October 26, 2020

Thorogood’s music was always loud, simple and direct…

In 1982, Delaware bluesmen George Thorogood and the Destroyers were at the top of their game. They had recorded a demo in 1974, but having honed their craft for a further three years and relocated to Boston, their incendiary self-titled debut was released in 1977. Any pretence at sophistication was cast aside as the band churned out a set of traditional blues covers and originals, overlaid with their trademark raw and gritty sound. Thorogood’s gravelly bag-of-nails voice and irrepressible energy was an engaging combination, and although their brand of blues-based rock’n’roll was already passé by this time, they still produced a number of all-time classics, such as an epic cover of John Lee Hooker’s One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer in 1977 and Hank Williams’ Move It on Over in 1978.

George Thorogood

They performed an almost unbelievable 50-gigs-in-50-states-in-50-days tour in 1981, and the following year recorded perhaps their most instantly recognisable hit, 1982’s Bad To The Bone, featuring Hank Carter’s rasping tenor sax. Later the same year, a hometown gig at the Bradford Ballroom in Boston was recorded for posterity on Guy Charbonneau’s mobile studio.

Surprisingly, this seminal gig wasn’t released until 2010 in cut-down form on the 11-track Live In Boston 1982 CD. But from December 4th 2020, nearly 40 years later, the entire concert, remastered by Paul Blakemore, is back in the shops as a massive 2½ hour, quadruple vinyl, double CD or digital download mega live set.

Fans of the band will not need any description of the contents, other than to know whether it’s a decent recording or not. Yes it is, as owners of the 2010 release will know. The power and raw energy are there in abundance, without any trace of musical pretension or any attempt to be anything other than a good-time boogie fest.

The set kicks off with a massively up-tempo rendition of Freddie Slack’s 1946 hit House Of Blue Lights, heavily based on Chuck Berry’s late ‘50s rendition of the song. Kids From Philly is a 2½ minute improvised saxophone blues jam, which serves to limber up Hank Carter’s lungs, but after that it’s a non-stop onslaught of tin-tack vocals, fuzzy guitar and tenor sax over a rock-steady bass and drum backbeat from Billy Blough and Jeff Simon respectively.

A cover of Bo Diddley’s Who Do You Love gives the first taste of Thorogood’s celebrated slide technique, then after four songs, he stops for a bit of a chat. Promising an evening of “Rhythm’n’Blues, Country and Rock’n’Roll,” the next highlight is an epic, 13-minute, mostly spoken-word version of One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer. This is followed by the set’s only ballad, the sweet and gentle As The Years Go Passing By.

After that single foray into soft stuff, it’s a non-stop rock’n’roll onslaught. Fans of 1970s pub blues will recognise many of the songs in this set, gleaned from the most popular of the blues and rock’n’roll songbook, but the raucously amusing Miss Luann, a Detroyers original, was a new one to me. After that comes the rumbling Madison Blues, then the boogie fest continues until a volley of cheerin’ and whoopin’ heralds the introduction to Bad To The Bone, which would have been a brand new number at the time. Whatever, it’s clear that the audience knows pretty much every word to every number, and whenever the band stops for a singalong, they are right there to fill in the gaps.

It’s already apparent that this stripped-down, unashamedly basic format has a lot in common with punk and New Wave sensibilities, but towards the end, the set takes a two-track aside into full-on punk with a Ramones-style intro to the cool, rasping catchy sax and guitar instrumental Wild Weekend, followed by Nobody But Me, which is a straight-ahead manic punk thrash.

A mentally rapid version of Chuck Berry favourite No Particular Place To Go follows, then the Willie And The Hand Jive rhythm of Ride On Josephine. There is no formal band introduction as we hear on many live albums, although George introduces Billy Blough on bass for some reason that was probably evident to attendees at the gig, before launching into the climactic number, an eight-minute, highly amended and slightly obscene rendition of Chuck Berry’s Reelin’ and Rockin’.

There is no encore as such; George and the boys just play straight through without a break, and I for one applaud Carter’s ability to blow that horn at maximum output for well over two hours straight. We hear 30 seconds of audience noise at the end before the recording fades out on the US National Anthem.

“Thorogood’s music was always loud, simple and direct,” as Stephen Thomas Erlewine once put it, and that is about the best description I have seen. They are planning a UK tour in 2021. Check out the album trailer below, then slap the vinyl on the platter and turn it up!