Courtesy Amberleigh Jack/ Stuff

From the aviator sunglasses inside, to the full head of hair and deep American accent, rock legend George Thorogood embodies the image of an 80s rock legend who is still living the dream decades later.

He is humble, though. Not in a self-deprecating way, but he knows he is lucky to be living a life of rock and roll 45 years after the release of the band’s self-titled debut album.

He had dreams of guitar legend status as a kid. As time went on that quickly became, “I just want to be able to make a living doing this”.

As for the phenomenal success that became a reality?

“I don’t think anybody had that kind of imagination,” he says.

Plenty of music greats are still “kicking it” years later he says, but suggests musicians like the Who and Paul McCartney were brilliant from the get go.

“They had a bit more to work with than I did,” he laughs.

“A lot of those cats were blessed with great musical talent and insight ... there’s only one Paul McCartney.”

It could be said there is only one George Thorogood, too, though. He laughs.

“I do ok with what I got.”

The band is heading to New Zealand for the 45 Years of Rock tour in October this year. Thorogood has clear memories of the band’s 2020 visit Down Under. The first being the weather was some of the hottest it has ever been. The second was New Zealand crowds were there to party.

“[2020] was the greatest experience we ever had working there,” he says.

“New Zealand as a country is a power to be reckoned with. It’s not a Sleepy Hollow like some people think,” he says adding the crowd size and enthusiasm was incredible.

“I can’t wait to come back”

George Thorogood and the Destroyers first gained success in the late 1970s with cover songs like the reworked John Lee Hooker’s One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer. But it was Thorogood’s first release of a song he wrote himself that cemented his place in the rock world.

Bad to the Bone was released in 1982. Perhaps most famously, it was used during the bar scene in Terminator 2: Judgement Day. That was the scene we saw the terminator (also a fan of sunglasses inside) for the first time. The song has featured in more than 25 films or television shows. Even 40 years later, it remains an iconic “bad boy” song.

He knew the song was good when he wrote it, he assumed it would be a good song for the fans. As for the insane success that followed its release, however, he never saw it coming.

“To make it to this level, we never dreamed of that. Nobody does.”

He feels that way about the band’s success as a whole, too.

“When I was starting I had ears and I could hear the sounds coming out of the guitar. I knew I had something. I knew I had something I could make a living doing,” he says.

But now he is 72, he is on his way back to New Zealand and has a name synonymous with old school rock and roll. It could be easy to chill out and rets on his laurels. But that is not the George Thorogood way of doing things.

“If someone comes up to me and says you were really good yesterday, I say ‘yeah, yesterday’, I don’t like to look in the rearview mirror,” he says.

“I want to compete with myself. I want to be better than I was yesterday. I can’t say I want to be better than Jeff Beck, nobody can. Forget about that, see if you can top George Thorogood. That keeps me pretty busy.”

After decades of living the rock and roll dream, is there anything that stands out as a career highlight?

“Yeah,” says Thorogood.

“Every night.”

And that every night buzz is enough to keep him coming back for more. At least for now.

“I’m planning on doing it at least until I get to New Zealand,” he says.

“And then we’ll take it from there.”