George Thorogood: the soundtrack of my life

George Thorogood
(Image credit: Rounder Records)

Bad To The Bone rocker George Thorogood has been ripping up stages around the world since the mid-70s with his aptly named band the Destroyers. 

With more than 8,000 kick-ass gigs and 15 million album sales on the clock since he started the group in Wilmington, Delaware with Jeff Simon (drums) and Billy Blough (bass), Thorogood has played everywhere, from the funkiest roadhouse bars to Live Aid in Philadelphia and stadium shows with the Rolling Stones. He has just released a full-show deluxe version of his classic album Live in Boston, 1982.


The first music I remember hearing

I think the first rock’n’roll song I ever heard was Everyday by Buddy Holly. We didn’t have a TV then. We listened to the radio all the time, and I also remember hearing All I Have To Do Is Dream by the Everly Brothers. And Fats Domino, and of course Elvis Presley, Ricky Nelson.

The first song I performed live

Satisfaction. I didn’t give the Rolling Stones anything to worry about. Everybody’s got to start somewhere. I started doing this when I was fifteen years old. I played pool parties and birthday parties and things like that.

The guitar hero

Brian Jones [Rolling Stones]. That was the first time I ever heard or saw anybody play slide guitar, which really fascinated me. Matter of fact, it’s said that Brian Jones was the first person Mick Jagger and Keith Richards ever saw playing slide guitar. 

So I was in good company there. When I heard the first two Stones albums, when they were doing mostly covers of blues standards, rhythm and blues, I kind of got it into my mind what I was going to do for a living, someday.

The singer

Paul McCartney and Elvis Presley are neck and neck. McCartney can sing anything in any key. Brilliant. And Presley was just a freak of nature. There was no musical style of which he was not a master.

The songwriter

In the contemporary era, Bob Dylan leads the pack. He got the Nobel Prize for Literature, didn’t he? And he influenced The Beatles and the Stones. It’s hard to top that. I’d also have to put Hank Williams in that same area. Every one of his songs is a masterpiece. And they’re all recorded perfectly.

The greatest blues performer

Robert Johnson. Greatest bluesman of all time. That’s no secret. He played in more or less a contemporary style at that time, and he was better at it than everybody.

The anthem

Bad To The Bone. Obvious choice.

The most underrated band

George Thorogood And The Destroyers. You ever heard of us?

The best gig I've played

The next one we’re gonna do. You have to set the bar high. That’s the only way you’re going to get anywhere.

The best record I've made

The last one, an album called Party Of One

The worst record I've made

I wouldn’t say the worst. There’s some that are not as good as others. We did an excellent job for Eagle Records on an album called Ride ‘Til I Die [2003]. It was the first record we did with Jim Suhler [guitarist with the Destroyers since 1999]. And I was really shocked that it didn’t get more attention. 

It would have been a great album if it came out in 1970. It was like thirty years too late. Everybody had started downloading, and people were getting the music for free. So we lost out on that one.

The greatest album of all time

You’d be hard-pressed to beat Blood On The Tracks by Bob Dylan. It’s pretty severe. It came out a long time ago and it still rings real clear in my head. I can’t get enough of that record.

The greatest live album of all time

“Live” Full House by the J Geils Band. Their harmonica player, Magic Dick, is a pure, bona fide genius. You rank the great harmonica players – Little Walter, Paul Butterfield, Charlie Musselwhite… But Magic Dick was not only a great blues player, he was also a great rock harmonica player.

My guilty pleasure

I like Alley Oop by the Hollywood Argyles [US No.1 in 1960]. I don’t know if I should feel guilty about it. Come on, everybody loved that song. Every song on the radio was a big hit for me at that stage.

My Saturday night party song

It’ll either be Monster Mash by Bobby ‘Boris’ Pickett or Haunted House by Jumpin’ Gene Simmons.

The song that makes me cry

Over The Rainbow [sung by Judy Garland] or Beautiful Dreamer [written] by Stephen Foster. They’re pretty tear-jerking songs.

The song I'd like played at my funeral

I ain’t gonna die. Who wants to think about that? I’ll talk about how I’m going to live.

George Thorogood And The Destroyers’ Live In Boston, 1982, reissued as the full concert, is out now via Snakefarm Records/Craft Recordings.

David Sinclair

Musician since the 1970s and music writer since the 1980s. Pop and rock correspondent of The Times of London (1985-2015) and columnist in Rolling Stone and Billboard magazines. Contributor to Q magazine, Kerrang!, Mojo, The Guardian, The Independent, The Telegraph, et al. Formerly drummer in TV Smith’s Explorers, London Zoo, Laughing Sam’s Dice and others. Currently singer, songwriter and guitarist with the David Sinclair Four (DS4). His sixth album as bandleader, Apropos Blues, is released 2 September 2022 on Critical Discs/Proper.