Interviews: December 1999 Archives

Blue to the Bone

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Even a man who has sold 15 million albums has his off days

By IAN NATHANSON
Ottawa Sun

Even George Thorogood gets the blues. Real everyman blues.

An avid baseball fan, the Delaware raunchmeister watched his beloved New York Mets fall just shy of a World Series entry after the Atlanta Braves' 11th inning, 10-9 win to clinch the National League Championship Series, this despite a Cinderella story of a season.

"Atlanta's gotten a little boring with their winning and not winning," says Thorogood over the phone in the throes of a world tour backing his 13th release, Half A Boy, Half A Man. "They're supposed to be the team of the decade and they got only one World Series win.

'Underdog'

"Man, everybody was pulling for the Mets, the underdog team. It was really nerve- wracking."

Equally frustrating for Thorogood and the Destroyers, who hit the Congress Centre tonight along with Edmonton's Rockin' Highliners, stems from putdowns that their "meat-and-potatoes" music is too working-man related and lacks any real 'I've-been-down-and-out' feeling.

"To me, someone who really has the blues is a Hank Williams Sr.," Thorogood retorts. "The lyrics he writes, now there's a man in pain.

"Dylan is an excellent blues writer. And Stevie Ray Vaughan, he may be the last one who knew what the blues were about."

He adds humbly, "Me, I don't look at it as an emotion. I take it as a musical passion, a musical style."

Meat and potatoes

Having a string of classic rock staples doesn't hurt, either.

Thorogood and his Destroyers have issued 13 albums since their debut in 1977 (a 14th, Live in '99 is due out shortly) and sold more than 15 million copies worldwide on the strength of hits such as Move It On Over, Bad To the Bone, I Drink Alone, If You Don't Start Drinking (I'm Gonna Leave) and Get A Haircut (And Get A Real Job).

So sure, the soon-to-be 49-year-old's brand of fuzzed-up blues covers and originals haven't veered off course in the past two decades. But as the man with the big white Gibson electric sees it, why should it?

"If you walk into a restaurant, you're hungry and you only have a certain amount of money, meat and potatoes will never go out of style. Like coffee or toast or beer," Thorogood says, a little more reflective.

"We'd thought about that when we first got going. We said, 'What can we do musically that will never go out of fashion?' If it's meat and potatoes you want, it's meat and potatoes you'll get.

'One Bourbon'

"I'm like an army supply sergeant. All I do is supply what the people need. I'm a waiter, I wait on people musically. Here's the menu, what would you like? You want an order of Bad To the Bone? You'd like that well done? Yes, sir. Something to drink? One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer? Yes, ma'am. I'll be right back. That'll be up in a minute."

Sounds like Thorogood isn't feeling so blue after all.

"Hey, everyone gets the blues," he says without skipping a beat. "You don't hear people say, "How are you feeling today? And a guy says "Oh, I've got the jazz today. You know, I'm feeling very reggae-ish."

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This page is a archive of entries in the Interviews category from December 1999.

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