David Coverdale had been catapulted into the big time by joining Deep Purple in 1973, replacing recently departed singer Ian Gillan. Alongside lead guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, keyboard player Jon Lord, drummer Ian Paice, and fellow new boy Glenn Hughes on bass and joint lead vocals, Deep Purple Mk3 played their first gig at the KB Hallen in Copenhagen on 9th December 1973, before performing to close to half a million people at the California Jam on 6th April 1974. They released the incendiary Burn LP in February 1974, and evidently fired up with a fresh lease of life, Burn was swiftly followed by Stormbringer in December the same year. Though now rightly regarded as a classic, the more soulful, funkier direction that Glenn Hughes and David Coverdale had brought to the table for Stormbringer didn’t sit well with Blackmore, who left to form Rainbow in 1975, where upon Tommy Bolin (then the only American to have joined the band) was enlisted to fill his shoes, resulting in the last LP from Purpleís initial 8 year phase; 1975’s Come Taste The Band. Bolin had originally been in US band Zephyr, before replacing Joe Walsh in the James Gang, but had come to Purple’s attention through his playing on Billy Cobham’s Spectrum LP. Sadly, this collaboration was not to last, and Deep Purple played their final gig at Liverpool’s Royal Court on 15th March 1976, with David Coverdale leaving the band as he left the stage.
He was later quoted as saying “I respect the legacy of Deep Purple too much to see it dragged down…”
David recorded two solo albums following Purple’s demise; the presciently titled White Snake in February 1977 and Northwinds in March the following year, both produced by Deep Purple’s former bassist, Roger Glover, and issued on Deep Purple’s own imprint, Purple Records.
Was working with Roger Glover (and later Martin Birch), whilst initially signing to Purple Records, a way of “keeping it in the family”?
David Coverdale: No…I’d met Roger & been suitably impressed with him as a person & as a producer…It was a pleasure for me to work with him…He’s a very talented human being, is Roger …made it much easier for me to work in so modest a fashion after the indulgences of Purple… As you can imagine, as confident as I am, it was pretty daunting to do after being a part of such an enterprise… He took a great deal of the burden off my shoulders… Bless his cotton socks… He was very supportive, encouraging & positive about my songs… Unfortunately, we lost touch over the years…but, I remain indebted to him for the period we worked together…He’s a solid bloke…I wish only well for him…
Having fronted a world class band like Deep Purple, you must have received offers to join other bands? I had heard rumours that you were approached to join both Uriah Heep and Black Sabbath?
DC: Yes…that’s correct…tho’ with great respect to the bands you mention the only musical project that interested me other than pursuing my own musical adventure, was a project that was supposed to involve Jeff Beck, Willie Weeks, Andy Newmark & the keyboard player from Cat Stevens…Jean Roussell, I think his name was …Now that would have interested me…but, it never manifested other than the initial call asking if I’d be up for it… I knew in my heart I wanted to form a band of like minded players who enjoyed hard rock, rhythm & blues with solid, melodic hooks…For example…I loved the first album by the Allman Brothers…& that was the initial blueprint for what I wanted in terms of a band structure…How they harnessed the blues…soul…& tied in the rock element…The original Fleetwood Mac…once they started experimenting with musical structures that expanded on their 12 bar blues origins…& of course, the melodies…the hooks from brilliant 60′s Motown…
Did you always intend to follow your own musical path, rather than just being the singer in someone else’s band, and were you not tempted by those other band’s offers?
DC: It was probably my destiny, yes…I’d learned so much in such a short time with Purple…they were incredible musicians…but, being a Yorkshireman, I’ve never been much of a follower… I like a lead role in whatever play I’m in…
Your first solo LP was called White Snake. Was this always a potential band or project name, and when did you originally devise this as a title?
DC: Actually, it was the title of a song I’d been working on while still in Purple… It would have probably been on the follow up to Come Taste The Band had we made one… Once I got the go ahead to make my own album, Micky Moody & I fleshed it out… with input from Roger Glover… who honoured us by playing bass on it, if I remember correctly…
The material on those first two solo LPs features soul, funk, blues and ballads, but relatively little of the more muscular hard rock that typified Deep Purple and later, Whitesnake. Was this a deliberate attempt to create some distance with the recent past, to seek a more fulfilling sound, experimentation or just a change in direction?
DC: I have such a broad, eclectic taste for so many kinds of musical styles, it was probably a little gluttonous of me trying to get everything in… Confusing to most ears, probably… but, not mine…Some Little Feat, too…Ha Ha!…I feel Northwinds had elements of what became the blueprint for Whitesnake… then again, we had ‘Blindman’ on the first album…Very, very Snake…
Was there always the intention of putting together a live band to work with, and had you done any live work during the two years between the demise of Purple in March 1976 and Whitesnake’s first shows in March 1978?
DC: The biggest obstacle for me to overcome at that time was convincing the temporary Purple management… Rob Cooksey & Bruce Payne, at that time… that the “new boy” could cut it on his own… After a very uncomfortable period of time, they very generously advanced me 10 grand to write, record, mix & deliver an album…so…that’s what I had to do…Glenn had exactly the same problems… Thanks for the bone, Guys…it got me started…I think the only ‘live’ stuff I did the two years you mention was the occasional jam with friends like Nazareth when they came through Munich, which is where I was living at the time…It wasn’t one of the better times in my life…that’s for sure…
Both of those solo LPs feature the guitar playing and co-writing of Micky Moody, who’d previously worked with Juicy Lucy, Snafu and Frankie Miller, and would be a key member until his departure from the band’s ranks in 1984.
Wasn’t the original “White Snake Band” put together in order to promote Northwinds at the beginning of 1978, and although you were initially billed as David Coverdale’s Whitesnake, was there never a temptation to go out solely as a solo artist?
DC: Yes…the band was originally put together to promote Northwinds…We were “David Coverdale’s White Snake”…bit of a mouthful…Micky was one of my musical heroes from the North… we’d reconnected somehow in London while I was still with Purple & it unfolded naturally that we’d like to try working together… We really had a genuinely solid relationship back then…I believed he could be a star slide player & I believed I assisted in that… Not one of my better calls, on reflection… but, still, we had a good innings together until the Slide It In era…
Bernie Marsden: I seem to remember David was adamant to leave his name out of the title, but both Micky and I persuaded him that having Deep Purple’s singer’s name mentioned on posters and the press somewhat outweighed Snafu or Wild Turkey!
SNAKEBITE EP (Released June 1978) & TROUBLE (Released October 1978)
The “White Snake Band” initially featured David and Micky Moody, guitarist Bernie Marsden, who had previously played with UFO, Wild Turkey, Paice Ashton & Lord and Babe Ruth, Neil Murray from National Health and jazz rockers Collosseum II on bass and David “Duck” Dowle on drums, augmented by keyboard player Brian Johnston who was soon to be replaced by Pete Solley. An eclectic mix, on paper at least?
DC: This was the best we could manage with who was available & up for it…Hell of a good start… Originally I’d talked to Mel Galley & Dave Holland… they were busy… Micky Feat & Graham…bugger…can’t think of his name… but, a great drummer…they had something going on… DeLisle Harper… Alan Spenner… I was somewhat limited by the financial restrictions placed on me by management… but, we managed to put a cracking band together, all the same…
BM: The drummer was Graham Broad. Bobby Tench came down as well I think; I missed one afternoon because I had a foot operation! Came back and the band was nearly formed! We also had a fantastic piano player, Montana Red, but where he came from we never did learn. He thought he had a good shot because he had his own van, then I asked Tony Ashton to come down to have a jam…David thought I was really clever, then Tony almost passed out at the thought of being in a band with two lead guitarists, and disappeared back to the pub. He told me years later how much he regretted it! Lovely man was our Tone.
DC: …Ahh…Graham Broad…That’s it…Great drummer…& Tony Ashton… God Bless his memory… Ohh…that could have been big trouble in the fun & naughtiness department… ‘Ere…talking about vans…remember we broke down after the very first gig on our way back to London? Or did you drive yourself to that one?
The first fruits of this new line-up was released in June 1978 as the Snakebite EP, accompanied by the band’s first appearance on Top Of The Pops (included here on DVD).
How did you originally hook up with Bernie, and why did you go with a twin-guitar set up with both Bernie and Micky?
DC: I became aware of Bernie & met him shortly after when he joined Paice Ashton Lord… We connected well, as musicians do when they meet a similar soul & I his shock & frustration at how PAL was unfolding… His version of James Taylor’s ‘Steamroller’ was the most cohesive song & the highlight of the show for me… I liked the bass player, too… Paul something…Martinez?… I thought he could be a Snake…But, initially I never really thought about Bernie joining Micky & I at the beginning… At that time I was looking for someone in a more supportive rhythm role… in essence a back up player for Micky… When I came to London to start putting a collective together I bumped into Bernie at a Frankie Miller show at the Rainbow, I think it was… Micky was working with Frankie at the time… & I also wanted to check out Frankie’s fantastic bass player, Chrissie Stewart… Bernie asked what I was up to & when I told him he said he’d like to come down & jam… I knew PAL was on hold, as they’d flown me over from Munich to listen to their unfinished 2nd studio album, to see if it was salvageable… which it wasn’t without starting over from scratch… Funny, I remember playing Paicey some of the Northwinds album & him not passing comment…I think he was getting ready to call his bookie for some horse race, or other…So…back to Brother Bernie…Bernie’s a smart one…he knew he wouldn’t be a second fiddle with his talent… he knew he’d make an impression when he came down…& he did…obviously… & then there were three… Paul Carrack came down for the keys position… but, I simply didn’t have the necessary economic structure he’d hoped for …in fact…the money was pretty bad… even for that time…but, it was all Purple management were prepared to advance me… There was no way I could afford the players who’d been featured on my solo albums… so, it was a case of no choice in that department… so I had to think again in terms of my initial ‘wish list’… It was the height of ‘punk’ at that time in London & we were treated to a parade of great looking, lanky geezers who’s totally looked like great, greasy players, but, who were only conversant…though very animatedly, with the E string…until frustration set in & Bernie said he knew a bloke who lived close by who could help us out… Ladies & Gentlemen…say hello to Mr Neil Murray… Funnily enough, all the time he was helping us out auditioning drummers, & playing faultlessly, it still never occurred to me he was the one… I remember walking through the rehearsal room one day singing one of my favourite Weather Report tunes, ‘A Remark You Made’…still a personal fave… & he started playing along…note & feel perfect… I think it was near the end of auditions that the light went on & I asked him if he’d like to join… & then there were four… unless we’d already found David Dowle by then… David came to us via Mickey Feat, a bass player I’d been keen on working with & his drummer Graham… They’d been hoping for a better financial reward & quiet understandably couldn’t commit at the money I was offering… But, we got the fabulous Duck!
BM: That is pretty much how it all went, except it was Neil who knew Dave Dowle; he had been with Brian Auger’s band, and Neil and I were still pretty close to Clive Chaman. He played bass with Jeff Beck and Cozy Powell’s band Hammer, who recommended Duck to Neil and the call was made, we had auditioned a guy who’s opening line was, “David, I have the biggest drum kit in the world”, he never made it, also a Cozy Powell lookalike who after a few drinks in The White Horse pub in Market Road informed David and the rest of us that, “I am better than Cozy Powell”. He wasn’t. We also tried Hugh McKenna from the Sensational Alex Harvey Band on keys, not a natural pairing shall I say. All great fun though and we ended up with Pete Solley for about fifteen minutes! He did a good job, but I think his angle was to produce the band. He played really well, but when the Lord showed up, the earth did indeed shudder; number 9 Denmark Street was in danger.
DC: …Didn’t the drummer from The Glitter Band come down? He was scared the word got out & he’d lose his gig with ol‘ Gary!
After some initial club dates in March 1978, the band swiftly moved up to larger venues. Drawing on songs from Deep Purple, David’s two solo LPs, plus new, as yet unrecorded material, the band needed some product in the shops. Why was the first release just the four track Snakebite EP, and not a full album?
DC: It was a test to see how we’d do, truth be told… Punk was the front page story on all the music mags, & I was told repeatedly there was no audience for an old dinosaur like me…& certainly not for the blues based music I wanted to make…so…it was a test… Once we passed that, we were given another modest advance to make what became the Trouble album…It was near the end of the recording that Jon Lord asked if he could come out & play. We’d already recorded Pete Solley…but the opportunity to have Lordy in the band was too handsome to pass on… I remember we were recording in a tiny studio on Denmark St…in the basement…stifling as buggery… & Jon’s organ sound shook the bloody building …Immense…I remember Moody almost pooping himself at how loud Jon played… & I was delighted… it was a game upper there & then… He made a HUGE difference to the sonic identity… His sound was key to the identity of Deep Purple… & here it was…It was like going gold overnight… I had bluebirds flying out of every orifice… the elements of Whitesnake were coming together…
BM: Absolutely correct, Jon was the glue we had been lacking; sound, presence and incredible musicianship. I was personally very happy to be working with the great man once again after the PAL debacle.
DC…I remember Julia, my first wife, saying she had asked Solley’s missus if she enjoyed the show… she said “No… I don’t like anything that out of date”… & Julia said, “You better do something about your hair then”…
So Solley was replaced on keyboards by Deep Purple alumni Jon Lord during the Summer 1978 sessions at Central Recorders in London for debut LP Trouble. Another familiar name on the album credits was Martin (the wasp) Birch, who’d overseen or engineered every Deep Purple release since the 1969 Royal Albert Hall recording for Jon Lord’s Concerto For Group And Orchestra opus. How did Martin Birch get involved with the band’s debut, and along with Jon Lord now in the ranks, was this a sort of comfort zone?
DC: Jon Lord coming on board had nothing whatsoever to do with ‘comfort zones’… He was a revered musician, & once he heard the songs, he knew we were onto something that could do something significant…
Making a modest No.50 in the UK charts, Trouble was released in October 1978, establishing Whitesnake as a formidable act, featuring many future live favourites, such as ‘Lie Down (A Modern Love Song)’, ‘Take Me With You’ and the bluesy title track.
DC: Hey, Bernie…do you think anyone picked up on outro of ‘Lie Down’ that we were spoofing Max Wall? I think we recorded & mixed that album in 10 days… Still a personal fave… A grand foundation for the building of a band…
BM: Not only Max Wall, if we ever find the masters there will be a number of names mentioned during the end of the song!
DC…Ah, yes… the ‘masters’… I have an awful feeling that the conditions they were stored in may have compromised the tape… For some reason we are not getting to the bottom of the story there… It is beyond important they be located & transferred to digital for safety, if nothing else… I’d love to explore remixing them… wouldn’t you, Bernie?
In those pre-MTV days of 1978, music videos were still a relatively new marketing tool, but every track of the Snakebite EP was given a promotional clip, and shown in its entirety on general release at cinemas as a supporting feature to long forgotten flick, The Beast.
DC: Actually, I believe it was a soft porn move called Bilitis…wasn’t it Bernie?… But, I believe it is also a long forgotten movie…I can’t remember it having any serious catapult to overnight success aspect… We worked our collective arses off to achieve that… Mind you, as previously stated… much fun was had accompanying that hard work…
BM: It was indeed Bilitis, what people used to call an arty film, with the excuse to have soft focus naked women on the big screen, and who of all people on earth do they choose to have the opening slot, but a very new and rampant Whitesnake four song movie! The crew were there, and I am glad to report most of us were asked to leave during the showing. We were a disgrace. Snakebite was a far superior film to the main title, in my personal opinion!
Do any of the other video clips from this era stand out in the memory?
DC: Nah…videos have always been a necessary evil for me… This box set should provide some significant amusement for all concerned… I always found them to be pretty consistently a pain in the arse to do… even the big ones… Most of the time they had nothing whatsoever to do with the actual song… The best approach for us was always presenting it as if we were playing live… All said, it will be a fun thing to have them all at one’s fingertips… I may need several refreshing & stiff cocktails to sit through them… however, to be honest, it will probably bring back a flood of memories… & I’ll make sure it’s only good ones!
BM: There are some decent films of us playing live with the backing tracks at The Rainbow, and a truly bizarre promo film of ‘Long Way From Home’ I hope that makes the cut, I won’t get into the story, but check out the Roman statues, pillars, vines…oh yes surreal stuff.
DC: Jeez…I can’t remember that one at all! I do remember the clip you’re talking about…where Micky’s hat looked like a Flemish nun’s headpiece… or was that ‘Bloody Mary’?
BM: I have to own up re these films after all this time, without DC I don’t think they would have been made. He pulled us through these gruelling days, me and Micky were perpetrators of anything we could do to delay the taping. I dread the outtakes!
LIVE AT HAMMERSMITH (Recorded 23rd November 1978, released March 1980)
Whitesnake’s first official live release was recorded at the fabled Hammersmith Odeon on 23rd November 1978 during the band’s first tour, in support of Trouble. Initially only available for the Japanese market, and in a very fetching, unique sleeve, the album features two Deep Purple numbers (‘Might Just Take Your Life’ plus the Blackmore/Coverdale showpiece ‘Mistreated’, both from Burn), songs from the Trouble LP, as well as ‘Come On’ and the perennial (and definitive?) ‘Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City’ from Snakebite. This LP was later paired up with recordings from the 1980 Ready An’ Willing tour for the double live Live In The Heart Of The City.
Did you feel it was a little premature to record a live album so soon into the band’s career, back in 1978, or were you pleased to have a memento from those early, halcyon days?
DC: We were talked into it by our manager, John Coletta… he said we needed to show the Japanese promoters what we were about & let them hear the amazing audience reaction we encountered everywhere we played … & whether or not it bullshit…it worked… we were then invited to play in Japan on the strength of that first live record… & we developed a love affair with the Japanese people that continues today…
BM: I thought, and still think, it is a great live album, and it helped to create our live appeal, plus I got my first trip to Japan, and that was a moment in time to remember. Japan is still very good for me as an artist, and Whitesnake as a band are still enormously popular over there.
READING ROCK FESTIVAL 1979 (Recorded 26th August 1979)
Although contemporary posters suggest Peter Gabriel was the Sunday night headliner at 1979’s Reading Rock, it was in fact Whitesnake who closed the three day festival. What are your memories of that show?
DC: I’ll have to hear it… Was it this one, or 1980 when Paicey came on board?… I do remember we hired 5 or 6 Burgundy coloured Rolls with Snake pendants flying to go to the show… & then that party afterwards at Jon Lord’s place… Oh, my God…we were bad, bad boys…
BM: I thought that we were headliners, but that is correct, I remember the crowd screaming for Whitesnake way early in the afternoon, and there was a considerable amount of “managering” going on backstage, the result being that Peter Gabriel was moved to an earlier spot by his manager. This was a disaster because it only infuriated our people more by making them wait even longer; management, some are not quite on the level are they? DC is right about the limos, very rock star, and there was indeed a hell of a party at Jon’s house, George Harrison was there, I sat near to him as an “exotic” dancer moved around the room and sat on his lap, the whole room immediately burst into ‘She Loves You’. Truly a night to remember, I think it was 1979, and Ian’s first gig with us.
DC: Yes…George hung out with us quite a bit, didn’t he…Bless his memory… Remember we were all in a packed pub in Oxford & he’d planned to meet us there… The noise in the pub was deafening…suddenly, you could have hears a pin drop… We turned around from the bar…& there he was… The place was in absolute awe…Just amazing…
Second LP Lovehunter was still a few months away from release, so did you feel it was a great achievement to headline Reading after just one LP?
DC: Against all the odds…yeah…we were pretty chuffed…
BM: To headline any established festival is the stuff of dreams, not many players get to achieve it, so yes I was pretty happy, that was some band live.
DC: Indeed it was…
LOVEHUNTER (Released October 1979)
The line-up that recorded individual Whitesnake LPs over the years were not always the same group that would eventually promote that particular record. Original Snake drummer David “Duck” Dowle appears on the credits and back cover of second studio LP Lovehunter, but had already been replaced by Deep Purple skin beater Ian Paice before the record was in the shops. Wasn’t there an opportunity to re-record with Ian behind the drums, and what led him to join Whitesnake in the first place?
DC: With no disrespect to the great Dave Dowle, it has remained a constant thorn in my side that the management refused to pay for us to replace the drums with Ian… The difference Ian brought to the band was incredible… Such short sight… No…not Paicey…the management!
BM: Dave Dowle was a very fine musician, but he never liked being away from home for long, as we were on the road constantly or recording, he suffered a lot personally at Clearwell Castle during the Lovehunter sessions. He was a London city boy, we were breaking into two camps, which was not a great situation, and then Ian Paice became “available”, well it is not rocket science, the best rock drummer on the planet, as far as I and DC were concerned, wants in the band, job done. David, I didn’t know you had fought to replace Duck’s playing with Ian, that would have been something, but the management as usual only looked at the figures I guess.
DC: Imagine ‘Walking In The Shadow Of The Blues‘ with Paicey on it!
The band now had three former members of Deep Purple in their ranks. Didn’t those not originally in Deep Purple get some special shirts mocked-up?
DC: Ha Ha…yes…I believe it said… “No…I Wasn’t In Deep Fucking Purple”…Perfect…
BM: Have to plead guilty. I did commission said shirts, and still have couple of them… priceless… contrary to past rumour, the Deep Purple guys laughed more than the others when they saw them, it was another bit of fun, how many times can you answer to the press question, “So you were in Deep Purple”? They got the point via those shirts though.
There must have been some murmurs in the press that Whitesnake was trying to create a new version of Purple, in DC’s vision.
DC: Ha Ha…it all appeared as part of my Grand Master Plan…only it wasn’t…it just unfolded that way… No premeditation whatsoever… I remember it blew people’s minds when Ian walked on with us at Reading… the place went mad!
BM: I think certain writers were wishing it, but Whitesnake always had its own identity, so having Jon and Ian in only enhanced the music we were writing at the time, and give them credit for finding another great band to show their unique musical talents.
There’s evidently no shortage of original and quality material from this very prolific band, but Whitesnake weren’t shy of the occasion cover version either, such as Lennon & McCartney’s ‘Day Tripper’ on Trouble. Lovehunter features a take on Leon Russell’s ‘Help Me Thro’ The Day’. What prompted this choice of song, and did it receive much airplay Stateside?
DC: I think we thought it would work as a follow up to ‘Ain’t No Love…’, but, we were wrong… ‘Ain’t No Love…’ developed a life of it’s own…It belongs to the audience… Funny, when I played Download with the Lepps (in 2008), I’d said in an interview that I felt it may be appropriate to retire the song at such an event after 30 odd years… & the mail I received… my God…even my tour manager threatened to quit … so…it’s still in there… & has since crossed the water to the US since the Live In The Still Of The Night DVD came out… I think we’re stuck with it…Ha Ha!
BM: I think that the Leon Russell cover is a fantastic track. I played the original solo on it, a decent solo, then Micky asked if he could give it a go, so he did, and it was a better solo for the track. No problem, as that’s how it was at that time, although David and I had a disagreement about ‘Mean Business’. 30 years later it is one of my favourite tracks. I was wrong, DC!
Lovehunter closes with the anthemic ‘We Wish You Well’. Was it composed specially to close the live shows, and has it been aired at every Whitesnake concert since?
DC: Yes…I wrote it as a gesture to our supporters… I don’t think we ever actually played it live… The London show in 2011 was an astonishingly emotional affair… The entire audience sang it word for word while we stood together on stage at the end… There are some great pics of Bernie & I just standing there… swept away on a tide of emotions…A truly memorable night…
BM: It was very emotional, something I never really thought would happen, but I am a positive thinker, that at some point things are meant to happen. I have a deep respect for the name Whitesnake, and I was a part of it, and now I feel I am again, as being on stage at Hammersmith (in June 2011) was a true highlight of a long career. I would like to thank Doug Aldridge, Reb Beach, the rest of the band and crew, and of course DC here, for inviting me.
READY AN’ WILLING (Released 31st May 1980)
Losing no ground, and demonstrating an impressive work rate, the band released their third studio opus a mere seven months after Lovehunter, with Ready An’ Willing reaching an impressive No. 6 in the UK charts. Although the band had appeared on Top Of The Pops as early as the first EP, (performing ‘Bloody Mary’ in 1978), Ready An’ Willing features two genuine chart smashes in the form of ‘Fool For Your Loving’ and the title track R’eady An’ Willing (Sweet Satisfaction)’. Although sales and concert attendances had been very healthy from the outset, it must have been very satisfying to finally receive some Top 20 and Top 10 chart action?
DC: Of course… Validation is a very necessary commodity for performers… It’s a bloody big pat on the back…It still is after all these years…
BM: Ready An’ Willing is still my favourite album. I think it is a perfect document of Whitesnake at that time, with Martin Birch and the band working together; simple and timeless.
The album also revisits ‘Blindman’, a track from DC’s first solo album. Why revisit this track from the past? Having recorded three albums in 18 months, it didn’t appear as if the band were short of songs.
DC: I think it was Martin Birch’s idea… He thought the song could benefit from the Snake treatment… The early version was somewhat rushed… I am pleased we re-recorded it…
BM: ‘Blindman’ was and is a great rock song, and I had no problem whatsoever redoing it. I think it is almost a new song not another version, both have their own identity.
You must have been proud to see ‘Fool For Your Loving’ becoming a hit ten years later, when it was re-recorded for 1989’s Slip Of The Tongue?
DC: Of course…I like both versions of the song…The original is more organic…bluesy…the latter more electric…more rock…Nothing wrong with that…
BM: Hmmmm, hey time passes, it was a huge record in the USA, Steve Vai kind of said sorry about the solo he recorded when I met him in Germany, as I said all the songs on Ready An’ Willing are very close to me, so biased or not, I like the original
READING ROCK FESTIVAL 80 (Recorded 24th August 1980)
By the time of Whitesnake’s second appearance at Reading, on 24th August 1980, they’d been bumped up to Sunday headliners on a bill that fully reflected the growing popularity of hard rock and heavy metal with the rise of the NWOBHM, with sets from Iron Maiden, UFO and a newly solo Ozzy Osbourne. Having enjoyed two hit singles that year, Whitesnake were fast becoming a major concert draw, especially at festivals. As the band would see some of its greatest triumphs at no less than three Donington Monsters Of Rock appearances; in the 1981, 1983 and 1990 (and not forgetting a triumphant return to the same site for 2008’s Download Festival).
Did you feel that your Reading appearances were laying important groundwork for the future?
DC: The Reading Festival shows were a nice, little feather in our collective caps… We had more fun than is legal in some quarters… The one where we announced Ian Paice was a blast…He brought the goods, did Ian… Just what we needed…
BM: I will always have a fond memory of Reading, it was the festival I looked up too when I was younger. The Cream, Fleetwood Mac, all these heroes headlined, and so did I with Whitesnake. Fact.
These BBC recordings certainly capture a raw and raucous energy.
DC: Ha Ha…Well, we were pretty raw & raucous… It was very Faces…a party wherever we went… onstage & off…I get a hangover thinking about it…
BM: Summed up by the lead singer quite well I think, we played hardball, but paid the price sometimes, the clever thing was not showing it! Ask DC about the strange case of the live elephant!
DC: Ha Ha!
LIVE IN THE HEART OF THE CITY (Recorded 23rd November 1978 and 23rd/24th June 1980, released 1st November 1980)
Whitesnake were growing into a formidable live attraction, and could now easily sell-out Hammersmithís Odeon four nights running. Expensive import copies for the Japanese only Live At Hammersmith didn’t offer huge value for a single LP, and as the band now had three studio LPs to draw from, the 1978 set didn’t accurately reflect the current band’s live repertoire. The group were certainly at the height of their powers and firing on all cylinders in 1980.
DC: Management bullshitted us into making the first live album to get the attention of the Japanese promoters… we ended up going there, but whether or not it was true is debatable… The 2nd live album with Paicey is my fave… Bernie’s solo on Mistreated is definitely worth a mention & a tip of the hat… Micky’s slide solo, too…classic stuff…
BM: By the time we came to record live with Ian, the band had matured into a sleek machine. Ian is simply the best in that situation, delivering 100%. I remember Carmine Appice standing next to me in the States to watch IP’s drum solo, and there were tears in his eyes. He worshipped the man, and Carmine ain’t exactly a slouch on the skins himself. Check out the groove on ‘Ready An’ Willing’… say no more.
As a Greatest Hits to date of sorts, were you surprised to see Live In the Heart Of the City reach No. 5 in the charts, one notch higher than Ready An Willing?
DC: I believe it’s the best selling album from the band’s early years… As I have said for a long time, Whitesnake live was a great, involving emotional experience… My difficulty was capturing the essence of the band in concert when we were in the studio… We wrote cracking songs, but, didn’t always capture the energy of playing live… We were much more a live experience than studio… though, we had some very fine moments, for sure…
BM: Whenever I talk to the people on the road they always talk about the live album, I think it is one of the great live recordings, ours and Thin Lizzy’s (Live And Dangerous), Live at the Fillmore (by the Allman Bros), I mean it, that kind of quality, it captures Whitesnake at a peak, although the Come An’ Get It tour was also recorded, onwards and upwards maybe!
COME AN’ GET IT (Released 11th April 1981)
Currently enjoying its thirtieth birthday, 1981’s Come An Get It featured two more hits with ‘Don’t Break My Heart Again’ and ‘Would I Lie To You’. At No.2, then the band’s highest chart placing, and kept off the top spot by Adam Ant, Whitesnake definitely weren’t showing any signs of running out of steam.
DC: No…not at all…I feel Ready An’ Willing & Come An’ Get It were the pinnacle albums for the early band… Very complete pieces of work…Everyone shines…
BM: Totally agree, would have made an incredible double album, re-issue maybe?
DC: A fine idea, Mr Marsden… Coupling Snakes…Ha Ha!
1981 was also Whitesnake’s first appearance at Donington Monsters of Rock festival as special guests of AC/DC, then basking on the glory of the huge success of Back In Black. This must have been a highly memorable occasion?
DC: Of course…That may have been the largest audience we’d played too at the time… Correct, Bernie?
BM: I believe so, it certainly stays in my memory…fantastic day, I think we had just returned from an American tour with Jethro Tull, where we had been opening for them, so we were well in the mood for our performance. The reviews were amazing, and I wish the gig had been recorded in its entirety. I remember we played a gig a few days after in Edinburgh, and that was an incredible gig. Tony Ashton and Billy Connolly walked on stage during the gig…the fun never stopped.
DC: Didn’t Billy give us the ‘Black ice, Mr Christian!’… as a veiled reference to something peripheral? We named a tour after it, I think…
Though Come An’ Get It certainly saw Whitesnake on a crest of a wave, it also coincided with Bernie’s second solo outing, Look At Me Now. Having recorded a debut solo album, About Time Too! in 1979, was it difficult developing a solo career concurrently with the spiralling success of Whitesnake, and did that inevitably lead to Bernie’s departure?
DC: I fully supported Bernie’s solo outings… in fact, I contributed to the first one under the name Bobby Dazzler…
BM: I can put the record straight here, David was more motivated than I was to make my solo albums, we wrote at his house in Buckinghamshire, recorded decent demos, which he still has I think, and all round encouraged me to do the sessions. About Time Too! was a big record in Japan; after our two Japanese tours I was elevated into the top ten magazine guitarists polls, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Brian May, Ritchie Blackmore and me. David was very pleased to see me make these polls, certain other members ignored it! Whitesnake was the reason for this, and I had a great time recording those sessions alongside Martin Birch. There are a couple of promo videos with Ian, Jon and Neil helping out, not exactly ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ quality, though!
SAINTS & SINNERS (Released 20th November 1982)
In a mere four years, the band had issued four studio albums, a double live LP plus an EP, but by Whitesnake’s prolific standards, there was quite a long gap between Come An’ Get It in 1981, and the release of Saint & Sinners towards the end of 1982.
DC: It was a difficult time for me… I felt every step forward we would take, a management decision caused us to slip back several steps. Also, I didn’t feel we were firing on all burners creatively. Getting a bit lazy in some aspects with the success we’d achieved… I felt it was no time to relax & take for granted it would be there without effort… You have to keep moving forward… It’s at times like that that cause me to step outside & look with more of a jaundiced eye at all things I’m involved with… what works & what doesn’t. It’s the same now…
BM: Fair comment, as there was some apathy at the time, in fact only David and I were in the studio, the Pink Floyd’s place in London (Battery Studios), we were waiting for Jon to come in and overdub some Hammond parts, but he never showed up. We later learned that he and Ian had gone to the horse racing meeting in Newbury! So I said what I felt, that we might as well “pack it in”. David’s eyes opened wide he said, “Are you thinking that as well?” I said yes. That was the end of the so called classic Whitesnake I think, David simply had to beak from a management contract that held no future. In retrospect maybe I should have kept my mouth shut, but c’est la vie, life moves on. All these years late I would not change a thing, except management!
It did appear that by Come An’ Get It Whitesnake had secured a solid, permanent line-up, one that many fans of the band’s early career will view as the Classic period, but when it came time to promote 1982’s Saints & Sinners, with an appearance on Top Of The Pops performing ‘Here I Go Again’ (included here), the band now featured three new members; former Rainbow and Jeff Beck drummer Cozy Powell, Colin “Bomber” Hodgkinson taking Neil Murray’s place on bass, and Trapeze founder member Mel Galley joining Micky Moody on guitar. Why such a big line-up change in 1982? Neil had been part of the band since the beginning, Bernie was very much integral to the songwriting, and Ian Paice certainly made his mark from behind the drum kit.
DC: Actually Micky was out of the band as well, until he came & told me he’d been thinking it over & wanted back in… It was a strange time… We had a sold out UK tour to do, & no band! So, there were a few decisions made out of pressure… Not a good recipe…Yes…Bernie & I had written some corkers, for sure…We saved the best for last ‘Here I Go Again’ …Amazing life that song has…still to this day… I just felt it was time for a change… I felt we’d gone as far as we could with the identity we’d forged… I needed a new approach… I loved the band… I also had to exit my management situation… It all tied in together…Starting over happens to me a lot in my life… It’s only recently I’ve been more settled…
BM: I was a sad figure for a while, most unlike me I suppose. I formed a band S.O.S. That says it all really. Help! It did hurt, that my old mate Cozy was in my band, and Micky had rejoined, conspiracy I wondered? But no, pretty soon Micky was also gone again, this time for good, and John Sykes alongside David was forging a new life for Whitesnake. I have never been a lover of Slide It In, except ‘Love Ain’t No Stranger’, I always felt the LP fell in between the old and the emerging Whitesnake, and fell both ways, which is my personal opinion. 1987 however was a very different affair, but I am jumping the gun here.
With such strong musical pedigrees, Cozy Powell and Mel Galley made perfect sense within the Whitesnake line-up, but where did Colin “Bomber” Hodgkinson come from?
DC: Oh…I’d been a major fan of a band called Back Door from the North of England… a jazz rock trio… That’s where I first heard & met Colin… I never thought of him as a Snake… I was just an admirer…a fan… It was Jon Lord who suggested we brought him in… Cozy was doing his Octopus album, so, I asked him to try Colin out… He loved him… Cozy, of course, was great… we’d developed a mutual admiration thing & when he asked me to join Michael Schenker, so I suggested he come into Whitesnake…
‘Here I Go Again’ is arguably Whitesnake’s biggest hit, and one assumes a very special song for both of you, though you had never played it live together before 2011’s Forevermore tour, in front of 40,000 fans at Sweden Rock festival. That must have been an emotional moment?
DC: Absolutely… I never realised we’d never played it together before… Both Bernie & I are truly thrilled to reconnect after so many years of being rather disconnected… We both agree this is significantly a nicer state of play… The London show (at the Hammersmith Apollo on 20th June 2011) was very, very special I must say…Very…
BM: ‘Here I Go Again’ is a phenomenon. I always liked the original version, a sweet song, well played and performed, but the later versions turned everything on its collective head, a massive sound, up tempo version, long slow version, single version, it goes on and on. Numerous covers, TV and movie placements, advertising campaigns; the song is my piece of rock immortality, something to be proud of. David and I wrote some great songs together, but is ‘Here I Go gain’ the best? Well, I am not sure, it is certainly the most successful without a doubt, that short time we spent at Clearwell Castle in 1981 will be part of us forever. It enables me to do things I choose to do, and I never tire of playing it, but playing it with my co-writer for the FIRST time in 2011 was a great experience. Scores of thousands in Sweden, and then the London Hammersmith Apollo reception, which was incredible, and I had Jimmy Page watching us in the wings. What a night!
The 1987 version of ‘Here I Go Again’ was a US No.1. Why do you think it took so long for Whitesnake to crack the States? With the pedigree of the band plus the quality of the material, there’s no reason why the band couldn’t have been a huge draw sooner.
DC: No idea… We had all the elements… just didn’t happen… There are no guarantees… I had no idea it would go so crazy with the ’87 album… mind you, Slide It In set it up at radio… MTV made a huge difference…
BM: I think it was because of ‘Here I Go Again’ mate!!!!!
DC: Most likely!
BM: I always felt we should have written ‘Is This Love’ as well, but no! Great song, I have been asked many times about my feelings for 1987, and to most people’s surprise I always say what a great album it is, as I really like it. I also liked the Journey album at that time. The connection I had with Whitesnake was the song, and the band had the same name as a band I used to be with.
Oddly enough, the UK B-side ‘Bloody Luxury’ was promoted to single A-side when it was released in Japan, whilst ‘Here I Go Again’ was relegated to the single’s flip.
DC: Really?…I had no idea…
BM: Ditto, we both had no idea!
Sadly, two members from this era are no longer with us; Cozy Powell died in car accident in 1998, and Mel Galley passed away from cancer in 2008.
DC: Sad, sad…sad…Two beautiful souls I am honoured to have known & to have worked with…
BM: Cozy was my mate, the best man at my wedding, taught me a lot about attitude and the business we are in, a fabulous drummer, fast driver, and most of all a very decent man. I miss him, still expect that voice on the phone sometimes, as he would ring and inform me that I should be a Abbey Road for session he had organized, then hang up, a typical Powell phone conversation. Mel, what can I say? We worked together in a band, MGM, tried to write with him, but it never really gelled. A nice guy, but a bit messed up with the way things turned out for him. Trapeze, a great band that never really cracked it, and Mel in the ’Snake seemed to be all over before anything happened with him. A good singer, nice man… I have fond memories, but did I really get to know him? The answer is no.
After Saints & Sinners, Whitesnake signed a new deal with Geffen Records for the States; though a relatively new label, it would later make superstars of Guns N Roses and Nirvana, among others. This in many ways was the end of one era, and of the original phase for Whitesnake, but very much the beginning on a new one; although the band that had started the recording for 1984’s Slide It In looked familiar enough, this last incarnation from the Sunburst era would lay the foundations for what would be the eight times platinum 1987 release.
DC: There’s a book on David Geffen that gives credit where it’s due… Whitesnake did very well for them… & opened the door to many of the acts that followed… I learned a great deal from David… & put it to good use… It served both sides well to be involved… the first couple of years was insanely successful… More than I could have possibly imagined… Mind you, this was after almost 3 years of being in the cold…
THE ALBUM COVERS
The cover artwork has always struck me as very important to the band and thoroughly thought out.
DC: I have always favoured complete pieces of work… not just the music, but, the album artwork… I studied to be a graphic design artists at college, so all the artsy fartsy stuff appeals to me… I have great energy for it… I have always wanted us to have strong logos… & we have achieved that, thankfully…
BM: David was almost solely responsible for the covers. I don’t remember ever seeing a proof, or to be brutally honest had any interest in seeing one! I know that he changed the photo of me for the Ready An’ Willing sleeve, so thanks for that mate. I liked the covers, and never saw a problem with them. I always sign Lovehunter on the girls bottom; “Cheeks” instead of cheers, I am so radical! I thought the live album was a great cover. Plus the original logo is still very strong after all these years.
You appear to be very hands-on with the artwork and design.
DC: Yes…it’s the initial seduction to grab your attention when you walk in the record store…
The snake on the cover of Trouble has become an enduring icon for the band, but why were there two different LP sleeves available (albeit with very similar designs)?
DC: It was the US record companies choice… We had no say in the matter… Though I did think the white snake being born from the purple egg was interesting… Still…the Trouble snake is a cracker…
BM: There were some other issues with America was there not David? The US sleeve of Come An’ Get It is censored, but I will let you explain it! I really liked the purple egg thing, that was an American idea, yes DC?
Lovehunter featured a nude woman straddling a rampant snake, painted by famed fantasy artist Chris Achilleos. Didn’t the band suffer from accusations of sexism? The cover for Lovehunter looks deliberately provocative.
DC: Yes…it was meant to be… Out of the blue I was being accused of being sexist, when I felt it was sexy… so, this cover was a response to those critics… a kind of go fuck yourself … Chris did a great job… He was an artist for Men Only back then…
BM: I think the artist was the most surprised person when we decided to use him for the cover. See what happens when you buy Men Only on the way to a gig! I wonder where the original is, that was something else I’ll wager.
DC: Yes…good question… where are all the original artworks for early Whitesnake… Enquiring minds wish to know!
These designs must have made popular tour shirts.
DC: They still do…The girls seem to like the design on their tees… Did I say Tees?
BM: I liked the “No I wasn’t in Deep Purple”..best !!!
Although hard to get hold of outside of Japan, the green snake on the cover of Live At Hammersmith is quite a classy image.
DC: Actually, that was an entirely Japanese concept… It is pretty cool… even considering it’s a green snake…Go figure…
BM: I never thought about that before, well as I said I never thought much about the covers, although I now realise I am quite interested in them, so DC what is the green snake all about?
Ready An’ Willing seems a far more straight forward proposition than Lovehunter. Was the cover for the Ready An’ Willing and also Live…In The Heart Of The City later the same year (both featuring all six band members), a way of firmly establishing Whitesnake as a group entity, and a group with an impressive line-up of musicians?
DC: There was a different cover idea before this… I can’t remember what it was, but, I know there was a little panic while I threw the acknowledged cover together… It included cutting out headshots from the back cover of Trouble of the band & then I had to draw glasses & a bit darker, thicker hair on Paicey… only it wasn’t Paicey… it was the original guy… Then we overexposed the pics & no one even noticed…even Paicey…
BM: So now we know, how could you David! That is so Whitesnake at that time is it not, none of us even noticed that the shots were from another of our own bloody albums, good job you were around my friend!
Come An’ Get It revisits a simpler, more in-your-face design, similar to the Trouble debut, but if you look a little closer to the snakes tongues, both look a little “suggestive”.
DC: Yes…we talked about a scratch & sniff cover… sorry…Yes…the snakes mouth had an interesting texture, didn’t it…. Our modest American record company actually painted it out… Fangs a lot, Guys…
BM: Let’s get this straight; we wrote and played the music, sang back-up vocals, the art work was in David’s head. Of course it was suggestive, that was how it worked then, but the Americans never did get it though. If only they had left those sleeves alone we might have cracked the USA years before, or not.
The title of Saints & Sinners could have lent itself to all sorts of rude or suggestive imagery, but the image used looks quite romantic and almost sedate.
DC: Another “fail”, unfortunately… I had this resin statue that our merch’ guys at the time in the UK embellished for me with wings & a snake with soft modelling clay… Bloody things kept drooping through the photo shoot ’cos of the heat from the lights…It didn’t come out as I’d hoped, but as usual with us, everything was last minute & there was no time to change it… It was also what I call my “contractual obligation” album… I refused to finish the album until my manager was more agreeable with terms to release me out of my contracts… So, all kinds of questionable energy was tied up in that record… The management hadn’t paid the studio bill at Battery Studios… so, understandably the studio were not going to release my tapes… so, I got a couple of big lads & drove over to resolve the matter quickly… It would have been disastrous if the album wasn’t out in time for the tour… I had no choice… but, all was well in the end…
BM: Well now I know, all’s well indeed, ‘Here I Go Again’ was on that record, and without that I would not be writing these words in 2011. The good ship Whitesnake sails on, God bless her and all who travel… sail on brother!