George puts his own spin on the blues

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By Neil McKay
19 May 2006

George Thorogood reckons the blues is something he has a kind of a knack for. He tells Neil McKay his music is just like hamburgers and beer - it will never go out of style

George Thorogood, who makes his debut appearance in Belfast next weekend, views himself as just an ordinary "working class stiff or businessman", doing what he can to make a living.

"Over the years I have had to adapt to certain things. I'm just like any other working class stiff or businessman who has to adapt to what goes on around him," he says.

"If the price of gas goes up then my price has to go up, or if they're not doing concerts in sheds or basketball arenas and going into bars instead, I have to adapt to that.

"I have to adapt to where the business is going. Any successful businessman has to do that, and I'm not unlike the restaurant owner or car dealer or anybody else that has something to sell.

"But there haven't been changes so bad that they've forced me to quit or change the style of music that I play."

Thorogood's style of music is amped up blues and rock'n'roll, but even here there is little room for sentiment.

"What appealed to me about the blues was that it was a very basic form of playing music," he said. "I looked at it as a career move to go into blues, it was something I had a kind of a knack for.

"I'm fond of saying this - The Beatles did what they did, the rest of us play blues. What The Beatles did was so extraordinary and so unique that there was no way in the world that I was ever going to get close to what they did, or what Dylan did, so I said figure out something you can do and go with it.

"You will always get a gig if you are a blues band - OK, maybe it won't be Top Of The Pops or the Ed Sullivan Show, but you'll still work, so that's what I do.

"It's just like if I opened up a restaurant I'd sell hamburgers and cold beer - they'll never go out of style. That's what appealed to me."

Nor does he buy into the widely accepted view that the blues is sad music.

"Most of the blues I listen to is very happy, very up and swinging. The bluesiest guy I ever heard was Hank Williams - I mean his stuff is sad, really sad. He is the blues writer of all time.

"And one of the saddest songs I ever heard, and one of the most beautiful songs, is Yesterday - I mean the guy is sad isn't he?

"A song is going to do one of two things - make you sad or happy - and blues is kind of a broad statement. I listen to certain people and I say, that sounds like rock'n'roll to me, and they go 'no that's the blues cos the guy is black and he's old and he's from Mississippi'. To me that doesn't have anything to do with it.

"Things that Paul Simon has written are very sad and very bluesy. Bridge Over Troubled Water, that's an incredibly great blues song... or Hank Williams' I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry, what is more bluesy than that?"

Thorogood has an affinity with great songs, and his live set is bursting with old classics given his unique treatment.

"It's funny - people come up to me and say, 'When are you going to put out a new CD?' but then all they want to hear at the shows is the old stuff, so why bother?

"We keep the old tunes in the show as much as possible because they are the songs that we have built our legacy on.

"I always say that I didn't make those songs famous, they made me famous - Move It On Over would have been a hit no matter who did it, same with One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer, same with Bad To The Bone.

"If Dean Martin had done I Drink Alone, or Tom Waits had done Bourbon, Scotch and Beer, it would have been a hit - they're good songs you know. Get A Haircut could have been done by The Ramones or Neil Young or Aerosmith, those sort of anti-establishment type bands, and we're fortunate to have six or seven of those in the show, that we can rotate the new stuff around.

"I mean, can you imagine Tom Jones going on stage and not doing It's Not Unusual? It's not going to happen, right?

"I've turned a lot of people on to songs they might never have heard. I took a lot of obscure songs over the years, like Bottom Of The Sea, I'll Change My Style, Ride On Josephine, I'm Wanted ... I mean, I probably would never have heard Little Red Rooster if it wasn't for the Rolling Stones ... so that's what I did.

"I don't look at myself as an ambassador for the blues, I'm an ambassador for songs. I take obscure material and bring it to the public consciousness."

George Thorogood, with support from The Deadstring Brothers, plays Belfast's Spring & Airbrake (switched from Ulster Hall) on Sunday, May 28. Tickets from usual Ticketmaster outlets.

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This page contains a single entry by fountainhead published on May 21, 2006 11:23 AM.

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