Party rocker George Thorogood‘s first-ever solo album Party Of One — which includes a cover of the Rolling Stones’ “No Expectations,” premiering exclusively below — has been a long time coming. Thorogood tells Billboard that the idea of a solo album was on the docket when he first signed with Rounder Records back in the mid-70s. The formation of his band the Destroyers put that plan on hold, however — for 40 years after the release of the group’s first album.
“It was a foregone conclusion I would someday make a record solo acoustic; I just never seemed to get around to it and time went on and we kept it in mind,” Thorogood says. “I ran into the Rounder people a few years ago. They said, ‘Y’know, you still haven’t done that solo record yet,’ and I said, ‘Well, maybe now’s the time to do it,’ so there you have it.”
The idea behind Party Of One, which comes out Aug. 4 on Rounder, was “picking a song from every artist that really means something to me.” As such the 15-song set features songs by Robert Johnson, Elmore James, John Lee Hooker, Willie Dixon, Brownie McGhee, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams and more. And having a Rolling Stones song on the list was also a no-brainer for Thorogood.
“If it wasn’t for the Rolling Stones, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing, and there’s many artists who can say the same thing,” Thorogood notes. “Everybody who saw the Stones thought they were so groovy. Everybody wanted to do that. And also the first blues person I saw was Howlin’ Wolf on Shindig! when the Rolling Stones brought him on. And, as coincidence would have it, that was also the first time I saw anybody play slide guitar, in this case Brian Jones. So I knew there had to be a Rolling Stones song on this record.”
“No Expectations,” meanwhile, was chosen after a bit of consideration. “I said, ‘Well, what is there by them that you can play by yourself, since they did everything as a band?'” Thorogood recalls. “I started fooling around with ‘No Expectations’ and the producer (Jim Gaines) said, ‘That’s the one! You’ve got to play that one,’ which is also Brian Jones playing slide guitar. He was quite a unique talent and really instrumental in forming the Stones in the first place. When he played that slide guitar I was more fascinated with that than Brian’s hair, and everyone knows in the ’60s Brian Jones had the baddest hair in rock ‘n’ roll.”
Thorogood says there was definitely a challenge in recording Party Of One. “I’ve been playing ‘Bad To The Bone’ and ‘Get A Haircut’ for so long, that’s all I know how to play,” he explains. “I had to regroup my hands to do these (acoustic) things. There was a point where I said, ‘I don’t know if I can finish this.” He did, of course, but Thorogood has no plans to try it again. “You can get some psychiatric treatment for questions like that,” he quips. “There will be no Party Of Two.” Nor does he plan to play any solo shows to promote the album, with the Destroyers on the road with dates booked through Sept. 29. He’s also considering another album with the band, its first since 2011’s 2120 South Michigan Ave.
“That’s one thing that’s always going to be in the back of your mind, probably until they throw you in the ground,” Thorogood says about future recording prospects. “Whether you do it or not, that’s another thing. But I want to.”