You've got to like the idea of George Thorogood. Here's a guy who really can't play or sing very well, a guy who gets uglier every year and has a band whose members all look like someone's seedy uncle. But in true grand rock 'n' roll tradition, George Thorogood and the Destroyers have continued for two decades to make some of the best records and to put on some of the most exciting live shows of anyone on the circuit.
Since they started, singer-guitarist Thorogood, drummer Jeff Simon, bassman Bill Blough and saxophonist/keyboard player Hank Carter--who play tonight and Thursday at the Galaxy Concert Theatre in Santa Ana--have been mixing the greasiest barroom blues with good old-fashioned rock 'n' roll, without any change in the formula. Thorogood has never attempted to conform to trends of the day, apparently cognizant that his strength is in his resolve.
"Against the grain? Our band has always had the right grain, the grain of doing it how it's supposed to be done, of doing it for the right reasons.
"I don't like commercial music and I don't like mainstream stuff," he continued during a recent interview. "We play rough. That's what we do. You don't tell John Wayne to do Shakespeare, and you don't ask Woody Allen to play James Bond."
Their latest album, "George Thorogood & the Destroyers Live: Let's Work Together," is the most purely explosive of their career, a combustible concoction of raw energy and spirit that could get a corpse up and dancing. This is out-of-control rock 'n' roll, from the impossibly sped-up tempos to the distorted bliss of the barbarian guitar tone to the stage patter, peppered with naughty words, that has the audience cheering like a bunch of junior high school kids.
"What you see now," Thorogood said, "is the final product of the focus I had" back in 1982 when he recorded "Bad to the Bone," still his best-known song. "It's gotten raunchier, tougher, tighter, meaner, and the songs have gotten funnier over the years. Listening to the first couple of albums is like watching the Three Stooges before they got Curly. Right now is vintage Destroyers."
Especially live. "I've always been a fan of live entertainment," he said. "I like live comedians, live bands. I used to see everybody play when I was young. I saw the greatest bands in the history of rock music. In those days, if you were great live [as opposed to being great on MTV], that's what sold your records. That's the school I come from. In the old days, if Mantle hit one out of Yankee Stadium, people would talk about it for days--'Man, did you see that one?' That got over. The next day, the stadium would be filled. That's what I stick to."
He doesn't regard "Bad to the Bone" as a cross to bear, or a past glory that haunts him. "Signature tunes is where it's at to me. I would die to be John Fogerty and be able to lead off with 'Green River' and do 'Proud Mary' for an encore.
"But people like him and Dylan and McCartney think that's going Vegas. I laugh at that. When people go to hear the Stones, they want to hear 'Honky Tonk Women,' 'Jumpin' Jack Flash,' 'Start Me Up,' and those guys do it every time they're on the road. That's what they do. Bob Dylan doesn't want to do anything from the past, and I'm thinking, 'Bad Bob--why do you think everybody's here?'
"Then when Dylan met Fogerty, you know what he made him do? He made him play 'Proud Mary!' "
* George Thorogood and the Destroyers play tonight and Thursday at the Galaxy Concert Theatre, 3503 S. Harbor Blvd., Santa Ana. Cisco Poison, featuring Joe Wood, opens both nights. 8 p.m. $32.50. (714) 957-0600.