By Christopher Hislop
Last time I caught up with George Thorogood was in 2011. He ended that conversation with "rock 'n' roll never sleeps ...; It just passes out."
It was hilarious. We shared a loud, long laugh, and that was that.
WHAT George Thorogood
WHEN Friday and Saturday, June 20 & 21
WHERE Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom, 169 Ocean Blvd., Hampton
COST $44.05 /$59.40
CONTACT 929-4100 www.casinoballroom.com
He went on to destroy the Casino Ballroom, as he's been doing since 1987 when he first set foot in the place (to the best of his recollection).
Fast-forward to present day, and he's coming back again. This time celebrating his 40th anniversary in the music industry.
When he called for this interview, he picked up exactly where we left off ...;
"Chris, it's been too long! Rock 'n' roll never sleeps ...; It just passes out. My apologies, I passed out for a bit long there ...; " He laughs.
Forty years. That's a long time. For Thorogood, it's sailed on by.
When you're having as much fun as he is playing guitar — playing songs, to packed, appreciative houses — you're not working a day in your life. Of all the rooms he's played, of all the places he's been, Hampton Beach and its historic Casino Ballroom is the place he considers home.
"It's always a packed room. It's always a great time. There are always people waiting outside the doors. I can't get enough of the place," he says. "I love the fans, I love the folks on staff ...; It's a great room. A classic room. That bandstand feels like it was tailor made for me, what can I say? I'm not one of these angst-driven artists — you know, the world is heavy on my shoulders type of thing. My heart is on my sleeve, and Hampton Beach is my home, what can I say?"
When Thorogood comes to town, folks get excited. Word travels fast. This time around he's playing two nights, Friday and Saturday, June 20 and 21. Rumors have been circulating that the strip is dedicating itself to the 40th celebration and that Thorogood-mania will be omnipresent all weekend long.
I tell him that they may even unveil a bronzed statue of him out in front of the venue. People LOVE him in these parts.
"You're a sweetheart, you know that?" he says.
SPOTLIGHT: Take us back to the roots for a minute. Why did you launch into this line of work? What was the moment where you thought, 'Yup, that's what I'm after'?
THOROGOOD: What would Steven Tyler do if he wasn't singing for Aerosmith? Work at a bank? Would he be an accountant? A district attorney? No. He was meant to sing. He was meant to be who he is. Same with George Thorogood. I don't know how to do anything else. I don't have a college education, I don't know a trade, or anything like that ...; You know, trace it back to even as early as when I saw Elvis Presley ...; When I saw the Rolling Stones on television I said, 'That's it! There it is! That's what I'm going to do.' I don't even think I had a choice. What would Willy Mays have done if he didn't play baseball?
SPOTLIGHT: You're a big baseball guy yourself ...; So, after this 40th anniversary tour finishes up, what's next? Will you pursue baseball?
THOROGOOD: (Laughs) Oh, man. I'm a little old now, but who knows, maybe I'll jump in the booth! I always kid with Bob Costas when I see him, 'Bobby, I could do what you do, but you can never do what I do ...; "
SPOTLIGHT: What does 40 years look like in hindsight? What are the moments that define a four-decade-long career? And on the flip side, are there some things you might have done differently?
THOROGOOD: I don't know if there's anything I would have done differently, but there are probably some things I wish other people did differently. We were ready to go in late '74, early '75 with our debut record, but it didn't see the light of day until '77. That's a long time to wait when you're rarin' to go. Moments that define a career? Every moment I'm alive and doing this thing is success in my book. I appreciate everything that's come my way. But man, I wish I had more of Willy DeVille kind of look. I told him that once. I said, 'Man ...; You look baaaaad. I look like Leave it to Beaver.' He just looked at me and said, 'Yeah, but you got the devil in you, George. To play like that ...; You bad too.'
SPOTLIGHT: He's right. I remember walking in to one of your shows, and while in the parking lot I watched you get off your bus and stroll up the back stairs of the Casino wearing a cape and rocking a cane ...; That left an impression.
THOROGOOD: (Laughs) You gotta keep it fresh, you know. I love bringing it when I set foot on the strip at Hampton ...; It's funny because, in '74 we started out in the Boston area. It's like we've come full-circle after 40 years. We're in for a homecoming, though we never left!
SPOTLIGHT: Is there anything you're still striving to achieve after four decades in the biz?
THOROGOOD: Yeah. Every night I play I want to be badder than I was the night before. And by bad I mean good ...;
My sights are very low. I'm a very simple, honest man. All I want is for people to walk out of our show and exclaim, 'Man that was the greatest thing I've ever seen in my life!' That's why I do it. That's why we do it.
SPOTLIGHT: What can fans expect to look forward to when they come out to see you play on the 20th and 21st?
THOROGOOD: It's what I'm looking forward to. I'm looking forward to seeing all you Casino fans. I want you to say, 'I'm glad I came. That was better than it was the last time around.'
SPOTLIGHT: Last question, George. Forty years ...; How many bourbons, scotch and beers is that?
THOROGOOD: Too many to count my friend ...; Too many. It ain't over yet.