George Thorogood has a current studio CD, The Hard Stuff, in stores. But unlike most artists, that's not what he wants to talk about first and foremost. Instead, he begins our interview by pondering a question most veteran musicians and bands have to ask when their run of hit songs and popular CDs has ended. Thorogood is considering at what point he should quit making new music and instead rely on his back catalog to fill the set list for his live shows.
After all, he notes, fans come to hear him play his signature hits. He wonders if his new songs can even compete.
"I don't mind hearing new stuff if the new stuff is good," Thorogood says. "But if it's not good, then I just want to hear the old stuff. John Fogerty is going to be very hard-pressed to write any more songs that are as good as "Fortunate Son' and "Green River' and "Old Man Down the Road.' He's a hard act to follow. He's trying to follow himself."
At this point, Thorogood knows he has a half-dozen to 10 songs that fans want him to play at each show, including "Move It On Over," "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer" and "Bad to the Bone." And his newer material hasn't caught on to the point where fans demand to hear those songs alongside the classics.
Given these comments, it would be easy to assume that Thorogood's frustrated with his career and the music business. Yet that actually doesn't appear to be the case. Thorogood says he enjoys playing live more than ever. And the truth is that he never envisioned a long career, even in the 1970s, when he first signed with Rounder Records.
"I was going to do a four-record deal with Rounder," Thorogood says. "I was going to do two studio albums, a live album and an all-acoustic album, a solo album, which I have yet to do. And then I was just going to take whatever notoriety I had and I was going to come to, like, California and try to get small bit parts in movies or something."
Instead, "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer," a song written by blues great John Lee Hooker, became a radio hit in 1975 and basically put Thorogood on the map. He hit a commercial peak in 1982 with the album Bad to the Bone, and his career stayed on a roll well into the 1980s before his success leveled off.
As for The Hard Stuff, Thorogood doesn't have to do much to describe the musical approach of the CD. After jokingly saying that it's the most revolutionary rock album since the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, he acquiesces just a bit.
"It's Thorogood at his usual," he says. "It's dirty, rough, straight-from-the-shoulder, you know? "Like they say, every Woody Allen movie is different, but they're all the same."