August 2008 Archives

George Thorogood at the Mann: Still bad to the bone

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By MICHAEL CHRISTOPHER, Times Music Columnist
08/14/2008

It's so easy, bordering on lazy, to play the "Bad to the Bone" angle when doing an article about George Thorogood. Sure, it was a big hit, and to this day is even bigger as part of the pop culture lexicon, appearing on shirts, license plates and as tattoos for guys usually named Bud or Spike.

But there was a moment of confusion when Thorogood confessed to Rock Music Menu from the outset that he was doing "Baaad" this week.

Bad meaning good or bad meaning bad?

"No! It's an expression, 'Bad to the Bone,' I'm doin' bad!" Thorogood howled. "You get it? It's kind of like a moniker, like a thing you do."

Lesson learned. And if anyone is still allowed to reference "Bad to the Bone," it's the man who coined it, or at least is responsible for the enduring popularity of the phrase.

More than three decades in, the Delaware native and his Destroyers are still tearing up the road, hitting the Mann Music Center tonight with Chicago blues master Buddy Guy. "Buddy is such an incredible entertainer and performer. I have to really pick it up a notch, raise the bar a little bit," Thorogood said. "Playing with Buddy Guy is like a combination of B.B. King and Jimi Hendrix put together. Following that every night, you have to give the people something really special, because that's what they came to see: two dynamite live acts."

Guy is one of the few remaining blues legends, with the likes of Robert Lockwood Jr. and Henry Townsend passing in 2006. Hitting closer to home was the June death of Bo Diddley, whose song "Who Do You Love?" Thorogood covered.

He later featured the guitarist in the video for "Bad to the Bone," which lifted its signature riff in part from the Diddley composed "I'm a Man."

"I like all those effects he used when he started," Thorogood said. "He was pretty much ahead of his time, the way Jimi Hendrix blew everybody's mind in 1967; Bo Diddley was doing that in 1953 with the reverb and the tremolo, and flipping all over the stage and playing the guitar between his legs and all that stuff."

"What really got to me when he passed away. ... I loved the guy; we were partners, we were pals and we got along well. Every time I'd see him, if I hadn't see him in awhile, I'd walk in and say, 'Hiya Bo,' and he'd lean back and give me a suspicious look with those big thick glasses and go, 'Are you crazy?!' That's how he greeted me all the time. He was like that -- a lot of laughs, a fun guy."

Thorogood, at 58, is done trying to carry that old-school blues torch, saying he has, "completed the course." "I did my share," he said. "Now I just go out there and play the fan favorites."

It's a shame, because there isn't really anyone left to carry the blues forward. Sure, guys like John Mayer, Jack White and Jonny Lang can play the riffs, but they don't have the musical pedigree.

"Maybe one or two of them have seen John Lee Hooker play because he didn't pass away until 2001, and he was active right up until his death," Thorogood said. "But a lot of the heavy dudes, Muddy Waters, Hound Dog Taylor and Howlin' Wolf, if a kid is 22, you were 3 years old when they died!

It's not your fault, but we have firsthand experience. It's a limited experience, but firsthand experience nonetheless." "They can learn it off the record, but Jeff (Simon, Destroyers' drummer) and I actually played with Muddy Waters. We opened for him and for Howlin' Wolf and met him and saw him perform. We're the last band to do that, 'cause they all passed away right after we got to know them."

And while Thorogood might just be doing the fan favorites live, he's still got some rocking to put down on wax. The word has slipped that next year, he'll be putting out an album of all blues covers, duplicating the feat of his 30-year-old sophomore classic, "Move It On Over." "The world's not ready for my originals," Thorogood laughed. "Only in small doses."

That might be for the best, as rarely has someone been able to take either a blues classic or a an obscure old record and stamp it with bristling swagger and attitude like Lonesome George can.

"I think I grabbed the maybe one or two left that no one is aware of yet, or that didn't appear on an old Yardbirds record," he said. "There probably might be one or two you've heard before, then there will be some you never heard of, and some you'll probably never want to hear again."

One subject unlikely to be covered, literally, is the time-honored drinking song, which Thorogood has been noted as the master of, despite the fact that they make up only three numbers in his catalog.

"I kinda steer away from that," he said. "Unless the song is really good, but even then; I did 'I Drink Alone,' 'If You Don't Start Drinkin' (I'm Gonna Leave),' 'One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer,' which isn't really about drinking, it's about a guy who can't pay his rent."

"I've covered that subject. It was never a dominating idea in my repertoire to begin with; it just happened that way. People will say, 'I got this great song about a real bad guy in a bar,' and I go, 'I think the world has enough songs like that.'"

Thorogood goes back to his beginnings on cover album

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By Gary Graff

DETROIT (Billboard) - For his next album, blues-rocker George Thorogood plans a sequel of sorts to his 1978 gold-certified "Move It On Over."

"We're trying to get something like that but even better," says Thorogood, who plans to hit the studio in September or October, after wrapping his summer tour with Buddy Guy August 24. The album, which marks a return to Thorogood's first recording home, Rounder Records, should be out in 2009.

The singer/guitarist had recorded for Eagle Rock since 2003; his last album for the label, 2006's "The Hard Stuff," reached No. 2 on Billboard's Top Blues Albums chart.

Thorogood says that like "Move It On Over," the new album will feature all cover songs derived from his influences.

"I want to balance it between what I know best -- rock, country and blues," the rock veteran says. "That's what ("Move It On Over") was -- songs by Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Brownie McGhee, Chuck Berry, Slim Harpo, Willie Dixon, we covered it all. I don't know anything about jazz or reggae or classical music, but (I do know) hardcore blues, that kind of thing, hardcore country, the real tough stuff like Waylon Jennings used to sing."

Thorogood isn't revealing titles yet, but he says that "we've got a few (songs) we're kicking around that might ring the bell." He doesn't plan to include any originals, primarily because the success of "Move It On Over" proved that an album of cover material could attract an audience.

"In the '70s, I had a lot of people come and say, 'You don't make it unless you write your own stuff,'" Thorogood recalls. "Wrong. You can make a good record of songs you like, as long as the songs are very good and you play them really good. 'Move It On Over' was a gold record without major distribution -- that ought to tell you something. Maybe we can make history happen again."

Thorogood continues rocking to his own beat

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10:00 PM PDT on Thursday, July 31, 2008

By VANESSA FRANKO
The Press-Enterprise

Throughout his career, blues rock guitarist George Thorogood has shared the stage with the likes of the J. Geils Band, ZZ Top, Steve Miller and even Coachella Valley Resident Eric Burdon.

"I only work with the best -- why else do it?" Thorogood said in a recent telephone interview.

His latest tour is no different, as Thorogood stops at The Greek Theatre in Los Angeles tonight and at Spotlight 29 Casino in Coachella on Saturday with none other than Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Buddy Guy.

"Buddy Guy is the greatest," Thorogood said. "That guy, he's got both worlds covered. He could open for the Rolling Stones or to 100,000 people or pack the House of Blues for the rest of his life because not only does he play blues, but he's a vibrant entertainer."

Thorogood is a veteran in the live front as well, playing the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana in February.

But Thorogood is selective about touring and only does about 80 shows per year.

"Other bands do 300 dates a year -- that would kill me. I couldn't make it to 90 or 100, I'd be dead," he said.

Thorogood, originally from Delaware, gained popular acclaim with his band the Destroyers in 1978, when his raucous, bluesy cover of Hank Williams' "Move It On Over" became a radio hit, shortly followed by Thorogood's version of Bo Diddley's "Who Do You Love?" and his biggest hit, 1982's "Bad to the Bone."

"We play better than we ever did," Thorogood said. "You do something for 30 years and eventually you're gonna get good at it. The venues keep improving and improving all the time so that keeps us very upbeat with what we do."

Thorogood is happy playing the hits for his fans.

"Nobody ever gets tired of having their work appreciated," he said.

He's got ballads, rockers, heartache songs and a fraction of drinking songs in his catalog. And the ones about suds and the hard stuff are some of his best-known work, such as "I Drink Alone" and "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer."

But don't expect any more liquor-themed songs from what Thorogood himself describes as, the "world's greatest bar band."

"I'm not going to write or record any more. We have enough. There's enough drinking songs in the world, I think," he said, breaking out into a laugh.

Despite touring and working with some of the greats, Thorogood still seems floored when his idols and heroes want to meet and talk with him.

A few years ago, he was performing at the Love Ride, where Peter Fonda was hosting and when he came off stage, Fonda introduced him to Steve Miller.

"I'm standing here with Captain America and Stevie 'Guitar' Miller. I'm going out of my mind," Thorogood said, recounting how one summer he played Steve Miller's album every day and hitchhiked into town to see Fonda in "Easy Rider" twice every day and hitchhiked back out of town, listening to Miller.

"And here I am, standing here and Steve's going 'Why don't we do a tour together?' and Peter Fonda's going 'Yeah, that's great. Can I go?' " as Thorogood stood there incredulous. "Are you kidding me?"

With his hits and working with some of the greatest musicians and guitarists of all time, Thorogood is just happy to be in the game.

"I'm just proud to be part of it in some small way. If I was on a baseball team I'd say, 'Just get me a uniform. I don't care where I play, where I bat in the lineup, just get me a on a team,' " he said.