“The Thunder Rolls”
Written by Pat Alger and Garth Brooks
#1 (2 weeks)
June 22 – June 29, 1991
Radio & Records
#1 (3 weeks)
June 7 – June 21, 1991
Garth Brooks scores again with the cleanup single from the top-selling male country album of all time.
The Road to No. 1
“The Thunder Rolls” was preceded by six consecutive No. 1 singles, three of which were culled from No Fences. For the fourth and final single (for now), Capitol chose a song that Tanya Tucker had recorded but not released. The heat surrounding Garth’s career led to a No. 20 opening on the Billboard singles chart.
The No. 1
We’re entering a period where nineties stars were scoring hits with songs they wrote and were first recorded by established artists. In most of these situations, the song turned out better and became a big hit when reclaimed by the songwriting artist.
“The Thunder Rolls” is a perfect fit for where Garth Brooks was as a recording artist. If he’d recorded it for his debut album, it would’ve been too timid. If he’d saved it for his third, it would’ve been too theatrical.
Here, it’s perfect. He was smart to exclude the fourth verse, which would later become a highlight of his live show, instead opting for ominous rolls of thunder that leave the eventual outcome after “the lightning flashes in her eyes, and he knows that she knows” up to the imagination of the listener.
No Fences works so well because its songs scale up perfectly to an arena setting, but are recorded with the intimacy of home listening in mind. It’s a compelling, challenging, and fully engaging record that stands proudly among the most classic Garth Brooks singles.
The Road From No. 1
The video for “The Thunder Rolls” further heightened Garth’s national profile, as the domestic violence featured in the clip got it banned from CMT and TNN, making huge headlines and garnering further exposure for the record and its parent album. It set the stage for a massive opening sales week for his next set. We’ll cover the lead single from that album very soon.
“The Thunder Rolls” gets an A.