Before the interview starts, veteran blues-rocker George Thorogood jumps right into a story when he learns the caller is from Madison.
“Mad City,” Thorogood shouts. “We played there on Halloween once. I think it was ’82. Others told us it was the wildest – and most dangerous – place to be on Halloween. Well, the last thing you need with that are the Destroyers playing a 15-minute version of (the rollicking) ‘Madison Blues’ in Madison on Halloween.”
Thorogood laughs when told the event now charges admission and is bordered by temporary fencing.
“Enough is enough,” he says. “They had to calm it down. They had to hose it down.”
With a soldout show at the Barrymore Theatre Friday night, Thorogood, who turns 58 Tuesday, is in good spirits as he embarks on a monthlong tour with Madison as his second stop.
State Journal: Do you get excited about another tour?
Thorogood: “It’s always a thrill especially the older you get. It’s almost to the point that it goes beyond work. When you get older, it’s a celebration.”
State Journal: Blues rockers are a fading breed.
Thorogood: “The style of band we have, let’s face it, has faded away. Around 1969 and 1970, when I was interested in getting into music, there were a lot of bands with this style: Savoy Brown Band, Canned Heat, Paul Butterfield Band, even the J. Geils Band – before they got commercial radio hits, they were a boogie band.”
State Journal: I’m having trouble thinking of acts now that split blues and rock as evenly as you do.
Thorogood: “When we got things in full swing, a lot of those bands weren’t around. Now there’s almost none of them. We’re like a dinosaur. We come into town and I say on stage, ‘Doesn’t Mitch Ryder mean anything anymore?’ Maybe it’s part of our appeal.”
State Journal: In concert, you’re one of the most intense performers but you’re having fun, too.
Thorogood: “There’s only one other thing on the planet that has that combination: Sex. Am I wrong? Intense but fun. I’m intense about having fun.”
State Journal: I’ve seen you four times throughout your career and you draw a hard-drinking crowd.
Thorogood: “Not anymore it isn’t. They’re getting a little older.”
State Journal: It has lightened up over the years?
Thorogood: “The problems are fewer and fewer because the promoters know what they’re getting when we come. They cut the bar off at a certain time. It took awhile to work that out. I’ve never wanted things to get out of hand. I mean, if you write a book, you don’t want someone passing out during the third chapter and puking all over the fifth chapter. I worked hard to put this show together and they’re missing it.”
State Journal: You have drinking songs, but “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer” is largely about paying rent.
Thorogood: “Yes. And what is the title of the song? ‘One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer.’ A guy told me he ordered one bourbon, one scotch, one beer. I said, ‘Good for you.’ He says, ‘But I did it 10 times in a row.’ I said, ‘No, no, no, you’re missing the idea.'”
State Journal: Did you have any idea “Bad to the Bone” would become such a staple blues-rock hit?
Thorogood: Remember at that time, MTV was in its infancy. Since then, classic rock radio has made it so popular. But I really wanted a signature tune.
State Journal: Was there a movie or TV show in the mid-’80s to the late ’90s that hasn’t used “Bad to the Bone”?
Thorogood: “I live in California and I run into a lot of movie people. I’ve met some heavy-duty producers and I ask, ‘What did you guy use before “Bad to the Bone”?'”
State Journal: What’s your favorite movie that used the song?
Thorogood: “It hasn’t been made yet. It would be ‘The Story of George Thorogood’ with Martin Scorsese directing it and Robert De Niro playing me. That’s when it’ll be used properly. And it won’t be called ‘Raging Bull.’ It will be called ‘Raging Bull(expletive).'”