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
B-side "Wolves" (The Netherlands)
"Victim of The Game" (US 7")
Released April 30, 1991
Format CD single, 7" 45 RPM
Recorded 1989–1990
Genre Country
Length 3:42
Label Capitol Nashville 44727
Songwriter(s) Pat Alger
Garth Brooks
Producer(s) Allen Reynolds
Garth Brooks singles chronology
"Two of a Kind, Workin' on a Full House"
"The Thunder Rolls"
"Two of a Kind, Workin' on a Full House"
"The Thunder Rolls"
Audio sample

"The Thunder Rolls" is a song co-written and recorded by American country music legend Garth Brooks. It was released in April 1991 as the fourth and final single from his album No Fences. "The Thunder Rolls" became his sixth number one on the country chart.[1]

It was originally recorded by Tanya Tucker, but was never released until it appeared on her self-titled 1995 box set. Her version included a third verse which Brooks himself intended to use on his version but did not at the suggestion of producer Allen Reynolds. A modernized version was recorded[when?] by Jet Black Stare, but without the third verse. Metalcore band All That Remains released a cover of the song on April 28, 2017 on their 8th studio album, Madness.

This song also appears on Brooks' albums The Hits, The Limited Series, Double Live and The Ultimate Hits.


The first verse talks about a man driving home in torrential rain from "somewhere that he never should have been". His wife is waiting at home for his return "praying it's the weather that's kept him out all night".

When the man does return (in the second verse), the woman rushes out to meet him only to smell a perfume on him, implying that he was with another woman. At this point in time, the lyrics "the thunder rolls" no longer refers to literal lightning and thunder surrounding the pair, but the anger in her heart, which is mentioned in the third verse.

Third verse[edit]

The original recorded version does not include the song's original third verse, most likely due to its graphic nature (the verse hints that the woman plans to kill him or herself due to his infidelity). However, Brooks performs the third verse when he sings the song in concert, so a version containing the third verse can be found on Brooks' album Double Live.

The verse goes as follows:

She runs back down the hallway and through the bedroom door
She reaches for the pistol kept in the dresser drawer
Tells the lady in the mirror he won't do this again
'Cause tonight will be the last time, she'll wonder where he's been

Writing and production[edit]

"The Thunder Rolls" was written by Garth Brooks and Pat Alger. The original idea was Brooks', as he wanted to explore the concept of "thunder rolling inside of a marriage and outside at the same time".[2] Almost immediately after hearing this hook, Alger grabbed a guitar and started playing what Brooks described as a "D-minor rolling thing."[2]

The song was originally pitched to Tanya Tucker. Although she liked it, her producer suggested a third verse, which they added. On learning that the song had been given away, Allen Reynolds (Brooks' producer) was disappointed considering that the song had to be one of the most powerful ones [Garth] Brooks had ever written. When Tucker dropped the song from her album, Brooks began recording it for his second album 'No Fences'. Reynolds suggested that they leave off the third verse, recording only the two original ones.[3]

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.[2] Both session musicians recorded the song live, with no overdubs and no second take.[3] When they were finished, Brooks suggested that they would add the sound of thunder. Reynolds had that sound on hand from a previous recording session and Brooks decided when to bring in the thunder sounds.[3]

Garth provided the following background information on 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." [4]

Music video[edit]

Although the recording featured only the first two verses, in concert Brooks often performed the third verse, to audience delight.[5] When he began thinking about a video, Brooks chose to allude to the third verse by including the theme of domestic violence.[6] This would tie together the two versions of the song. Brooks chose to play the central part of the philandering husband, so that he could "make sure [the character] was so despicable that the whole viewing audience wanted to shoot him."[5]

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.[7] The video was released to CMT and The Nashville Network (TNN), where CMT immediately named it a "Pick Hit."[7] On May 1, the day after the video's release, TNN banned the video. CMT pulled it soon after, with a CMT representative commentating that the network was "in business to entertain, not to promote or condone gratuitous violence or social issues."[8] TNN offered to resume airplay if Brooks would film a disclaimer for the end.[9] 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.[10] Brooks told TNN they could add a disclaimer if they chose, but he was not going to compromise his vision.[10]

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 fund-raisers 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.[10] On May 7, VH-1, which generally aired pop videos, announced that they would begin playing "The Thunder Rolls."[11]

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 Oct. 2, the video was awarded the CMA Video of the Year award.[12]

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.[13]

Chart (1991) Peak
Canada Country Tracks (RPM)[14] 1
US Hot Country Songs (Billboard)[15] 1

Year-end charts[edit]

Chart (1991) Position
Canada Country Tracks (RPM)[16] 1
US Country Songs (Billboard)[17] 4

All That Remains cover version[edit]

"The Thunder Rolls"
Single by All That Remains
from the album Madness
Released August 22, 2017
Genre Alternative metal
Length 4:22
Label Razor & Tie (North America)
Eleven Seven Music (Europe)
Songwriter(s) Pat Alger
Garth Brooks
Producer(s) Howard Benson
All That Remains singles chronology
"The Thunder Rolls"
"The Thunder Rolls"

Heavy metal band All That Remains released a cover of The Thunder Rolls on August 22, 2017 off of Razor & Tie. According to lead vocalist, Phil Labonte, the band is trying to push the boundaries of what All That Remains can do, with Labonte stating: "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?".[18] Taste of Country has praised the cover commenting that All That Remains honors the song's dark nature with intense electric guitars and drums, coupled with lead singer Phil Labonte's haunting vocals. The cover is also notable for containing a signature heavy metal scream on the song's title.[19] All That Remains' cover features Labonte's vocals being layered to create an ethereal effect along with female backing vocals.[20] 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.[21] The band notably performed an acoustic version of the cover at the studios of Lazer 103.3, a radio station in Des Moines, Iowa.[22]

Chart positions[edit]

Chart (2017) Peak
US Billboard Rock Songs[23] 26
US Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks[24] 23


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

June 22-June 29, 1991
Succeeded by
"Don't Rock the Jukebox"
by Alan Jackson
Preceded by
"Meet in the Middle"
by Diamond Rio
RPM Country Tracks
number-one single

June 29-July 13, 1991
Succeeded by
"Point of Light"
by Randy Travis
Preceded by
"Hard Rock Bottom of Your Heart"
by Randy Travis
RPM Country Tracks
number-one single of the year

Succeeded by
"Achy Breaky Heart"
by Billy Ray Cyrus