The Thunder Rolls

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"The Thunder Rolls"
Garth Brooks - The Thunder Rolls.jpg
Single by Garth Brooks
from the album No Fences
  • "Wolves" (The Netherlands)
  • "Victim of the Game" (US 7")
ReleasedApril 30, 1991
GenreCountry, country rock[1]
LabelCapitol Nashville 44727
Producer(s)Allen Reynolds
Garth Brooks singles chronology
"Two of a Kind, Workin' on a Full House"
"The Thunder Rolls"

"The Thunder Rolls" is a song co-written and recorded by American country music artist Garth Brooks. It was released in April 1991 as the fourth and final single from his album No Fences. The song became his sixth number one on the country chart.[2] Co-writer Pat Alger plays acoustic guitar on the track.

The song was first recorded by Tanya Tucker, but it was shelved until 1995 when it appeared on her self-titled box set. Her version includes a fourth verse alluding to infidelity and husband murder.[3] The shorter version of the song was covered by heavy metal band All That Remains on their 2017 album Madness.

Writing and production[edit]

"The Thunder Rolls" was written by Garth Brooks and Pat Alger. The original idea was Brooks's, as he wanted to explore the concept of "thunder rolling inside of a marriage and outside at the same time".[4] Almost immediately after hearing this hook, Alger grabbed a guitar and started playing what Brooks described as a "D-minor rolling thing."[4]

The song was pitched to Tanya Tucker. Although she liked it, her producer suggested another verse, which was added by Brooks and Alger. The additional lyrics describe the wife reaching for her pistol to confront the cheating husband, with the narrator saying "tonight will be the last time she'll wonder where he's been."[1] Tucker recorded this version in the late 1980s. Upon learning that the song had been given away, Brooks's producer Allen Reynolds was disappointed; he believed the song was one of the most powerful Brooks had written. Tucker ended up dropping the song from her album project, so Brooks decided to record it for his second album "No Fences". Reynolds suggested that they leave off the fourth verse.[5]

During the recording session, Brooks invited Alger to play on it. He was impressed with Alger's work during their writing session and thought his passion would translate well in the recording.[4] Both musicians recorded the song live, with no overdubs and no second take.[5] When they were finished, Brooks suggested that they should add the sound of thunder. Reynolds had that sound on hand from a previous recording session, so Brooks determined when the sound would be heard.[5]

Garth wrote about the song in the CD booklet liner notes from The Hits: "There is no doubt that the toughest song in the GB catalog has to be 'The Thunder Rolls'. This song came out fighting the day it was released. Originally cut by Tanya Tucker in 1988, it was never put on an album. It came back to us in time for No Fences. My hat's off to Pat Alger, a great writer and friend, and to music itself, because only music could withstand what this song has gone through."[6]

Music video[edit]

Although the recording featured only the first three verses, Brooks often performed the fourth verse in concert, to audience delight.[7] When he began thinking about a music video for the song, Brooks chose to allude to the fourth verse by including the visual theme of domestic violence.[3] This would tie together the two versions of the song. Brooks chose to play the central part of the philandering husband himself, so that he could "make sure [the character] was so despicable that the whole viewing audience wanted to shoot him."[7]

Before the video's release, Cathy Gurley, the head of public relations at Capitol Nashville, arranged a screening for industry women. They unanimously endorsed the video, describing it as a powerful statement against domestic violence.[8] The video was released to CMT and The Nashville Network (TNN), where CMT immediately named it a "Pick Hit."[8] On May 1, the day after the video's release, TNN banned the video. CMT pulled it soon after, with a CMT representative commenting that the network was "in business to entertain, not to promote or condone gratuitous violence or social issues."[9] TNN offered to resume airplay if Brooks would film a disclaimer for the end.[10] Although Brooks and Gurley read the TNN script, he refused to film the additional scene, saying it felt as if he would be using the controversy to promote the video.[11] Brooks told TNN they could add a disclaimer if they chose, but he was not going to compromise his vision.[11]

Because the video had been pulled so quickly, few people had seen it. Radio stations, country bars, television stations and newspapers began requesting copies of the video so that they – and their audiences – could form their own opinions. Several radio stations in the United States screened the video at quickly organized fundraisers for local battered women's shelters. Capitol Records was contacted numerous times by women's shelters, thanking the company for raising awareness of domestic violence.[11] Six days after TNN banned the video, pop channel VH-1 announced that they would begin playing "The Thunder Rolls."[12]

The following month, Capitol Nashville president Jimmy Bowen sent copies of the video to members of the Country Music Association, so that they could consider it for the upcoming annual awards show. On October 2, the video was awarded the CMA Video of the Year award.[13]

At the 1991 Grammy Awards, the music video, directed by Bud Schaetzle and produced by Martin J. Fischer, was nominated for "Best Music Video – Short Form".

Track listing[edit]

US 7" single Capitol Nashville NR-44727, 1991

  1. "The Thunder Rolls" (edited) – 3:30
  2. "Victim of the Game"

Jukebox 7" single Liberty S7-57744-A, 1992

  1. "The Thunder Rolls" – 3:42
  2. "Shameless"

Dutch promo CD single Liberty/EMI promo CX 519443, 1991

  1. "The Thunder Rolls" – 3:43

Chart positions[edit]

"The Thunder Rolls" debuted at number 19 on the U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks for the week of May 18, 1991.[14]

Chart (1991) Peak
Canada Country Tracks (RPM)[15] 1
US Hot Country Songs (Billboard)[16] 1

Year-end charts[edit]

Chart (1991) Position
Canada Country Tracks (RPM)[17] 1
US Country Songs (Billboard)[18] 4

All That Remains cover version[edit]

"The Thunder Rolls"
Single by All That Remains
from the album Madness
ReleasedAugust 22, 2017
GenreAlternative metal
  • Pat Alger
  • Garth Brooks
Producer(s)Howard Benson
All That Remains singles chronology
"The Thunder Rolls"

Heavy metal band All That Remains released a cover of The Thunder Rolls on August 22, 2017, from their album Madness. According to lead vocalist Phil Labonte, the band was pushing their boundaries: "Our core audience likes a lot of diverse styles of music and gets it, and I think there's enough stuff on it for people that haven't heard All That Remains before to be kind of lured in. That's always our point: how can we reach out to new people?"[19]

Taste of Country praised the cover commenting that All That Remains honors the song's dark nature with intense electric guitars and drums, coupled with Labonte's haunting vocals. The cover is also notable for containing a signature heavy metal scream on the song's title.[20] All That Remains' cover features Labonte's vocals being layered to create an ethereal effect along with female backing vocals by Diamante Azzura.[21][22] The music video for the cover put All That Remains at No. 1 among trending Vevo metal artists at the time, in addition to ranking high on Soundscan.[23] The band notably performed an acoustic version of the cover at the studios of KAZR, an alternative rock radio station in Des Moines, Iowa.[24]

Chart positions[edit]

Chart (2017) Peak
US Billboard Hot Rock Songs[25] 26
US Billboard Mainstream Rock[26] 23


  1. ^ a b Whitaker, Sterling (January 5, 2019). "REMEMBER WHO FIRST RECORDED GARTH BROOKS' 'THE THUNDER ROLLS?'". Retrieved July 21, 2019.
  2. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book Of Top 40 Country Hits: 1944-2006, Second edition. Record Research. p. 54.
  3. ^ a b Cox (2009), p. 90.
  4. ^ a b c Cox (2009), p. 86.
  5. ^ a b c Cox (2009), p. 87.
  6. ^ Garth Brooks - The Hits: transcription from the CD booklet (bar code 7-2438-29689-2-4)
  7. ^ a b Cox (2009), p. 91.
  8. ^ a b Cox (2009), p. 92.
  9. ^ quoted in Cox (2009), p. 93.
  10. ^ Cox (2009), p. 93.
  11. ^ a b c Cox (2009), p. 94.
  12. ^ Cox (2009), p. 96.
  13. ^ Cox (2009), p. 97.
  14. ^ Highest debuting country singles
  15. ^ "Top RPM Country Tracks: Issue 1556." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. June 29, 1991. Retrieved August 16, 2013.
  16. ^ "Garth Brooks Chart History (Hot Country Songs)". Billboard.
  17. ^ "RPM Top 100 Country Tracks of 1991". RPM. December 21, 1991. Retrieved August 16, 2013.
  18. ^ "Best of 1991: Country Songs". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. 1991. Retrieved August 16, 2013.
  19. ^ "ALL THAT REMAINS Releases Video For Cover Version Of GARTH BROOKS's 'The Thunder Rolls'". Blabbermouth. Retrieved 2017-11-24.
  20. ^ Houghton, Cillea. "THIS GARTH BROOKS COVER IS SO METAL". Taste of Country. Retrieved 2017-11-24.
  22. ^ "Diamante Azzura – Credits – AllMusic". AllMusic.
  23. ^ Holman, Gregory. "All That Remains, fronted by self-described 'big mouth' singer, to play Springfield next month". Springfield News-Leader. Retrieved 2017-11-24.
  24. ^ "Video: ALL THAT REMAINS Performs Acoustic Cover Version Of GARTH BROOKS's 'The Thunder Rolls'". Blabbermouth. Retrieved 2017-11-24.
  25. ^ "All That Remains - Chart history". Billboard. Retrieved 2017-11-24.
  26. ^ "All That Remains - Chart History". Billboard. Retrieved 2017-11-24.


  • Cox, Patsi Bale (2009), The Garth Factor: The Career Behind Country's Big Boom, Center Street, ISBN 978-1-59995-099-0