It was one of the saddest things we heard all year and the moment Thunder announced they were calling time on their 20-year career brought a tear to blues rock fans the length and breadth of Britain.
But, like the band, we’re getting used to the idea and starting to count down to a potentially smoking Newcastle City Hall gig featuring our very own Quireboys. In the first of an illuminating two-parter Danny Bowes gives rushonrock the lowdown on a decision which rocked rock. It’s pretty emotional stuff but we’re confidently predicting Better Days once the final fling is up and running this summer… rushonrock: How come you’re calling it a day?
Danny Bowes: It’s just a combination of the fact that we’ve all got other interests now and the whole Thunder thing has got bigger and bigger. It’s almost like we’ve become victims of our own success. When we went away and then got back together we didn’t envisage staying together as long as we have done. We never imagined our re4cord company would release as many records as it has done. We’ve put out four studio albums and five DVDs and it’s been very, very hard work. It all seemed like a good idea at the time but it’s proved hard to stay on top of things in the end.
rushonrock: But setting up you own label was always a dream.
DB: It was but running the label has become too big a job. Certainly too big a job for one person. Having said that, to farm it out to other people is no fun. And I’ve had offers from people to come in and run the whole thing for us. But part of the reason that we’ve been so successful since getting back together is that we’ve been allowed to do our own thing. And recently we’ve literally been working as hard as possible just to stand still and stay afloat – let alone make any progress!
rushonrock: Are you saying Thunder was becoming a grind?
DB: Not the band as such. Just all the stuff around it was becoming tough to handle. My dad always told me to work to live and never live to work. And with the internet and email I can literally work anywhere – in fact people expect me too. There’s no escape and you become like that hamster on the wheel. I just had to make a decision that would make things works for me and so I said to the rest of the guys ‘this is the situation’. I explained I had other things that I had to do and I told them Thunder was becoming too much of a job to me.
rushonrock: That must have raised a few eyebrows?
DB: We had a big, frank discussion. The other guys have got other things going on too and on a simple level it’s even become hard to get us all in a room together at the same time! But look, we’ve been doing this for 20 years and we’ve had a really good career and a really good time. I just didn’t want Thunder to ever become a chore and that was the danger if we’d kept going much longer. I wanted to go out having a really good time and that’s why we’re doing this farewell tour visiting all of our favourite places.
rushonrock: So in the cold light of day how do your feel having made such a final decision?
DB: It’s been a mixed bag in terms of the emotions I’ve felt. In one respect I do feel relieved that it’s coming to an end. But other days I wake up thinking have I made a really bad mistake. It’s a weird one. I’m sure there will be a few tears during the tour but I’m sure most people will get why we’re doing what we’re doing.
rushonrock: So do you have a future as a rock singer?
DB: It’s not my intention to do that. Would I join another band? I just don’t think I could possibly follow Thunder – it would be a pretty tall order. And part of the reason I’m giving up the band is because I have other things that I wanted to do outside of singing. I honestly intend to retire gracefully and do something that’s not in the limelight.
rushonrock: Can you give us any clues?
DB: It’s definitely in the music business but behind the scenes. For the last eight or nine months I’ve taken up a role as a booking agent working with a very big agent and it’s something that I find very stimulating. That’s what I’ll be concentrating on more after the summer.
rushonrock: Before that there’s the small matter of this summer’s farewell tour and Newcastle is fortunate to be hosting you again. Why choose the City Hall?
DB: Part of the reason we booked this tour was to go back to all of the strongest rock towns and cities in the UK and the places that have always been good to us. If we are going to go out on a high then we don’t want to take any chances. Newcastle is simply one of the best places we’ve ever played and the crowd is very, very loud.
* Look out for Part Two of the Bowes tape as Danny boy reflects on Thunder’s highs, his fears as a frontman and the vexing question of what to play where this summer.