87: The Thunder Rolls

87: The Thunder Rolls

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Country Music

The Thunder Rolls

Story by Pat Alger

Song written by Pat Alger and Garth Brooks

Recorded by Garth Brooks

Garth and I made up this story. It’s just an old fashioned country cheating song where he gets his comeuppance. The title actually comes from a line I wrote in another song for Kathy Mattea, “Like a Hurricane.” Garth said, “We should write a song about a guy who is cheating on his wife and every time he does it, the thunder rolls.” And we sat down and wrote it in about an hour and a half. We wrote it at Allen Reynolds’ office. There was a lot of room to pace there, and Garth likes to pace a lot when he writes. I think we even demoed it the same day.

We initially pitched this song to Tanya Tucker and we heard she was going to do it on her Greatest Hits album. So we thought, “This is great. This will sell at least a million copies.” Tanya’s producer, Jerry Crutchfield, thought it should be a little more dramatic, so he asked us to write another verse at the end. We actually wrote three or four different versions and turned one in. She has a gun at the end and the lyric reads, “Tonight will be the last time / she’ll wonder where he’s been,” but we don’t really say what happens. We imply that she shoots him, but I always like to leave a little to the imagination.

Garth didn’t have a record deal at the time, so we were really excited about Tanya doing it. After the fact, Allen felt the original version of the song was fine, but Tanya wanted the extra verse, so we wrote it for her. For whatever reason, though, she ended up shelving it for a future album. By the time she got around to putting that next album out, Garth had been signed by the same label, Capitol, and he asked for the song back. Tanya did eventually put her version out. It’s on her boxed set, but I don’t think it was ever pushed as a single.

The way we wrote it originally is the way it appears on Garth’s record. After Garth cut it, they put an incredible amount of time and money into the video. It was one of the most expensive videos done at the time. There was a big controversy over what happens at the end, with the domestic violence. So they cut the last verse, but Garth always sang it in all of his live shows and still does.

It went on to be a much more popular video than it would have been if they had just left it alone. It became a big news item and actually raised quite a bit of awareness about domestic violence.

It’s a pretty dramatic song. Now, when I play it live, I sing that extra verse, too. I don’t even go back to the final chorus; I just end it there, and it usually gets pretty quiet in the room.

The Thunder Rolls

Three thirty in the morning

Not a soul in sight

The city’s lookin’ like a ghost town

On a moonless summer night

Raindrops on the windshield

There’s a storm moving in

He’s headin’ back from somewhere

That he never should have been

And the thunder rolls

And the thunder rolls

Every light is burnin’

In a house across town

She’s pacin’ by the telephone

In her faded flannel gown

Askin’ for miracle

Hopin’ she’s not right

Prayin’ it’s the weather

That’s kept him out all night

And the thunder rolls

And the thunder rolls


The thunder rolls

And the lightnin’ strikes

Another love grows cold

On a sleepless night

As the storm blows on

Out of control

Deep in her heart

The thunder rolls

She’s waitin’ by the window

When he pulls into the drive

She rushes out to hold him

Thankful he’s alive

But on the wind and rain

A strange new perfume blows

And the lightnin’ flashes in her eyes

And he knows that she knows

And the thunder rolls

And the thunder rolls


She runs back down the hallway

To the bedroom door

She reaches for the pistol

Kept in the dresser drawer

She 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

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