Thorogood classics keep fans coming back


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By Alan Sculley
For the Tribune-Review
Thursday, July 20, 2006

Though George Thorogood's newest CD, "The Hard Stuff," came out in May, he ponders what has to be a question most veteran musicians and bands ask when their run of hit songs and popular CDs has run dry.

Thorogood is considering at what point should he just not bother making and releasing new music and instead just rely on his catalog to make up the set list for his live shows, including Wednesday's performance at the Pepsi Cola Roadhouse in Burgettstown.

After all, he says, his fans come to hear him play his signature hits, which he knows is a common experience for any artist fortunate enough to have had a 30-year career like his. And in reality, he says, can the new songs even compete with the more familiar material?

"I don't mind hearing new stuff if the new stuff is good," Thorogood says. "But if it's not good, then I just want to hear the old stuff. John Fogerty is going to be very hard pressed to write any more songs that are as good as 'Fortunate Son' and 'Green River' and 'Old Man Down The Road.' He's hard act to follow. He's trying to follow himself.

"I'm just making a point that every artist gets to that point eventually," he says. "I've seen Paul McCartney three times. I can't remember one song besides 'Freedom' that he did that was off his latest record. I remember all the other (famous) ones."

At this point, Thorogood knows he had a half-dozen to 10 songs that fans want him to play at each show -- such as "Move It On Over," "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer" and "Bad To The Bone." But his newer material -- such as songs from his most recent studio CD, 2003's "Ride 'Til I Die" -- hasn't caught on to where fans demand to hear those songs alongside the classics.

With these comments, it would be easy to assume Thorogood is frustrated with his career and the music business.

That, actually, didn't seem to be the case, as he says he enjoys playing live more than ever. And the truth is that when he started out, he not only never envisioned anything resembling a long-term career, he was barely looking beyond the next gig -- even when he signed with Rounder Records, a Boston-based label that specialized in folk music -- in the mid-1970s.

"I had an idea that it would just, I was going to do a four-record deal with Rounder," Thorogood says. "I was going to do two studio albums, a live album and an all-acoustic album, a solo album, which I have yet to do. And then I was just going to take whatever notoriety I had and I was going to come to like California and try to get small bit parts in movies or something. Small parts, not leading parts, not like Elvis Presley did. I'm talking about just small parts and then maybe just play music on the side. It just didn't work out that way."

Instead, "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer," a song written by blues great John Lee Hooker, became a radio hit in 1975 and put Thorogood on the map. Then when he scored another hit with his rocking version of the Hank Williams song "Move It On Over" in 1978, Thorogood's career was off and running -- and ready for full takeoff just four years later when "Bad To The Bone" arrived.

Thorogood remained on a roll well into the 1980s before his success leveled off. Still he managed to see several more songs become staples of his live set -- such as the aforementioned "If You Don't Start Drinkin' (I'm Gonna Leave)" from 1991 and "Get A Haircut" from 1993. In 2003, when he reached the 30th anniversary of his first gig with his backing band, the Destroyers, he still had the comfort of knowing he remains a strong live draw.

He marked that milestone by releasing a 16-song anothology, "Greatest Hits: 30 Years Of Rock," and a live DVD, "30th Anniversary Tour: Live," which captured a full-length concert in England.

Thorogood is willing to hype his newest CD release -- a little bit, anyway. After jokingly saying it would be the most revolutionary rock album since the Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," he finally acquiesced just a bit.

"It's Thorogood at his usual," he says. "It's dirty, rough, straight-from-the-shoulder, you know, like they say, every Woody Allen movie is different, but they're all the same."

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