimes a few) that usually followed the structure, theme and spirit of the outside material. The self-titled debut disc featured a version of John Lee Hooker's "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer" that has long been a staple on classic-rock radio, while Thorogood & Co.'s 1978 follow-up, Move It On Over, included covers of Hank Williams' "Move It On Over" and Bo Diddley's "Who Do You Love?" that still get plenty of airplay.
Starting in 1982, Thorogood and the Destroyers began a long association with EMI. Their first album for the label, 1982's Bad to the Bone, was certified gold on Aug. 7, 1985 -- two days after their follow-up release, 1985's Maverick, achieved the same distinction. Through 1999, Thorogood & Co. placed 16 tunes on Billboard's mainstream rock songs chart, including the originals "Born To Be Bad" and "If You Don't Start Drinkin' (I'm Gonna Leave)," plus covers of late blues artist Robert Johnson's "I'm a Steady Rollin' Man" and rock legend Chuck Berry's "Reelin' and Rockin'."
Since the 1999 release of Half a Boy, Half a Man and Live in '99, both on CMC International, Thorogood and his band have remained active on the touring circuit. Ride 'Til I Die, their latest album, was issued in March on Eagle Records, and they'll begin a stretch of North American tour dates April 8 at the Fox Theater in Bakersfield, Calif. The current Destroyers lineup includes the longtime rhythm section of Jeff Simon (drums) and Billy Blough (bass); guitarist Jim Suhler, who joined the fold in 1999; and brand-new saxophonist Arno Hecht, who previously worked with the Rolling Stones, J. Geils Band and many others.
Thorogood recently sat down with us to discuss his original music-career goals, Suhler's contributions to the Destroyers and the chances of Ride 'Til I Die being his last studio album.
George Thorogood: My [original] plan was to do four [albums] . . . I [signed] with Rounder Records, and we did the first one, and I wanted to do a deal. I said, 'I want to do one more studio album, an all-acoustic album and a live album.' That was going to be my diploma, so to speak, for getting work. I was going to say, 'Here's what we can do live, and here's what I can do as a soloist,' so if, like, Bonnie Raitt was in town, I could open for her as a solo performer, and if Buddy Guy or Elvin Bishop was playing, we would open for them as a trio. I was really pushing to get a gig in Chuck Berry's backup band. That was it. That was pretty much my goal.
Something went wrong somewhere. I don't know what happened. I had a very simple plan -- a simple three-piece band. Our act isn't exactly brain surgery. To come back later with 11 records . . . I had a problem with EMI because every time I'd re-sign, they'd say, 'You're going to do a six-record deal.' [I would say], 'No, wait a minute! . . . Two records!' I didn't want to walk [away from the label]. I just said, 'I don't have that much material! I want to make good records.' From 'Get a Haircut' up until 'Half a Boy and Half a Man' . . . there's maybe 10 good songs there, and that's good enough for one record. There were a few complaints [from] the people, and they said, 'This album isn't strong enough.' I said, 'I told you! I can't do that! I'm not Sting.' I'm not Sting. I'm not Bruce Springsteen. I don't have this incredible genius of depth musically or writing or any of that. Paul Simon puts out an album once every 10 years, but it's a killer album when he does. I said, 'I want to do it about every five years, and let's do a three-record deal. Throw out a live album every 10 years or so and we got a deal.' Eleven records -- it's pretty amazing. It's pretty amazing someone would want me to make 11 records. That's even more flattering. That's an accomplishment in itself.
As the Years Go Passing By
[It's] a strong possibility [that this could be our last studio album] . . . this album is what we're about. [Producer] Jim Gaines captured what we are -- the entire 25 years of the Destroyers' existence . . . [All I've been doing during that time is] improving my r
There is one thing you can always count on with George Thorogood, his music is not going to change.
If nothing else, this release proves that George Thorogood plans on riding his career out