|Produced and Compiled by Kevin Flaherty and Bob Hyde|
|Mastered by Evren Goknar at Capitol Mastering|
|Project Manager: Joseph McElmeel|
|Disc One||Disc Two|
|Madison Blues||Who Do You Love? (Live)|
|One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer||Born To Be Bad|
|Delaware Slide||You Talk Too Much|
|Move It On Over||I'm Ready|
|The Sky Is Crying||Shake Your Moneymaker|
|I'm Wanted||If You Don't Start Drinkin' (I'm Gonna Leave)|
|Nobody But Me||Hello Little Girl|
|Bad To The Bone||Long Distace Lover|
|Willie And The Hand Jive||Get A Haircut|
|I Drink Alone||Howlin' For My Baby|
|Gear Jammer||Christine (previously unreleased)|
|Long Gone||Let's Work Together (Live)|
|Reelin' and Rockin' (Live)||Johnny B. Goode (Live)|
|Bottom Of The Sea (Live)||Rockin' My Life Away|
|Night Time (Live)||I Don't Trust Nobody|
Complete Liner Notes
The first George Thorogood and The Destroyers record started to happen a little in San Francisco. Not even San Francisco, really, but a little FM station across the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin County called KTIM, whose signal was so weak it couldn't be heard in San Francisco. Somebody at the station heard the record with the strange cover - a cover that looked like it had almost been designed by accident - and slapped a couple of tracks on the air.
The signal may not have reached San Francisco, but it was a clear shot across the bay, and KTIM - a high-quality independent station - had developed a fairy strong underground audience in hip Berkeley. The George Thorogood record was on fire in this small but highly-active community - unbeknownst to George and band, who arrived in town to play a benefit for the farm workers union, accomodations provided on some cat's living room floor.
La Pena was mostly a folk club, a long-standing hardcore political center in the heart of people's Berkeley - the perfect place for a farm workers fund raiser, probably home to hundreds of such events. La Huegla. Si. But, the place always kept an uneasy truce with the neighborhood, a quiet residential block on the edge of the Oakland ghetto. There were even apartments directly above. So while it might be one thing to have a bunch of Chilean refugees singing protest songs, strumming guitars, and puffing on flutes, George Thorogood & The Destroyers in full swing in this tiny bar was quite something else.
Nobody in the band and nobody connected with the benefit expected it, but a small but frenzied mob awaited them. They were not there to show their solidarity with the workers. They were there to see the man whose record was the absolute rage in their select circles. The fire in Marin spread to San Francisco's biggest station, the historic KSAN (still at the height of its powers), and they were playing Madison Blues. The album was selling like crazy. A lot of new people wanted to check this out.
George and the guys laid them out cold. Playing in a corner, there wasn't anything you could call a stage, Thorogood just launched his duck walk right into the middle of the club, his guitar cord trailing behind him. It was a sauna bath. Everybody was breathing each other's second-hand air, sweating and grinning like fools. Thorogood & The Destroyers acted like they were kings. They owned the room, and they knew it.
During the break, some kind of contratemps was brewing around the union guy who organized the show, so Thorogood could be diverted, reluctantly, to a nearby coffee shop to answer a few questions for a big-city newspaper. He was distracted, unimpressed - friendly but patient, like a teacher with a dense but earnest student. The lady serving coffee was more interested. "You in show business?" she asked. Thorogood brightened. "Yep," he said, "and I'm giving my first interview."
He was quickly disabused of any such lofty heights as soon as he got back to the club. Angry neighbors has clashed with anxious union organizers, who were probably a little hostile to begin with. It can get that way with strikes. But the club owners were caught in the middle and they put together a classic compromise, presented to Thorogood fait accompli once he was back to the scene; he would play another set, but he would play acoustic.
Thorogood gave it his best John Lee Hooker, but the wind had gone out of the sails. The crowd drifted away and the night ended much like many nights at La Pena, with a small, polite crowd listening to old-fashioned folk music - a long way from the full-scale rock 'n' roll riot that had threatened to break out only an hour earlier.
But the article in the newspaper attracted the interest of the Boarding House, a San Francisco night club run by someone who still liked to book people because they had talent - David Allen. As house manager for the famed Hungry i in North Beach in the '50s, Allen had booked an unknown chanteuse named Barbra Streisand for her first nightclub engagement (with an unknown comedian named Woody Allen). At the Boarding House, he would help launch the careers of comedians Steve Martin, Lily Tomlin, and Robin Williams, but he knew a good music act when he heard - even just heard about - it. He checked his records (kept in flawless Mandarin script) of past monthly open auditions, and he had, indeed, seen Thorogood before; he just hadn't remembered.
Allen booked Thorogood for a two-week run on some kind of cockamamie schedule - three shows on Monday, four nights one week, three different nights the next - and then had the misfortune to have the only show in the run that mattered (early show opening night) run smack up against the U.S. debut of some angry young man from England called Elvis Costello.
While Costello had no reputation outside San Francisco (he was, in fact, barely known in the U.K. at the time), KSAN - the same station that had been pumping Madison Blues - were making a ridiculous display of themselves over the import copies of Costello's debut album, My Aim Is True. By the time Costello rolled into a sold-out old Waldorf for his greatly anticipated U.S. debut, he was already the annointed one. The radio station broadcast his show - his one set - live. The backstage was filled with scenesters. Success was in the air.
Over at the Boarding House, Thorogood was in between his second and third sets when a party of four arrived from the Costello concert. The second set hadn't sold well and a couple of other people stayed around for the late show. One of the people who came from the Waldorf was a record producer who had heard about Thorogood. Nobody famous. He was somebody who, like a lot of people in the music business at the time, was looking for something to make him feel good, something devoid of all the ridiculous bullshit pretensions going around.
Thorogood came out smoking, playing for that crowd of less than a dozen like it was a Roman arena filled with cheering spectators. He duckwalked and somersaulted across the stage so intensely it was like his life depended on it, and so nonchalantly that you knew he would do it again the very next time he played. He had so clearly tapped into primeval rock 'n' roll energy and fever that had been steam-cleaned out of the pretty boys who were ruling rock's roost at the moment. Walking out of the show in an almost reverent silence in the midnight air, the record producer paused as he opened the door. "That," he said, "was reassuring."
Thorogood was reassuring. He appeared at a time when rock had lost its sense of history. The worst pop in eons clogged the airwaves. The rock stars of the day were completely out of touch. Radio had gone to hell in a handbasket. The entire decaying rock scene desperately needed to be refreshed. The hegemony of Peter Frampton, Fleetwood Mac, and their ilk had to be eclipsed. In England, a few brash souls were pounding out the beginnings of punk rock. In America, similar stirrings could be heard, like jungle drums beating in the distance. Into this shifting pop landscape up stepped George Thorogood & The Destroyers.
It was a simple mix of Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, John Lee Hooker, and Elmore James - with a few Johnny Cash tunes thrown in for good measure. Bassist Billy Blough kept the bass in your face and drummer Jeff Simon was always a paragon of judicious restraint with regard to self-expression. They did not reinvent the wheel. George was the show. The first album managed to capture that raw excitement. The Elmore James song Madison Blues caught George's slashing bottleneck drive. His epic interpretation of John Lee Hooker number One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer transformed the brooding original that Hooker had recorded with Muddy Waters' band for his classic album, Live At The Cafe Au Go Go.
His success certainly came as a surprise to tiny Rounder Records, a small, Boston-based folk label that had never had anything remotely approaching a hit record before. His second album, Move It On Over, spread the word even further with the success of the title track - an old Hank Williams song - which was the first single ever released by Rounder. The Sky Is Crying was another wailing piece of Elmore James bottleneck. It was the first of five consecutive gold albums for Thorogood. In 1979, saxaphonist Hank Carter joined the band. His screaming, honking solos would serve as foil to Thorogood's raunchy blues guitar.
With a sloppy grin and an off hand "aw shucks" manner, Thorogood lived for rock 'n' roll. He was always enormously fond of baseball and cigars, but rock 'n' roll was more like a calling to Thorogood. Opening shows on the 1981 Rolling Stones tour, Thorogood charged out on the ramps built for Mick Jagger like they belonged to him. Standing at the end of these prongs that extended halfway into the football fields they were playing, Thorogood would play more Chuck Berry than the Stones did. His new album at the time - More George Thorogood And The Destroyers - was his third for Rounder, and his cover of the little-known Willie Dixon song I'm Wanted was getting unusual airplay for a record from such a small label.
Now able to attract small but enthusiastic audiences practically wherever he went, Thorogood indulged his appetite for performing with a nutty stunt: his famed "50/50 Tour" - fifty states in fifty days. "No nights off" was his instruction to the booking agent. The band rolled around the country in a refurbished Checker cab littered with fast food wrappers and smelling of cigar butts and the blues. It was a ludicrous venture, but it made a statement. George Thorogood & The Destroyers were here to stay.
This rugged commitment echoed the inner strength of the blues songs they played. This wasn't show business. To George and the band, this was life. When the band did take a rare night off in those days, it wasn't unusual for the group to crash a local club and take the stage under the name Sidewalk Frank. Thorogood made it clear to any and all - he was about rock 'n' roll.
As with so many single-minded visionaries in the music field, Thorogood's commercial success came after he established the basic concept. His 1982 major label debut for EMI Records also introduced his own tongue-in-cheek songwriting with Bad To The Bone. He showed some of Chuck Berry's sly wit, a lot of grounding in the blues tradition in a twinkly-eyed sence of humor all his own. It was not a step he made without trepidation. He knew if he was going to write songs, they were going to have to stand alongside songs by the likes of Berry, Diddley, Hooker, and James in his set, a prospect daunting enough for anyone, let alone someone who admired these men and their works as much as he did.
Bad To The Bone qualified. The video, with guest Bo Diddley, landed on the infant MTV, and his message hit home with yet another audience. Nobody But Me, an Isley Brothers original from their Twist And Shout days, probably owed more to the 1967 garage band cover by The Human Beinz. This burst of visibility undoubtedly helped Thorogood field a slot on the Live Aid stage, where he jammed with blues guitar great Albert Collins, bringing a global spotlight to rest for a moment on the funky American blues.
On the 1985 album Maverick, Thorogood and The Destroyers inaugurated a long-standing creative studio collaboration with engineer and co-producer Terry Manning, a Memphis studio man whose resume includes having played marimba on Booker T. & The MG's Soul Limbo, and engineered Shaft by Isaac Hayes and Respect Yourself by The Staples Singers. Manning brought the kind of instinctive grits and soul common to the Memphis studio scene, from Otis Redding to The Box Tops. He would stay to become an integral part of the band's studio team for many years.
If this was typical major-label thinking - pairing a rising artist with an established producer - it worked. Willie and the Hand Jive became Thorogood's only charting single to date, reaching a mighty No. 63. Eric Clapton had probably already drained the song of some of its commercial appeal with his 1974 Top 10 version. But Thorogood retained the mischievous grin in the song's original intent - R&B forefather Johnny Otis poking fun at his music's illegitimate offspring, rock 'n' roll.
His truck-driving rocker, Gear Jammer, and ode to alcoholism, I Drink Alone, are Thorogood originals that continue that comic opera - a cartoonish slant that can be traced back to the songs of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller (Riot in Cell Block No. 9, Jailhouse Rock, Charlie Brown, etc.). And Long Gone is yet another Thorogood original that hews close to the blues tradition.
His long-overdue Live album included flame-treated editions of Thorogood perenialls like Night Time - the raunchy, '60s garage-rock classic from New York studio band the Strangeloves - and Bottom of the Sea, an obscure Muddy Waters tune. Thorogood and company had recorded both songs on their third album. Reelin' and Rockin' was standard set-closing fare for George and the band - patented Destroyers-style Chuck Berry. (And Thorogood can easily claim to be one of the top Berry interpreters.) Who Do You Love? is classic Bo Diddley, done right.
The 1988 studio album Born To Be Bad mixed Thorogood originals like the title track and You Talk Too Much - replete with trademark Thorogood wit - with tried-and-true material like '50s rock 'n' roll from Fats Domino (I'm Ready) and blues slide-guitar master Elmore James (Shake Your Moneymaker).
More than fifteen years after Thorogood and his two-man band pulled into Berkely for that farm worker's benefit, his scene had settled into a kind of rhythm. His repertoire was dependable; his reputation secure, established. He and the band would make an album every other year, and tour in-between.
Thorogood could turn out little gems like Chuck Berry's Hello Little Girl - from the 1991 album Boogie People - as much as he wanted, but if he didn't get a track on the radio, it didn't matter. Evocations of Elmore James as skillful as Long Distance Lover wouldn't put asses in seats, as Sam Goldwyn would have had it.
The mission was to keep it real and still crash the airwaves, a delicate balance that called for a certain subversive, underlying tone that Thorogood easily found on the original If You Don't Start Drinkin' (I'm Gonna Leave) - the calling card for Boogie People - or Get A Haircut, a #1 Radio and Records track which kickstarted his 1993 album, Haircut. While the title track got all the public plaudits, the "in" crowd loved Thorogood for grafting Howlin' Wolf lyrics to a Canned Heat boogie-drive on Howlin' For My Baby.
On the promotional EP for Baby Don't Go, Thorogood included Christine, a cover of a song by Chicago bluesman Hound Dog Taylor. George had travelled with the guitarist through New England in his younger days. Over the course of his career, he had recorded other Hound Dog Taylor songs, including I Just Can't Make It - an homage to a musician who was little-known outside of Chicago, but who left an impression on all those who knew him. Christine is a lost rarity featured exclusively in this set.
Guitarist Elvin Bishop, who made blues history with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band long before he led his own band and had his won hit records, joined Thorogood on Let's Work Together, recorded before a wild Atlanta audience and featured as the title track on the band's second live album in 1995. The song itself was originally written and recorded by the great rock 'n' roll one-man band, Wilbur Harrison, before Canned Heat made a hit out of the song a second time in 1970.
Recording live in St. Louis later on, Thorogood was joined by Johnny Johnson, the piano player on all those Chuck Berry records that loom so large in his own universe. He couldn't resist taking a crack at the maestro's Johnny B. Goode, with Johnson himself on hand to provide the piano accompaniment.
For his 1997 studio album Rockin' My Life Away, Thorogood & The Destroyers recorded in Los Angeles with co-produce Waddy Wachtel, the Hollywood session player and top-gun guitarist whose credits are too numerous to list. The title song comes from a letter-era Jerry Lee Lewis album. It's a song of mixed emotions, originally sung by an older man who infused it with a steely pride. It was also a song into which Thorogood had grown.
On his 1999 album Half A Boy/Half A Man, engineer and producer Terry Manning was back behind the glass, and Waddy Wachtel added some guitar parts as a special guest on the sessions. On I Don't Trust Nobody, Thorogood allows himself as overt a social or political statement as he has ever made over the years; he shouts over the descending boogie line that cruises the song out: "I don't even trust the President with my girl."
Over the years, as miles built up behind them, Thorogood & The Destroyers became what they aspired to. Like the wizened vets who backed Howlin' Wolf for all those years, these guys function like one musical mind. They don't just know the sound, they are the sound.
For the past quarter-century, no matter how much the pop scene has kaleidoscoped behind them, Thorogood & The Destroyers haven't budged from the course they set at the beginning of the story. While they have been playing thousands of shows and making more than a dozen albums, they have never wavered from their mission. At any point along the way, the band's commercial fortunes may have ebbed and flowed. A track like Get A Haircut lands on the radio and - presto-chango - album sales jump, bookings go up, the house gets fuller. But the music doesn't change. The band only gets better. No one outside of the true fans notices, but that doesn't matter.
What matters is that George Thorogood has always been exactly who he is. Trends have come and gone. Styles have been and gone. The world has turned upside down several times, but George Thorogood & The Destroyers have not changed. They have stayed true to the code. However the planets in the pop universe were shifting around them, they stayed the course. Only time tests that part of a man's character. And these men have passed the test.
--Joel Selvin, Author/Pop Music Critic, June 2000