Of all the cover songs on George Thorogood and the Destroyers’ new album, “2120 South Michigan Ave.” it is probably the title track that the singer and guitarist has had the longest connection with.
“I played that one in high school in a battle of the bands,” he reminisces with a laugh. “We didn’t win it!”
The song is an instrumental, originally recorded by the Rolling Stones, and named after the Chicago address of the legendary Chess Records. Thorogood named the album as such because, with a few exceptions, all of the songs were originally recorded by artists on the Chess label. When he talks about these artists he lights up like a kid sharing baseball card stats.
“He went to prison in the ‘50s to do time because he wouldn’t volunteer for the draft,” Thorogood notes about Willie Dixon, who wrote three of the album’s 13 tracks. “He was a conscientious objector and he took his case to court and lost and went to prison for it. I always admired his conviction. He was also a Golden Gloves boxer! And so was Bo Diddley at one time. These guys did a lot of different stuff.”
Thorogood himself did a lot of different stuff. He was a semi-professional baseball player before he turned music into a full-time career. But how does that compare with the rough and tumble lives of the original bluesmen?
“It’s a matter of degree,” says Thorogood. “Everybody’s had a rough and tumble life. It’s just a matter of what kinds of tumbles you’ve had over the years. Everybody has trials and tribulations. I often say that the one emotion that all human beings can relate to is pain. ... Joy is the exception, not the rule.”
Thorogood says he counts himself fortunate enough to feel that joy in his blues.
“Most people don’t have happy lives, which is why people cling to entertainment, especially music,” he says, “and especially rock.”
Thorogood is probably known best for his blues rock hits, “Bad to the Bone” and “I Drink Alone.” He says despite whatever new material he’s promoting, he is always glad to play these tunes for his fans.
“Nobody wants to hear any new songs from me anyway,” he says. “They want to hear the old ones.
They always have!”
He’s not saying this to feel sorry for himself — he’s saying it because he knows the importance that a classic rock song has on the lives of the people who go to see him in concert.
“People are going to work. They don’t like to work. They’re not happy with their marriage. They’ve got a toothache. They’re stuck in traffic. And then ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’ comes on the radio, and they can make it through the day. That gets them going.”
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