By Ray Chelstowski
George Thorogood became a household name through heavy play on both vinyl records and early era MTV video programming. Now at least one of those platforms is making a return as Thorogood re-releases editions of 1982’s Bad to the Bone and 1988’s Born to Be Bad. The two albums, long out of print on vinyl, remain among his best sellers. In fact, Born to Be Bad went Gold, spending 24 weeks on the charts and peaking at No. 32 on the Billboard 200. Similarly, “Bad to the Bone” is regarded by a number of tracking services as one of the most popular songs of the 1980s. In turn, both have left their mark in rock history.
These releases are complimented by the Greatest Hits: 30 Years of Rock album, a record that until now has never been experienced through the vinyl format. (Note: All three albums will be available on 180 gram colored vinyl — as shown above — via The Sound of Vinyl and George Thorogood online store.)
Thorogood and his band The Destroyers have released scores of studio albums across multiple labels and their sound has only improved with age. Moreover, Thorogood’s sense of adventure in test driving new things has made the last year both prolific and real fun for fans.
We caught up with George to talk about what prompted the release of these records and what albums might get attention next. Along the way we learned more about his original Record Store Day 2018 release, and his thoughts on last year’s album Party Of One – an album that was over 40 years in the making.
GOLDMINE: So why these three albums now? Is there any plan to do the same with other classics like Maverick or More George Thorogood and the Destroyers?
THOROGOOD: The folks at the label (Universal Music Group) probably have seen that people are starting to collect vinyl records again. This could all be something new for someone who hasn’t heard this on vinyl before. I mean some of these records go back 30 years. And there are people who maybe had them but lost their copy or they were just worn out. You have to understand, this is a very big business now.
GM: On the 25th anniversary edition of Bad to the Bone you added about seven more tracks. Did you guys ever consider going with that version of the record?
GT: I really didn’t. In fact I would like to see what those seven tracks are because we were scratching our heads to come up with the 10 that we did when we were recording the album. (laughs)
GM: “Bad to the Bone” is as much a signature song as “One Bourbon...” for you now. But that record really opened things up wide for you and the band. How quickly after it was released did things change for you?
GT: Well, it changed quickly for everybody because that was the era when MTV was just getting off the ground. So everybody was jumping in there. They had much more air time than they had videos to play so it was a big blockbuster time to get something on there; a song to break through or a band that was already established like The Rolling Stones. Someone like me who wanted to expand our exposure a little bit... MTV was a perfect way to do it. I just happened to have this song. “Bad to the Bone” was the reason EMI signed us. We were doing the record during sound checks on tour. So it was that song that got them really interested in us. We jumped in there with the MTV thing which really helped us immensely to get recognized as a rock artist. Not a blues artist, a rock artist.
GM: It’s often considered one of the most memorable songs from the ‘80s. On top of being in a bunch of hit movies, it’s hard to forget that MTV video of you shooting pool with Bo Diddley. Any memories from the shoot that you want to share?
GT: Working with Bo Diddley is always special and we had the legendary Willie Mosconi who taught Paul Newman to shoot pool for the movie The Hustler. The whole thing was exciting. It was like a mini-movie, you know. “Bad Bo” was a gunslinger and Willie Mosconi was “Mr. Big” and George... well, he played “The Kid.” It was like an old-fashioned western. So we were really cool about that. At first, when we did it, they wanted a pool shooting thing and I wanted it to be a card game and they nixed that idea right away. (laughs) They said “That’s not gonna work George. I said “OK, same principle.” They said: “What do you want to be, Steve McQueen or Paul Newman?” I said “Paul Newman.”
GM: You received a lot of praise at the time for your guitar play on Born to Be Bad. How does that record stack up in your mind in terms of your playing?
GT: It’s the best record we ever made. Born to Be Bad is the best one. The only one that compares is Ride ‘Til I Die which we did on Eagle Records. I mean, cover to cover, from start to finish, it’s the most solid record. It’s got originals, it’s got country music, a rock version of I’m Moving On by Hank Snow, and you know Shake Your Money Maker. It was all in there. Plus the cover was groovy. It put me in a line up like an outlaw. Rock ‘n’ roll is big on that image, ya know what I mean? So I probably have to say it’s our best record to date. Born to Be Bad has the edge because it has that song on it.
GM: You have a limited edition 7-inch single for Record Store Day. The A-side is a cover of The Sonic’s song “Shot Down.” You’ve said that your wife turned you on to the band. Are there any other acts you have recently discovered that you might want to cover?
GT: Our guitarist wrote one of the songs (“Ain’t Coming Home”) and the other one is from The Sonics. I had never heard the song and my wife said, “I think this might be a good song for you.” I flipped and said, “It’s perfect for us.” It’s like the ultimate ‘60s song which, let’s face it, we’re more like a ‘60s band; late ‘60s, early ‘70s band. Everybody is always sayin’ that Thorogood’s stuff is the ‘50s scene. You know what?All I do is a couple of Bo Diddley, a couple of Chuck Berry songs. We’re more of a Canned Heat, Steppenwolftype band. You know, the poor man’s J. Geils. So when I heard that song I said, “Well, this is for us. This is just great!” We started fooling around and I said, “We oughta just record this thing and see if Rounder’s interested in putting it out.”
As far as other bands I like to cover, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, the Jeff Beck Group, The Beatles, the Stones, Bob Dylan, but I can’t play any of them songs. That’s the stuff I’d like to do.
GM: Checking back in, are you happy with Party of One and how it was received?
GT: Well, it’s more like a relief than being happy. I meant to do that album back around 1973. I just never got around to doing it. That was supposed to be my first project, not my latest. I wanted to start with Rounder on that. Everybody starts with an acoustic record first. Dylan and, you know, Springsteen. People start alone with an acoustic guitar and then they go electric. The Byrds were an acoustic band. There was The Lovin’ Spoonful and The Mamas & the Papas. Everybody starts that way. I was ready to go; I just didn’t have a record label. I had the music and the tunes and the delivery. I just didn’t have a label that I could get interested in me doing that. After years went by it was just the right time. Plus I like the picture on the cover. I look good, don’t I?!
GM: Never better, George!