June 2004 Archives
- read interview here -
By Phil Drew , The Record
"Figuring out my band is like trying to figure out the plot to a Three Stooges film," says George Thorogood, who headlines the Palace Sunday night, with Dickie Betts opening.
"There's only two things in the world that you can have naturally. You can be sexy, or you can be funny.
"A long time ago I thought, 'I'm not sexy. I'm not that good looking. I'm never gonna play like Carlos Santana. I'm never gonna write like Bob Dylan. I'm never gonna be able to sing like Paul McCartney. What can I do? What is it that I have?' And I said, 'Be funny! Nobody does that.'
The only way I got through junior high school is by cracking jokes. Comedy was my first love. That's what I really wanted to do with my life when I was 12 years old."
Now 50, Thorogood last month released "Greatest Hits: 30 Years of Rock." It contains "Move It On Over," the biggest-selling record Rounder Records ever had. It was a heavy reworking of a Hank Williams country classic.
"Who Do You Love" was a blues-rocking crossover hit in the '50s for Bo Diddley, and "Bad to The Bone" was a Thorogood boogie monster inspired by his 1981 tour with the Stones and J. Geils.
EMI calls the album "30 Years of Rock" for commercial reasons says Thorogood.
"They put the word rock in everything these days. 'Rock the vote' got Clinton elected. Rockin' at McDonald's? They'll sell 40 more cheeseburgers a day if they put that up on the marquee."
George Thorogood has always been more about cheeseburgers than he has filet mignon, but his straight-from-the-groin delivery and tongue-in-cheek machismo make him more at home with the best of the farm team blues men than the millions of Stones wannabes. His look-you-in-the-eye honesty is refreshing in a world of rock poseurs who many think have a license for lunacy.
"I used to think (I had that license as a rock and roller). No, you don't! I used to think, 'Oh, well, I can do all these eccentric things.' 'Oh, well, he's a musician. He's a rock star.'
"You only get away with that to an extent and only for a brief period of time. Not anymore. It used to be acceptable. Now, all the rock stars are saints. They all start having children. That never used to happen before.
"Rock music in 1970 was a degenerate, a pre-vert. I was one of them, and now it's like this whole new thing; people trying to show they're a regular guy. Warren Beatty getting married and having children. What's that all about? You know what I'm saying?
"No, all of a sudden, everybody is trying to clean up their act and show they're good people. I'm thinking, 'No, they're not! They're still the same bums they always were. They just have kids now. So, it's like their fault now.
"I have to follow their pattern, but I'm looking forward to the day when I'm 66, 67, and I can sit there and scratch myself in public."
"Greatest Hits: 30 Years of Rock" debuted on the Billboard Top 200 Album Charts at 55. Robbie Gordon has a copy of the album cover on the hood of his car in the NASCAR Celebrity Allstar series.
Harley Davidson is headlining Thorogood in its Harley Fest Classic, a September concert expected to attract 10,000 bikers to Dan Dimas, California. Fox-TV's animated "King of The Hill" is awarding one lucky viewer to trip to Cleveland to see Thorogood live.
His album may have hit number one of the blues charts, but it's the classic rock crowd that drives his career. And it's a career niche he understands very clearly.
"They can only push you so far," he says. "If it was gonna happen, it would have happened by now. You can only take a 295 hitter and turn him into a 335 hitter. You might be able to stretch it into a 300 hitter, but you can only stretch it so far.
"There's only so much push they can do to push Thorogood up into the level of a Bruce Springsteen or Tom Petty. I'm not bitter at all. Bitterness is ridiculous. Bitterness is for high school girls who didn't make the cheerleader squad, not for grown people."
When he signed with Rounder Records in 1978, they were basically a bluegrass indie label appealing to folk music fans.
"I always told the truth," recalls Thorogood. "I said, 'Look, here is where it's at. I'm a dynamo on stage. In the studio I can cut good tunes. I'm not gonna go to top 40. It's not out of desire, either. This is what I am. It's like Dustin Hoffman will never receive the headliner status of a Harrison Ford. He is a great character actor.
"I just laid my cards on the table. I said, 'This is what I do. I'm very good at it. Are you interested or not?' And they said, 'Let's put out a record and see how it goes.'"
The liner notes to the "Greatest Hits" album compares him to the character actor Lee Marvin. "It reminds me of one of those old spaghetti westerns Clint Eastwood did. You know it's full of spit, but you still like it."
Thorogood doesn't think he's full of spit, but he does admit, "B.s.ing is my expertise, as they say."
Like many musicians, he sees no line, invisible or otherwise, between rock and blues.
"In my opinion, Elmore James, Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters were the first real rock bands, if you think about it. They took these guitars. They put pickups in 'em. They put 'em in amplifiers. They got drums and bass, and they rocked. They rocked out. Then Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry just took it one step further and got it into commercial radio. They got into white people's living rooms is basically what they did.
"To me, Elmore James rocks just as much as Led Zeppelin. It's the same thing to me. That's boogey. That's great stuff, man. As far as how you package it, what difference does it make as long as it gets to the people.
"You could call a movie 'The Exploitation of Steven Spielberg." Or you can call it 'Jaws.' See what I mean?"
Whatever you call him, rocker, blues man, hit maker, or entertainer, he speaks his mind.
"I mean, take it this way. Say, there's a kid who is 13 years old. He gets his leg broken playing football, right? And they set his bone in the hospital. Nurse runs by. He runs his hand up the nurse's skirt. I say, 'Oh, that boy. That's my son. What a great kid.'
"OK, now there's a guy 68, 69 years old, and he has a heart palpitation. They take him to a hospital for observation. He runs his hand up the nurse's skirt. They go, 'That's pop!' But if a guy 42 does it, he gets arrested. So, I can't wait 'til I get to 60. I can do anything I want. It's a license for lunacy."
Oh, yeah, for those of you who think Thorogood only does old blues covers, five of the 16 songs on "Greatest Hits" are Thorogood originals.
"We're gonna put out a CD called 'The Original George Thorogood & The Destroyers.' We got about 30 originals. I met Randy Newman recently and I asked him, 'How many songs have you written?' And he said, '200.' And I said, 'Well, I've written about 30, so I'm about 1/7 away from Randy Newman. That's not bad!' "
In the meantime, also check out Thorogood's last studio album "Ride 'Til I Die." It's got stuff by blues guys like Hooker, rockers like Chuck Berry and "Don't Let The Bossman Get You Down" by another white blues artist with a well crafted sense of humor, Elvin Bishop.