George Thorogood Recalls Upset Fans When He Signed With EMI
George Thorogood made the jump to a major in the early '80s after half a decade on the prestigious American label Rounder. The move helped him rise to fame but Thorogood says he nearly lost many fans in the process.
"In 1982, we got signed by EMI America and put out the album Bad to the Bone," he said in a new interview with Rounder Records. "So, that was big time. But the funny thing was, it was the same songs, it's the same band – same thing I've been doing for 10 years. So it had a little bit more of a sparkle to it. And there was a large number of Destroyers fans who almost boycotted the record," because he had made the move away from Rounder. "It's the same. It's just the label that's different. It's the same stuff!"
Thorogoood and his band the Destroyers memorably promoted Bad to the Bone with a tour that stopped every night in a different state for 50 days. The Massachusetts concert was in Boston, coincidentally Rounder's home at the time, and that stop has been released as Live in Boston, 1982: The Complete Concert. The show was originally featured in a single-disc 2010 release, but has now been expanded to include the entire setlist with 12 previously unreleased tracks, including "Bad to the Bone," "Cocaine Blues" and "Who Do You Love?" added.
The concert took place Nov. 23, 1982 at the Bradford Ballroom in the "Combat Zone," Boston's notorious red-light district. Thorogood recalled being "really impressed by our fans who live in the Boston area, and they knew what they were getting into going down to that area – and still we packed them in. And, you know, some people would say, 'That's the key to having a good following.' I say, 'No, that's the key to rock 'n' roll itself.' You know, people will bear the elements to go hear the show. So, we tried to make the show as long and energetic as possible. We wore the Combat Zone down!"
That energy is what Rounder co-founder Ken Irwin liked most about seeing Thorogood in the days when he was an unsigned blues-rock musician playing clubs. But it also led Irwin and partners Bill Nowlin and Marian Levy to question if Thorogood was the right fit for them.
"He was like shot from guns," Irwin remembered. "He was all energy, the whole band just exuded energy and fun. ... Originally when we saw George, we felt he was too rock-y, and that we were a roots label. I think we talked to George and he actually stayed at our place a number of times before we finally convinced ourselves that he was blues – but with higher energy and some rock influences."
Thorogood parted ways with EMI in the late '90s, and he has since returned to Rounder. The label put out Live in Boston, 1982: The Complete Concert, and it can be purchased or streamed here.
George Thorogood and Rounder Records Founders Discuss 'Live in Boston, 1982'
George Thorogood and the Destroyers, 'Live in Boston, 1982: The Complete Concert' Track Listing
1. "House of Blue Lights"
2. "Kids From Philly"
3. "Who Do You Love?"*
4. "I’m Wanted"
5. "Cocaine Blues"*
6. "One Way Ticket"
7. "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer"
8. "As the Years Go Passing By"
9. "Spoken Introduction: The Dance Floor"*
10. "It Wasn’t Me"
11. "Bottom of the Sea"*
12. "Night Time"*
13. "New Boogie Chillun’"
1. "I’ll Change My Style"*
2. "Miss Luann"
3. "Madison Blues"*
4. "The Sky Is Crying"*
5. "I Can’t Stop Lovin’"
6. "Spoken Introduction: Audience Participation"*
7. "Same Thing"*
8. "Bad to the Bone"*
9. "Move It on Over"
10. "Wild Weekend"
11. "Nobody but Me"
12. "No Particular Place to Go"*
13. "Ride on Josephine"*
14. "Reelin’ and Rockin’"*
* Previously unreleased