Articles: July 2007 Archives

Thorogood simply bad to the bone

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By ANN MARIE McQUEEN - Sun Media

George Thorogood is thoroughly committed to being George Thorogood.

For example, when answering the simple question "How are you?" he has this response: "I'm bad."

I groan. But at the same time, what I really want to say is, "Bad to the Bone," Mr. Thorogood?"

I reckon he wouldn't mind. This is the sort of performer who perpetuates his reputation for a particular sort of mainstream mediocrity, the cleverly constructed kind. Who, when asked about his shrewd tendency to self-deprecation, says quickly, "Self-deprecation. Is that when you wet your pants?"

The 56-year-old Thorogood, who is set to play the Ottawa Bluesfest mainstage tonight, knows exactly what self-deprecating means.

A quote on his website bio sums it up: "My biggest thrill is when someone says I've got George's new CD and it sounds exactly like the last."

The blues-rock mainstay from Wilmington, Del., has clearly figured the game out to achieve a steady, reliable sort of success. Mostly that has happened by giving rock fans exactly what they want, something that was evident when he played the Bluesfest in 2004.

"The reason you guys bring me to Ottawa is 'cause you need a rock band," he said. "You need a rock band and we're one you can afford. You can't afford Tom Petty. You can't afford Bruce Springsteen."

Thorogood has ridden his waves of popularity out, first assembling his band The Destroyers, releasing his debut album in 1974 and peaking with hits and three gold records in the 1980s.

And unlike some of his peers, Thorogood isn't about to complain about the current paralytic state of the music industry.

"Things change all the time," he says. "You have to adapt to the changes that go on or you don't stay in the business."

One thing of the changes he's witnessed slowly, over a 30-year career, is the state of the crowds that come to see him.

"They're much more behaved now. The ticket prices change all that ... someone pays $2 to get in you're taking your chances. Somebody pays $50 to get in, they are going to be on their best behaviour."

Thorogood says not only are his original fans grandparents now, there are often kids in his crowd. That means these days, when it comes to being "bad," he has to have just the right balance.

"There are people who are nine, 10, 11 years old out there, and then there are grandparents out there," he said. "I have to keep my rough-and-rowdy image going, but at the same time, I can't be vulgar or anything and be crude.

"There's children here."

The soft side of rock's wisecracking rebel

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Lynn Saxberg, The Ottawa Citizen
Published: Friday, July 06, 2007
If there's one thing about the music business George Thorogood would like to change, it's the expectation that an album/disc/record must contain a dozen or more tracks.

"That's a concept I'd love to change in the music industry," says the veteran singer-guitarist, who headlines Bluesfest's main stage tonight.

With his latest disc, Hard Stuff, he found it a challenge to gather enough obscure blues songs that he could rework to suit his down 'n' dirty, rock 'n' roll style.

"The Hard Stuff is not a bad record," Thorogood said during a recent phone interview, his demeanour alternating between disruptive wisecracks and surprisingly sensitive insight. "But there's nothing obscure anymore."

"I don't know if you've noticed but they have a thing called the Internet now, and you can get anything you want," he cracks.

"You can find out anything. That's why to find obscure material, like I used to base my career on, is a thing of the past.

"And I've been playing a certain way for so long that I really can't play anything different. When we did Ride Til I Die (his previous studio disc), the songs were falling out of the sky. Something was just going right for me then -- there was material that I'd never heard, material that I could play, material that I enjoyed playing, material I could introduce in live concerts. But the last one was tough, very, very tough to pull that thing together."

Thorogood established his career with a string of hard-edged, testosterone-dripping blues-rock anthems, including One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer, Bad to the Bone and I Drink Alone. His bluesy bluster about drinking and leaving conjured a rebellious image that holds great appeal with many of my biker friends.

They might be surprised to hear that their swaggering hero went through a period of self-doubt, and that he makes no secret of the fact that he's a sensitive guy. As a boy, he liked poetry and would get emotional over spotting the first robin of spring.

"You know how sensitive I am," he says. "I think that's the key to being an artist, whatever type of artist you are. I'm a performing artist, that's what I do. There has to be a level of sensitivity here. I'm not a bricklayer, I'm not a policeman. Policemen can't afford to be sensitive."

Thorogood eventually found enough material to fill Hard Stuff, including a couple of his own songs, as well as covers of tunes by Fats Domino and John Lee Hooker. There's even a sweet, soulful take on Dylan's Drifter's Escape that proves the sensitivity theory. But the Holland K. Smith track, Rock Party, makes a fun, upbeat song for Thorogood, and earns my vote as the Bluesfest song of the day. Sample lyric: "Come on everybody, there's a rock party tonight, everybody's dancing, everybody feels alright."

That's what it's all about for Thorogood -- the live show. In these days of endless entertainment options, he wants those who attend his concert to feel they've made the right choice.

"These people are paying money," he says. "There's other things to do. You gotta be aware of that. Basically you want everybody to leave saying 'I'm really glad I did that tonight.'"

He's just as adamant about getting them home safely.

"I think the most important issue of the night is that everybody goes home safely. No injuries, no auto accidents, safety first."

So if you can't resist hoisting a cold one when George growls the words bourbon, scotch or beer, leave the car (or motorcycle) at home. There's no parking anyway.

George Thorogood plays the MBNA stage at 9:30 p.m. Tickets & times, www.ottawabluesfest.ca

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