Dec 042007
 

Doin’ the job Fogerty was too proud to do

It’s going to be extremely difficult for anyone under the age of 43* to properly feel the stinging blows that Team Destroyer will deliver in support of George Thorogood’s Steel Cage Match against ZZ Top and Team Top, but we’ll do our best. Truth be told, it’s going to be only slightly less difficult for the older heads of Rock Town Hall to see the dim stars that will result from our sure-footed jabs, but victory will be all the sweeter.

Before we get into the music, let’s start with the original Look of a young George Thorogood. Take a good look at that cover shot that kicks off this thread. Can you handle what you see?!?!

Now, those of you nerds who remember, circa 1977, high-fiving over the back cover shot of Talking Heads in their little plaid shirts; those of you who discovered Jonathan Richman in his simple, little shirts; those of who were sickened by what rock had become following the age of KISS and other overblown, tarted up arena rockers, look inside your hearts and give Thorogood some respect for his initial choice of simple stage threads. Compare it with that of UK roots rockers like Dave “Saint of Roots Covers” Edmunds, and tell me Thorogood’s not working the same angle, that is Rock of The People.

Now listen to this song while I continue. Listen to it!

George Thorogood,

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*As of December 4, 2007.

Flying in the face of lost values

I’m sure some of you remember hearing Thorogood tracks like this for the first time – hearing them on big, commercial rock stations, no less, sandwiched between Journey, Styx, and Foreigner crap – and even all the Zeppelin and Who songs you’d been growing sick of from overplay. Thorogood’s first records were on a little independent folk label called Rounder. This was long before labels touted their “indie” status while leaning on their long-since-established network of indie PR, indie radio, indie press, and indie coke deals with said members of indie radio and indie press. How the hell Rounder got George Thorogood on commercial FM radio (at least in the Philadelphia area – how ’bout your hometown circa 1977?) is a mystery to me. Maybe coke and whores were part of the package, but a song’s still got to have some appeal to people no matter how often it’s shoved down their throat. Thorogood worked it. The songs and arrangements were as simple and stripped down as the man’s Look. Remember, we’re talking a few years before Thorogood could fancy himself an over-the-hill authentic bluesman at a modern-day Chicago blues festival, wearking snakeskin boots, silk jackets, and bad headwear. Listen to this track while Team Destroyer continues its patient assault on reason. Listen to it!

George Thorogood,

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OK, I meant to buy “Who Do You Love” from iTunes, but this will have to do. The Bo Diddley beat is cool. In the history of rock, I believe only U2 failed to make it work. Is there anything fancy going on here? No. Any hot-shit slide guitar playing that you or I couldn’t work up with a few weeks’ practice? Probably not. Anything original? Only in the sense that unlike the 42,000 bar bands circa 1977, Thorogood and his Delaware Destroyers actually displayed the good taste to establish the beat, stick with it, drive it into the ground, and resist from showing off their chops. Now some of you older heads, I’m pretty sure, despite one of the revolutionary lessons of punk rock, held onto your worship of the false idol of chops. That’s cool, I like my share of chops, but circa 1977 chops had to cool the hell off! I don’t mean that bands had to forget how to play well. I can’t stand a punk rock band that is incapable of keeping any beat as much as I can’t stand a ’70s boogie band that is incapable of resisting the temptation to stray from the boogie. What I mean is, musicians owed it to the revitalization of real rock ‘n roll to repent for their double-bass drum fills, their tweedly-tweedly soloing, their wall of keyboards.

Thorogood was sheep to the slaughter for the sins of rock ‘n roll, and for that he should be praised, not dismissed with scorn and contempt. As much as any goofy “roots rock” and “alt.country” artist who would follow and decade later and beyond would be praised within reason – I’m thinking of the likes of The Reverend Horton Heat – Thorogood should be tolerated and enjoyed for what he was. If I’m out in a bar and an early Thorogood track comes on, it sits in the background just so, allowing me a steady beat to tap along with and a pleasing, vintage guitar tone to savor while people talk loudly all around me and I and my impaired hearing have trouble following any particular conversation. Bring your laptop to a crowded bar and play the following song in the background. See if you don’t get what I mean.

George Thorogood,

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Did you know that producer Terry Manning worked with both ZZ Top and the Delaware Destroyer himself? I didn’t, and I think it’s important that Team Top and Team Destroyer recognize some common ground. What’s better than a fierce battle between two opponents who respect each other? While we’re building some between-round respect, I think a pause for browsing this site will be helpful.

Let’s get back to business, shall we? Try this track on for size.

George Thorogood,

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Yet another well-worn, simple cover. The man knew his limitations and played perfectly within them. While John Fogerty was spending the ’70s being pissed off about who-exactly-knows-what (see Fogerty Syndrome) and the brief, early ’70s rock ‘n roll revival had long since faded, Thorogood was taking on the burden of keeping rock’s simple values alive and kicking. He even came up with one wholly memorable, long staple. Even you young whippersnappers probably know what I’m referring to when I type “Now you funny too.”

George Thorogood,

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Beside the obvious sins of dressing like a washed-up, second-rate blues legend at a modern-day Chicago blues festival and hamming up his music in a way that betrayed his original supporters (“Judas!” one fan was heard to shout out the first time he played “Bad to the Bone” in concert), where Thorogood really started losing the respect of rock’s true believers and underground flag wavers can be seen in the following image.

He’s not bad, he’s just genetically mean

Once Thorogood cut his hair, which didn’t have much bounce or curl, he was left with a boring, layered, center-part ‘do. Like the kind of haircut you’d get, circa 1983, before going on a job interview. Coupled with the increasingly formal choices in stage wear and the occasional donning of Risky Business-style Ray-Bans, Thorogood’s huge, John Elway-like overbite and stubby, slightly upturned nose came to the fore. Suddenly, we had trouble seeing the man as a humble Roots Rock Preservationist. Instead, he was Whitey, milkin’ the Black Man of his rightful, overdue glories. Where George Thorogood was raking in the big bucks and the adulation of pretty young secretaries – where George Thorogood was shilling for lousy American beer – real second-rate bluesmen like Buddy Guy were still trying to make their way up to the front of the line. The titans of the ’50s blues scene were dropping, and while their trusted second fiddles waited to take their spot, George Thorogood and Stevie Ray Vaughn took the main stage instead. At least Stevie Ray had the whole hard-living thing to give him credibility. But George Thorogood??? He was the embodiment of the White Man’s Overbite. “I hates white folks!”, white, educated hipsters were heard to mumble.

Yeah, I said it too. But now, when I’m trying not to pay too much attention to all that I find unsatisfying in 99% of roots rock revivalism and 85% of ’70s boogie jams, I treasure the simplicity and sincerity – and consistent mediocrity – of early George Thorogood. I’ll leave you with his band’s signature tune. If need be, we can get into the skeletons of our highly respected opponents another time.

George Thorogood,

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  74 Responses to “Keepin’ the Faith: Thorogood as Rock’s Sacrificial Lamb”

  1. This essay is precisely why I prefer to stand with Mr. Mod whenever I can. What more is there to add? (More accurately, what could I possible add?) To me, the case is closed.

    So now that Mr. Mod’s done all the heavy lifting I’ll just throw in a few redundant comments.

    (One sidebar to get out of the way – Mr. Mod, I’m also with you on Buddy Guy as second rate.)

    I believe back in the day, Thorogood’s Rounder LP (which I bought back in a Philly record store that I can picture plain as day but can’t for the life of me remember the name of; Geo I’m gonna need to consult with you ‘cos this will drive me crazy) was very notable from a market point of view. It was far and away Rounder’s best selling LP at that time.

    I’ll confess that my knowledge of Thorogood doesn’t extend much beyond that first album and a 2 CD comp. So, as soon as the discussion goes to deep cuts, I’m clueless. The same is true of ZZ Top. I couldn’t play a Top song right now because I don’t have any; all I know are the hits.

    Resting on that slim platform, why Thorogood wins for me is that I don’t get any artifice, any smirk, any insincerity from George but I do from Top. They both, I don’t know, have a good beat that’s easy to dance to. They’re fun listens. But I always felt that bit of insincerity in Top and I don’t get a whiff of that with Thorogood. For me, that counts.

    I won’t argue about which list either belongs on but neither are A-listers. But that doesn’t mean I’d agree with Mr. Mod’s “damning mediocrity” appraisal of Thorogood. He’s a working class musician, if you will, but I think he’s better than mediocre at it.

    I’d never switch the radio station from any of those Thorogood examples that Mr. Mod provided. I can’t say the same about the ZZ Top hits.

  2. I knew, Mr. Mod, that you were going to praise Thorogood’s bar band lack of originality and ambition in contrast to the Top’s urge for Arena Superstar Overkill. I thought you might add that while Tops’ lyrics are ambitiously stupid (“you want stupid, you got it”), Thorogood’s lyrics just evoke ordinary bar dude without the same degree of goofy posturing–until of course “Bad to the Bone” showed him becoming a Top imitator.

    I don’t mind hearing Thorogood on the radio, although out west he hasn’t made it into the classic rock pantheon and I haven’t heard him in some years.

    The fact is though, Top boogies much harder. And all these secondary rock critic distinctions don’t matter so much in that context. In short, while you have some fine intellectual distinctions here, you need to think less and rock more. Suspend your skepticism and get your groove on.

  3. Mr. Moderator

    It’s tough agreeing with me, isn’t it, Mwall? I’m all about the music here. Like Al, I find the smarm factor in Top’s music hard to get by, and I simply don’t like a lot of their musical choices. Listen to how many of those songs have bad drum fills and overdone guitar intros. HVB gets off on that stuff because, well, whatever gets you through the night. I mean, they’re part of his Holy Trinity. I’ve heard Da Blooz blasting from your place. Remember, that’s how I found you when I was out your way last year. Just follow the sound of Da Blooz! Fuck Da Blooz and Da Tubesnake Boogie while you’re at it! If I want to hear boogie, I’ll listen to a British band do it. They, like Thorogood, knew how to concentrate on the big, stupid beats. A band like Humble Pie doesn’t need to hide behind those stupid beards. A band like Humble Pie is actually getting OFF on its own sound. The ZZ Top guys usually sound to me like they’re waving their dicks around and then smirking over the fact that they just waved their dicks at each other. You guys can have that stuff! Poor Thorogood probably couldn’t find his dick if he tried, but he’s not annoying me. That’s gotta count for something!

  4. Sorry, Mr. Mod – I’m not with you on this one. I’ve heard all of those Almostgood recordings. I’ve also heard the originals he copped them from, and he never even gets close (and I’m talking feel, not sonic reproduction).

  5. Again, Mr. Mod, I don’t disagree with many of your points. It’s just that they don’t matter. I don’t care about the issue of musical “values” in this instance. This is a cage match, remember? Get all fussy about values and some big insincere smelly ass dude slams your head to the mat. “I like my professional wrestlers to be sincere.” Huh? I want a rock sound that sends me rocking. Please note the absolute simplicity with which that sentence has no meaning. Thorogood simply can’t deliver the necessary rocking lack of meaning I am asking for, because he doesn’t really rock.

    I was actually playing Donny Hathaway when you found my door, chump.

    And oh, you mentioned Humble Pie. Now that’s a fucking truly unlistenable band.

  6. To knock Thorogood because his versions don’t match up to the originals of Hank Williams or John Lee Hooker or whomever seems pretty pointless to me. Couldn’t you say the same thing about some of the songs the Rolling Stones or Beatles covered?

    I don’t think Thorogood (or the Stones or the Fabs for that matter) ever did them expecting anyone, even themselves, to believe that. They are acknowledgments/tributes that bring them to a different audience.

  7. Oof. I may have to change my vote. I went through those ZZ Top tracks, and I do not get it. Sure, there’s some fancy fretwork going on there, but damn, I hate pro forma ’70s rock production. Those rhythms sound flat, dead, limpid, saggy, etc. etc. etc. How does this boogie stuff rock, exactly? Live at Leeds, that rocks. What’s the Live at Leeds of boogie rock?

    I was all set to sneer at Mr. Mod due to my pre-existing hatred of Thorogood, but I see his point, I think. Yeah, his licks aren’t so hot, and his voice ain’t nothing to crow about, but the leanness and energy of the rhythms make up for a lot. Although, I’m not ready to suggest Thorogood somehow fills a Fogerty-sized hole.

    I will say, ZZ Top’s big hits are way better than “Bad to the Bone.”

  8. Mr. Moderator

    Couldn’t you simply say that, covers or originals, the music of ZZ Top often goes nowhere worthwhile after the initial 30 seconds? I’ve got to listen to HVB’s deep cuts again, but anytime I think of ZZ Top songs I like just a little I recall getting bored once the gimmick has been established. This last statement, by the way, is true of Thorogood too, and his gimmicks are nowhere near as creative. However, as a Thorogood song drifts off into nothing more than my hand keeping time on my thigh, the ZZ Top song typically becomes insufferable. To me.

  9. Mr. Moderator

    Oats, you have delivered! I would have expected nothing less than you.

  10. Oats, you have delivered! I would have expected nothing less than you.

    Thank you! Also, this…

    Couldn’t you simply say that, covers or originals, the music of ZZ Top often goes nowhere worthwhile after the initial 30 seconds?

    …cinches it. I’m in your corner, man.

  11. As Oats is under the age of 43, he has already been disqualified from possible understanding of this thread, and by the Mod himself. Oats grew up in the rock age group which by definition rejected the macho rocking values which Top stands for. This adds up, for the rock fan, to an interesting combination of moral snootiness and an ongoing identity crisis. Let’s put a towel over his drums, assuming there are any, and wish him well.

  12. As Oats is under the age of 43

    I should’ve never shown my face at those RTH meet ‘n’ greets! Ah, to think of the mystery I could’ve preserved. I could’ve been the Leon Redbone of RTH!

    What else am I not allowed to comment on here? The films of John Ford? The Hoover administration? Mickey Mantle? Let me know!

  13. Mr. Moderator

    Mwall said:

    As Oats is under the age of 43, he has already been disqualified from possible understanding of this thread, and by the Mod himself.

    Rather, it strengthens the argument Team Destroyer has made. He is DEFINITELY allowed to comment on this thread, as are all the other younger folks in the Halls of Rock.

    Factoring in the degree of difficulty in the argument we have made, I’m really proud of what we’re accomplishing. Let’s keep up the good work, Destroyers!

  14. Mr. Mod, as your previous attack on the BYrds has revealed, you have a major hangup with bands whose identity is contradictory.

    Now you’re punishing ZZ Top for wanting to both be an authentic blues band and pop culture tricksters. I don’t see why they can’t be both.

    As for Thorogood, if he were any more one-dimensional the universe might possibly collapse in on itself.

  15. Mr. Moderator

    No, Dr. John, I’m “punishing” ZZ Top, as you put it, because I find their music and their schtick severely depressing and a waste of my time.

    What I AM doing is making the case for Thorogood vs ZZ Top in terms of listenability. How could I be any less clear and direct in this argument?

  16. What else am I not allowed to comment on here? The films of John Ford?

    “I don’t see why those cowboys have to carry guns all the time and talk so tough. Plus they’re always shooting Indians. I hate that. Can’t they just dialogue?”

    All in due fun–

  17. We always told Neill Kirby McMillan, Jr. that his Mojo Nixon schtick was way better than the Thorogood gig… (Never saw those two in the same room together did you!?!)

    GO TEAM TOP!

  18. hrrundivbakshi

    Is it possible to have *two* posts of the week? I submit:

    Mwall’s screed: Oats grew up in the rock age group which by definition rejected the macho rocking values which Top stands for. This adds up, for the rock fan, to an interesting combination of moral snootiness and an ongoing identity crisis. Let’s put a towel over his drums, assuming there are any, and wish him well.

    And Dr. John, the *other* giant pain in my ass, said:

    Now you’re punishing ZZ Top for wanting to both be an authentic blues band and pop culture tricksters. I don’t see why they can’t be both.

    As for Thorogood, if he were any more one-dimensional the universe might possibly collapse in on itself.

    To both, I say: brrrrravolingus!

  19. Mr. Moderator

    Glad you’re enjoying your teammates’ trash talk, HVB. But where’s the beef? Hauling cattle onstage to give the illusion of beef does not count.

  20. mockcarr

    I prefer the sometimes weak vocal aspects of the Top examples over the fake rasp of Thoroughfair. He picks gravel over rock every time seemingly. I believe he ushered in that frat rock collection every floor party had in the 80s when the beer bong came out. P feckin U.

    Move It On Over is him doing a really white version of the ZZ Top stuff. Ok, so them other guys is white too, but at least they know how to use their ugly, to paraphrase a young Rick Massimo quote. And why should this song take four minutes to play this?

    Ride On Josephine is a boring thoroughfare with no passages of interest.

    Madison Blues. Keepin’ it unreal. How can a fellow take on a lead as he does with so little to say with it? Here’s a guy playing a guitar for at least 30 seconds without any singing…it MUST be a solo!

    Wait a minute, did he play a melodic figure?
    You Gotta Move isn’t bad, that hi-hat kinda irritates me but I guess I can’t slag this cover as much. I can’t help thinking that the bass player had been listening ot the Grease soundtrack before the session however. Perhaps that would be chronologically incorrect, though not in spirit.

    When is the damn song gonna start in One Bourbon… shit, I’ll way beyond three drinks by by then. jello shots? grain alcohol? moonshine? 3 in 1 oil? I give up, one Bakers, one Laphroig, one Dogfish 60-minute, zzzz,.

    You left out If You Don’t Start Drinkin, I’m Gonna Leave. Sure they’re piss beers, but it was somewhat amusing. I picked a Delaware beer just for George.

    Last one sounds like more aimless boogie featuring some soulless hoop using a Coors Light beer bottle on a dayglo Jap knockoff guitar. Perhaps inhales enough of the prop cigarette to sound fauxthentic. I have a request George. Stop…just…stop, already.

  21. hrrundivbakshi

    I’m busy, my good man! More later. For now, I send out a polite golf clap in your direction for that very entertaining, but hugely time-wasting, Thorogood apologium.

    Your pal,

    HVB

  22. BigSteve

    Mr Mod what you’re calling smarm I call having a sense of humor, which George lacks, despite the pretense that his music is ‘fun.’

    I think what you’re really saying is that you don’t like this kind of music, so you’d rather it be played badly, or to be kind generically, because then you don’t really have to pay attention to it. It won’t make you change the station, which is the current be all and end of radio programming and a degraded synonym for ‘listenable.’

    If we’re going to talk bar bands, put the Fabulous Thunderbirds up against ZZ Top, and we might actually have a contest.

    And doesn’t Mr Destroyer get points deducted for carrying on a couple of these exercises for 7 or 8 minutes?

  23. BigSteve

    And leave the cattle out of this, unless it affects listenability.

  24. 2000 Man

    For awhile, Top’s schtick was beer driniking and hell raising, and George TGood took their schtick when they were done with it. No way can I side with Mr. Mod. I’m over 43. I’d lay money on it that Kid Leo here in Cleveland is the dink that let George out of the bar and onto the airwaves.

    I mean, ZZ Top had to get dumb. That’s what happens when hillbillies get rich as rock stars, their excess and decadence is just pure trailer park. But Billy Gibbons was in Moving Sidewalks and they came up with one good psych tune, 99th Floor. That’s more cred than George will ever get. Plus, I read once that Billy makes his own picks by filing down silver dollars. True or not, that’s cool.

    George is like a one trick pony who’s trick is eating grass. They all kinda do that, don’t they? Add to the fact that George did Get A Haircut and he just plain loses. So take him and his tooth and bring on some boogie!

  25. Mr. Moderator

    BigSteve wrote:

    I think what you’re really saying is that you don’t like this kind of music, so you’d rather it be played badly, or to be kind generically, because then you don’t really have to pay attention to it.

    Yes! It’s all about listenability, or the blessed opportunity NOT to listen, in some cases – not the filing down of silver dollars or the cred of having been in Moving Sidewalks.

  26. BigSteve, you make a great point here. There’s something really uptight about Thorogood that completely defeats his attempts to create music that has any discernible degree of humor, fun, or looseness.

  27. Mr. Moderator

    Man, the snobbishness that comes forth when faced with the Delaware Destroyer is frightening but not unexpected. Dr. John and others, how do you determine what is “fun?” Plenty of people over the years have had what they would consider “fun” in the presence of Thorogood. Are you saying they don’t know how to describe their own feelings?

    I personally get little fun out of the “loose,” pop culture hijinx of ZZ Top, but I wouldn’t presume that you, Hrrundi, et al are likewise getting no fun out of that stuff. Let’s keep it real, all right?

  28. BigSteve

    Isn’t the best way NOT to listen changing the station or just listening to a different CD or something?

    This seems to have become about the ability to fade into background music, which I never would have thought RTH could condone. Even ZZ Top’s ubiquity has not dimmed their personality, even when they turned it into schtick. Thorogood’s music is so innocuous it just sounds like a beer commercial. Even that Levitra commercial blues jam has more personality.

    Of course, if someone’s personality annoys you, you avoid them. I find vapidity annoying.

  29. I’ve said my piece, obviously, but Mr. Mod, I just want to understand you a little better.

    Are you saying that when one of the good ZZ Top songs (good only in comparison to other Top songs, I mean) comes on the radio, you change the station? Because for me, a good ZZ Top song on the radio moment ranks very high.

  30. BigSteve

    Of course we’re snobs. But is getting down with the workingman’s music any more admirable than listening to hiphop to demonstrate solidarity with our disadvantaged black brothers?

    And remember the Curse of the Bar Band. On any given night any given bar band can, with the right audience in the right bar, be a total blast for all concerned. But there is absolutely no reason for that band ever to make a record, even a live one.

  31. hrrundivbakshi

    I’d like to state two facts that may be relevant to my contributions to this scintillating debate:

    1. I actually paid for a ticket, and watched, George Thorogood and the Delaware Destroyers, on their “Bad To the Bone” tour in the early 80s. I remember being *extremely* underwhelmed, if not outright disappointed. Why? Because,

    2. When I was in high school, I was a pretty huge fan of GT and Co. — in fact, I pimped that first Rounder LP (which I bought in the Seychelles, believe it or fucking not; I must be the *only* person in the world able to make that claim — and how the hell did a copy end up on a flyspeck island 2,700 miles east of the Kenyan coast, anyhow?)… anyhow, I pimped that album hard to my buddies in Africa. I *get* his bloke-ist appeal. He’s just kind of lame. As I grew older, the trade-off between his readily apparent groove/music/lyrical lameness and his total lack of anything even remotely approaching coolness knocked him off the contenders list. Note: this did *not* happen with the Top, whose music grew better as I got older (much like AC/DC, Thin Lizzy and a few others I will go to the mat for).

    For the record, I won’t change the station when a GT song comes on the radio, and, for cheap laughs (I’m an easy audience), sometimes I’ll turn up the stupider Thorogoodian drinking anthems. There’s a real trainwreck thrill to be had waiting for him to say the words “buddy-weiser,” or “… and his buddies, Blackie and Red…”

    Also: BigSteve: I was *this close* to putting “Tube Snake Boogie” and/or “10 Foot Pole” on my list of six deep Top trax. “El Loco” is a wonderfully weird album; I’m glad you get it, but I’m certain our Y-fronts-wearing moderator would not.

    HVB

  32. Mr. Moderator

    BigSteve asks:

    Isn’t the best way NOT to listen changing the station or just listening to a different CD or something?

    Sure, but I can’t walk behind a bar and do that or just change whatever some party host might be playing, can I?

    You’re losing track of the relatively fat-free nature of Thorogood’s music, which I find to be a relative strength. (I do find it sad that I could only find one relatively good Thorogood song that timed under 4:00; brevity was not part of his fat-free diet.) No joke. ZZ Top goes off on those “tasty” blues licks that cause HVB to stroke his would-be beard and look off into the distance. I can’t go there with him. My idea of guitar jamming that causes me to get into the mystic is something else altogether. That’s cool. Coupled with what he was doing when he was doing it, and for a couple of years, at least, you’ve got an admirable if mediocre rocker.

    Don’t lose track of the stuff I’m saying that is not tied directly into my sense of humor regarding the state of the world. I am certain that if Thorogood showed up in your local club as an underground artists circa 1986, with better hair and a better Look that he’d be accepted alongside many of the Urban Cowboys who’ve passed through your town over the last 20 years. This is surely faint praise, but the point of my throwing down this gauntlet is not to have to seriously make a case for the greatness of one mediocre hack vs another but to ask us to look within and, if need be, feel guilty. About something. OK, I’m back to joking around. Let’s keep it real, though. Where’s General Slocum? He’s had time to think this over.

  33. Mr. Moderator

    Mwall asked:

    Are you saying that when one of the good ZZ Top songs (good only in comparison to other Top songs, I mean) comes on the radio, you change the station?

    I think so, Mwall. There comes a time when I can’t stand their production, I don’t like what the drummer’s doing, I get nauseated by the way they sing and the sense of sly come-ons from guys who’s shit, I’m certain, smells worse than my own. I know my shit stinks too, but they’re the rare folks whose shit, I’m willing to bet, smell worse than that of the mean. Yes, I find them gross, and I hear it in their music. I don’t want to know what gets caught in those beards or what’s under those berets. If I were a woman I’d want to be at least 2 miles from their presence. I’d like to keep a mile away as it is.

  34. hrrundivbakshi

    Okay, Mod, you can, uh, “crack” wise about the Top’s smelly shit, moth-ridden beards and general stank all you want, but this — *this* — you have to back up:

    “There comes a time when I can’t stand their production…”

    I find this extremely baffling, unless you’re talking about the 1980s synth-rock stuff they foisted on an eager listening audience back in the day. Their Bill Ham-produced (and I use that term “produced” very loosely; Ham produced about as much of the Top sound as Col. Tom Parker did for Elvis) stuff from the 70s sounds *amazing* to these ears. Who’s with me? (Note: this really is a fogies-only question, as former carnie Ham insisted on having the entire Top back catalog re-mixed in the 80s to make it more palatable for The Kidz.)

  35. HBV, I’m with you on the tone of those late 70s Top records. The precision of that guitar, alternately singing and crunchy, puts them (on their best songs) well above the bar.

    Mr. Mod, I’d be interested to know if you’d say more or less the same thing about the smelliness of AC/DC. To my mind, what’s gross about both bands both limits their appeal, but is also essential to it.

  36. BigSteve

    Oh I get it now — beardophobia.

  37. general slocum

    Mr. Mod incredulizes:
    Plenty of people over the years have had what they would consider “fun” in the presence of Thorogood. Are you saying they don’t know how to describe their own feelings?

    Yes!! I couldn’t put my finger on it, but there it is! Generally speaking, if listening to George Thorogood is more often than not a part of “fun” for a person, then that person is 30% more likely to be unable to determine their own feelings. No one knows why, but Cornell West made the controversial claim in the late eighties that it was somehow related to Thorogood’s pronounced, Cro-Magnon lower jaw. Of course, West sensibly suggested giving the man the useful moniker “Gatemouth” and moving on. But that’s too simple for RTH.
    And I think you glossed over my earlier point. The clumsy, broomstick up the butt stance of Mr. Thorogood is like a bad Lou Reed. Oh so uncomfortable to watch. But he always delivers by removing Reed’s ever present danger: an outburst of momentary genius. It’s all discomfort, all the time.
    And Hrrundie, they re-re-mastered the early Top stuff. I was also cheezed no end to hear those first couple of records all gated and cranked, and apparently they’ve undone that since. I just dumped my very scratchy old lps in the computer, and I’m fine with the noise. And Mr. Mod, where is there tastier playing on all instruments then on Tres Hombres? One song even pop radio couldn’t ruin for me was La Grange. What a perfect piece of stuff.
    Also, as far as what might be growing in their beards by now (the beards themselves are living “off the grid” now, so who knows?) and why women might want to steer clear of them, that’s now. Forget that it’s got nothing to do with listenability, until the flora starts making sounds. But it’s like asking who thinks 80s Sinatra was a dreamboat!
    For just listenability, I’d put the first three ZZ Top albums up over any Thorogood at all. Now, please deal with that, Mr. Mod. You’ve created a thread where Hrrundie sounds well reasoned and defensible. Doesn’t that worry you?

  38. 2000 Man

    I like those first three Top albums, too. I understand people wanting to have fun, but GT is like any other mediocre rock fun to me. He may as well be Poison or Whitesnake. Plus, I think in the early 70’s those beards were only four or five inches long. How much could they possibly have held back then?

  39. Mr. Moderator

    General, please don’t try to appeal to me through my Lou Reed prismatic view of the world. It is tempting.

    Mwall, no, I don’t find AC/DC that gross. It’s the fact that two grown men made a pact to dress and groom themselves in that manner that creeps me out.

    For those of you who still feel the need to “convince” me that Thorogood is mediocre: I GET IT. It was key to my thoughts on this matter. Yes, he’s more mediocre than ZZ Top. I just find him less bad than ZZ Top. Make sense?

  40. BigSteve

    Mod, how does this fit in with your opinions about ambition in rock? I may have misread you or, or I could just be mixing you up with someone else, but I thought it was your view that it was better to go for it and fail. I thought you were bothered by artists who set their sights low.

  41. hrrundivbakshi

    I demand an RTH No-Prize, Pince Nez Division, for the following correction to Mod’s statement, re: Billy and Dusty. Mod said:

    It’s the fact that two grown men made a pact to dress and groom themselves in that manner that creeps me out.

    I say: You are WRONG about this! In fact, after the Worldwide Texas Tour to support the album “Tejas,” the band took a year or two off, without speaking to or seeing each other. When they reconvened to begin work on what was to become their excellent album “Deguello,” Billy and The Dust were surprised by the fact that they *both* decided not to shave during the intervening years. The rest is rock facial hair history.

    Incidentally, I must share one other favorite ZZ Top anecdote: Dusty Hill employs a powerful, single-digit methodology for maximizing the sound of his thunderbroom — i.e., he pounds and pulls the strings with his right-hand index finger only. Over the years, this powerful digit has developed a callous of mammoth proportions — a veritable Mt. Olympus of thick, crusty, dead skin. This, according to The Dust, his roadies and other members of the band, enables Dusty to really deliver the goods when his hand strays across the southern border for serious lovin’ — so much so that the finger, used to such admirable purpose in the boudoir and on the rock stage, has a name. His index finger is called The Pleaser.

    I find this extremely amusing. In fact, I find Dusty in general extremely amusing.

  42. BigSteve

    A quick look at a more or less random youtube video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TDjbf_CUxq0) shows Dusty clearly using more than his index finger to pluck the bass strings. I really don’t want to think about what other things he does with his fingers, unless it affects his listenability.

  43. To knock Thorogood because his versions don’t match up to the originals of Hank Williams or John Lee Hooker or whomever seems pretty pointless to me. Couldn’t you say the same thing about some of the songs the Rolling Stones or Beatles covered?

    Sure, and at times, I have – I have no use for most early Beatles LP cover filler left over from their Hamburg days. But if you’re gonna record a cover, you’re gonna have to deal with comparisons to the original. And George ain’t getting a pass.

    I don’t think Thorogood (or the Stones or the Fabs for that matter) ever did them expecting anyone, even themselves, to believe that. They are acknowledgments/tributes that bring them to a different audience.

    Probably true as well. So maybe George has an OK record collection. I don’t care. I find his “acknowledgments/tributes” to be clumsy, loud, and soulless. Why should I listen to his versions when better ones are readily available?

    I mean, c’mon… Give one listen to Amos Milburn’s version of “One Scotch, One Bourbon, and One Beer” and you’ll never have the urge to hear George’s again.

  44. BigSteve

    On the subject of covers I’d say that the songs are part of the listenability factor. If you start with a great song like Move It on Over, you’re ahead of the game. You can even drag it out for over 4 minutes with repeated solos showing off your ‘chop,’ and you can’t kill it. I don’t have the heart to go through Thorogood’s records myself, but I hope to god his writing ambitions end with recording an instrumental version of Rollin’ and Tumblin’ and renaming it Delaware Slide.

  45. Plenty of people over the years have had what they would consider “fun” in the presence of Thorogood. Are you saying they don’t know how to describe their own feelings?

    I’m calling you on this. How do YOU know that people are having fun listening to GT? Maybe they’re faking it.

    Let’s face it, it’s easier to look like you’re having fun as a defense against boring music than to resist it.

  46. BigSteve

    dr john said

    Plenty of people over the years have had what they would consider “fun” in the presence of Thorogood.

    Is it because of his special skill when that slide goes south of the border?

  47. Just to clarify: that’s a quote from the MOd.

  48. Mr. Moderator

    BigSteve asked:

    Mod, how does this fit in with your opinions about ambition in rock? I may have misread you or, or I could just be mixing you up with someone else, but I thought it was your view that it was better to go for it and fail. I thought you were bothered by artists who set their sights low.

    I could see how that would trouble you, but what is ZZ Top trying to achieve? I sense it’s something I don’t like, so what you’ve been getting at is, Do you feel it’s better that ZZ Top’s goals are not met and that, instead, the end result is something insignificant, like the music of Thorogood?

    Perhaps.

    This is a terrible analogy, but my preference for aiming for the stars would have its limitations if, for instance, the “stars” for someone like Hitler, were unacceptable/evil. Obviously, whatever ZZ Top is going for is not anywhere near that bad, but I do think it strays from what I consider worthy shooting for.

    Now, to get back to a positive for Thorogood, what I’ve been saying he was shooting for was a return to stripped-down roots rock ‘n roll. He was doing this – and doing it fairly successfully on a few levels – a few years before anyone else in the mainstream was doing this – in the US, that is. Compare him to Dave Edmunds, an equally one-dimensional singer with limited origial skills (although better chops) – and Thorogood has some context, that should improve his standing, if you guys have any sense of fairness.

  49. Mwall, no, I don’t find AC/DC that gross. It’s the fact that two grown men made a pact to dress and groom themselves in that manner that creeps me out.

    Mr. Mod, I appreciate it that there’s something about ZZ Top that grosses you out, in a deeply visceral way. They seem to make your skin crawl. I don’t understand it, myself, but I can tell that it’s a heartfelt reaction.

    I’m wondering, though, whether for all you’ve been calling anti-Destroyers snobs, there isn’t an east coast, anti-Texas snobbery about your reaction to the Look of the Top. The guy in AC/DC running around in little boy shorts doesn’t seem to bother you equally.

    Could give us an example of what, to you, would be a good Texas rock look, or even a good country look? I’m wondering if you need to distinguish between disliking Americana and disliking middle and southern America. People do wear jeans and cowboy hats, you know. And some of them even have beards. I have another friend (east coast, very urban) who rants against ZZ Top at the very sight of them. I’m wondering whether you’re in this camp.

    I’ve not been taking on your ideas regarding Thorogood because I don’t mind him. Don’t love him, but don’t hugely mind him.

  50. BigSteve

    Mr Mod, you’re not seriously suggesting that Thorogood invented bar-band roots music are you? Trust me, in the mid-70s every city must have had bands like the Destroyers. They just didn’t have recording contracts, and there was no reason to tour because they were so common.

    Rounder was probably as surprised as anyone that they had a hit on their hands. All of those other bands thinking ‘hey we can do that’ led later to lots of useless records bought by people who wondered why the albums weren’t as fun as that memorable night in that bar in a questionable part of town.

  51. Mr. Moderator

    HVB wrote:

    When they reconvened to begin work on what was to become their excellent album “Deguello,” Billy and The Dust were surprised by the fact that they *both* decided not to shave during the intervening years.

    Yeah, and they both just happened to decide to wear the same ponchos and sunglasses too. Let’s keep it real, my friend.

    BigSteve, NO, I don’t think Thorogood invented bar band rock, but he was the first to break through on a mainstream level with something so simple. One reason I think he succeeded where surely others failed is that he had the good taste to stay within tight boundaries. His mediocre take on roots rock is tight, much tighter than what you could have expected from any ’70s bar band with aspirations inspired by, I don’t know, ZZ Top. If people can’t see that Thorogood, whether by design or luck, took a perfect approach to this type of music, then I can’t help them. I’ve been trying to give you guideposts of much better artists, like Fogerty and Edmunds, who I think Thorogood emulated, in many ways. AFTER Thorogood you get your Blasters, your Los Lobos, your Fabulous Thunderbirds, your Drive By Truckers, your Go to Blazes (a Philly band from the early ’90s)… I’m not saying he’s the Godfather of Roots Rock, but he was ahead of the curve. Jeez, if you’re gonna beat up on him so much (not you, BigSteve, but some of the Urban Cowboys who’ve been chiming in), then take points off all that alt-country stuff you’ve been swallowing for years.

  52. Can we spend next week on a showdown between Bubble Up and Shasta Lemon-Lime? How about between Hydrox and those giant round blue tins of butter cookies?

  53. Okay, a few things to point out:

    1. If he is a groundbreaker, then you could say the same thing about Pat Boone, who took black musical styles, whitened them up and sold them to the mainstream.

    2. Alt-country is mostly about songwriting. There’s no way that Thorogood, a limited songwriter at best, had any influence on a guys like Ryan Adams, Jay Farrar, or Jeff Tweedy.

    3. Saying that Thorgood’s band is tight would be more applicable to them live, rather than on record.

  54. BigSteve

    Are we never going to get to the skeletons?

  55. alexmagic

    I already have the Hall rented out next week for the big Leo Sayer vs. Gilbert O’Sullivan Coal Miner’s Glove Match.

  56. Are we never going to get to the skeletons?

    Oddly, this Robert Plant quote has proved less popular than “Does anybody remember laughter?”

  57. Oddly, this Robert Plant quote has proved less popular than “Does anybody remember laughter?”

    I could’ve sworn it’s from a Robyn Hitchcock lyric.

  58. Mr. Moderator

    Good ones, Great One and Alexmagic!

    Dr. John wrote:

    1. If he is a groundbreaker, then you could say the same thing about Pat Boone, who took black musical styles, whitened them up and sold them to the mainstream.

    My man, are you still wearing a Che Guevera t-shirt? Let’s keep it real. Thorogood did nothing that hadn’t been done in rock ‘n roll for years. What he did different was remove some of the fat that had crept in. Did he add anything worthwhile? Probably not, but don’t liken him to Pat Boone!

  59. Aside from the fact that I’m wearing a light blue dress shirt, I’m just giving you a taste of your own logic. What you call the “fat” that he removed was everything that makes blues music an artistic genre deeply rooted in the daily lives of white and black people.

    So the question is, what has George Thoroggod given back or contributed to the blues? If the answer is nothing, he’s no better than Pat Boone.

  60. Um…actually, now that he says that, I think dr. john’s got your number here, Mr. Mod. That’s a pretty good point.

  61. Mr. Moderator

    Dr. John asks:

    So the question is, what has George Thoroggod given back or contributed to the blues?

    When have I ever been interested in focusing on his contributions as a “blues” artist? From the start I said he was serving the needs, circa 1977, of rock ‘n roll. It’s all you white folks who want to crow about rock ‘n roll screwing the black man all these years who want to drag his “blues cred” into the discussion. For instance, I wrote:

    What I mean is, musicians owed it to the revitalization of real rock ‘n roll to repent for their double-bass drum fills, their tweedly-tweedly soloing, their wall of keyboards.

    I couldn’t care less if the blues would just petrify once and for all, so that no future generations could further muddle it. I care about rock ‘n roll, and I’m willing to discuss Thorogood in those terms. Clear enough for you and The Great 48?

    If you want to rephrase your question, Good Dr., “What has GT given back or contributed to rock ‘n roll?” then the answers are within this post: showed a way in which roots rock could find appreciation in a disco/corporate rock environment, turned people onto the fact that previous artists did better versions of all his songs (I don’t think there’s any evidence that Thorogood was anything but a fanboy of the stuff he covered – once he reached a certain level of success he was happy to let Bo Diddley mug with him), etc. If you guys just can’t deal with your own white man’s overbites and feathered hair, just say so.

  62. Mr. Mod, how do you reconcile your belief that Thorogood trimmed the fat off anything when you say yourself you couldn’t find a song under four minutes with three guitar solos in it?

    I’ve always found Thorogood’s rhythm section really, really weak. I have always hated his bass player’s work. I’m not asking him to play tenths, but hell, a half-step walkup to the IV every other minute or so wouldn’t kill anyone. And that’s to say nothing about his frog-fart tone. The hi-hat on “You Gotta Move” is a direct descendent of the double-kick-drum fill. In fact, I have always hated his drummer’s hi-hat playing, not least for the fact that I have never heard him get off that thing and open it up with some ride cymbal. And his Bo Diddley beat is weak – ham-handed lack of dynamics.

    If you want to set aside the blues discussion, OK. (It precludes me from making the point that the blues is about more than guitar solos, which in fact the president of Rounder Records told me.) But accomplished nothing near what you claim as a roots-rocker.

    In terms of airplay and popularity, ZZ Top, even before the red car, the spinny guitars and the golden keychain, far outstripped anything Thorogood accomplished. Maybe things were different in Philadelphia, but I had outgrown my air-guitar renditions of “Tush” before I had ever heard GT.

    How could I be any less clear and direct in this argument?

    A Freudian typo. I couldn’t agree more.

    If you can’t more clearly explain your thesis, which currently stands at something like “Thorogood is better at being mediocre in a bad way,” and back it up with as many examples from the actual music as you keep saying you are, sign me up for Team Top.

    they know how to use their ugly

    I said that? That’s pretty good.

  63. hrrundivbakshi

    Mod, at least when I come down hard on some bullshit critical darling band, I have easy to understand — and easy to see — reasons why I think they suck: bad Look; boring, pointless or downright stupid music; assholish attitude; all of the above. This anti-Top rationale of yours is extremely hard to fathom — you sound like Pete Townshend explaining the “Lighthouse” concept or something.

    Are you *sure* you like George Thorogood better than ZZ Top? I mean, do you have any good reasons why?

    Just curious,

    HVB

  64. Alright so you don’t care about the blues. Fine. But I’d like to hear how you would define roots rock in a way that doesn’t include the very cultural aspects that Thorogood discarded or, at the very least, bleached.

  65. “Lighthouse” concept–Funny stuff, HVB! I’m actually enjoying watching all the logical contortions Mr. Mod is going through to try and prove his point.

  66. Mr. Moderator

    Dr. John wrote:

    I’m actually enjoying watching all the logical contortions Mr. Mod is going through to try and prove his point.

    Keep me posted when you get my point.

  67. Actually, HBV, like I sometimes feel about you, Mr. Mod has expressed his values clearly in this instance. Which is why it’s easy to disagree with him. I haven’t seen any major logical contortions in his position. I just don’t share that position.

    How are we all feeling about the smell of this dead horse?

  68. Well, I guess Mr. Mod’s point is this: Suckiness can sometimes be a good thing.

    Which I don’t buy for a minute.

  69. His point is that he prefers the understated, mediocre, back to the basics borderline competent boogie of Thorogood to the massively gross bad taste of ZZ Top. I myself don’t mind that massive grossness because those skanky mofos can really play sometimes.

  70. Mr. Moderator

    Your summary means a lot, Mwall. Thanks. You’re all right in my book; I don’t care what Hrrundi says.

  71. BigSteve

    I still don’t really know why you hate ZZ Top.

  72. Mr. Moderator

    Have I ever said I “hate” them? I don’t hate them; they just annoy me on multiple levels. I find them annoying and contrary to what I want out of life. That’s a little different from “hate,” isn’t it?

    I pulled out my copy of Tres Hombres tonight, but I have not had the heart to listen to it quite yet. I’ll try in the coming days and see if I can better articulate it.

  73. […] Rock Town Hall from our private Yahoo Groups list to this blog format, how I can possibly prefer George Thorogood to ZZ Top, or some other burning question that refuses to cool off no matter how much wisdom and […]

 
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