Over the past couple weeks, I have dived deeply into Whitesnake’s early albums such as ‘Lovehunter’, ‘Ready an’ Willing’, ‘Come an’ Get It’ and “Saints & Sinners’. And I actually picked up ‘Ready an’ Willing’ and ‘Come an’ Get It’ on vinyl last week. Those albums are so good and hate that I didn’t really know about them back in the day. It got me thinking about the first album I bought from Whitesnake which was simply ‘Whitesnake’.
The album came out in 1987, my senior year of high school. It quickly became one of my favorite albums of that year (behind ‘Hysteria’ by Def Leppard of course). It was pure 80’s hair metal (or whatever label you want to give it) and pure magic. The pounding drums, the guitar solos, the thumping bass, the synthesizers and that voice. A combination that as a sure fire hit. Which it was as the album actually went to #2 on the Billboard charts.
However, this album almost didn’t get made. After 10 years of playing with little to no success, David Coverdale was ready to call it quits for Whitesnake. The U.S. had pretty much ignored the band and the former Deep Purple singer had about had enough. If it wasn’t for the record label, Geffen Records, Whitesnake as we know it, would be gone forever.
The record executives at the label felt there was something there between David Coverdale and John Sykes that they thought could work. So, lo and behold, David and John sat down to write the album that became ‘Whitesnake’. John Sykes helped in writing all but two songs on the album. Those two were previously released Whitesnake songs that were reworked and modernized.
Recording had its share of problems. John Sykes was a perfectionist and struggled to find that perfect guitar sound that could be used to carry throughout the album. He did eventually succeed as you can hear that the whole album sounds cohesive.
The biggest problem was the relationship between David & John. David Coverdale had a nasty sinus infection that required surgery. This put the production of the album on hold for six months or more and frustrated John Sykes. John made a little mistake and suggested that they replace David as the lead singer and move on without him. What?? Move on Whitesnake without the voice of Whitesnake. As you can imagine, that did not sit well with Mr. Coverdale. The relationship was severed and David instead moved on without John Sykes.
Before we talk about the songs, let’s talk about the musicians on the album. The band that recorded the album consisted of the following:
- David Coverdale, vocals
- John Sykes, guitar
- Neil Murray, bass
- Aynsley Dunbar, drums
David, as everyone should know, was the lead singer for Deep Purple from 1973-1976 and brought us great songs & albums like “Burn” and “Stormbringer”. Then you have the former Thin Lizzy guitarists, John Sykes. His work speaks for itself. Such an amazing guitarists. After Whitesnake, he formed a great little band that only had 2 albums, Blue Murder…worth checking out.
Neil Murray on bass. Neil had been with Whitesnake since the beginning and was the one constant, other than David, that you expect to hear on a Whitesnake album. Lastly, the great Aynsley Dunbar. Aynsley Dunbar had played with Frank Zappa, David Bowie and even was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Journey. David Coverdale had surrounded himself with some great musicians as he has always done.
Now, David decided to scrap the band and hire all new musicians that ended up touring as Whitesnake. The musicians he brought in were quite impressive as well. Lets see if you recognize any of these names. On guitars, he brought in some lesser know guys such as Vivian Campbell (Dio and now Def Leppard) and Adrian Vandenberg (enough said). Rudy Sarzo (Quiet Riot & Ozzy) was brought in on bass. Lastly and definitely not least, Tommy Aldridge on drums (Black Oak Arkansas, Ozzy, Pat Travers). When you watch the Whitesnake videos for this album, these are the guys you will see.
- “Crying In The Rain”
- “Bad Boys”
- “Still of the Night”
- “Here I Go Again”
First up on the album was a re-make of Whitesnake’s 1982 version, “Crying in the Rain”. The song was originally released on the album ‘Saints & Sinners’ and is about David Coverdale’s divorce. The song is a solid rocker and what a powerful song to open the album with. It sets the tone for the album. The original song was a little more bluesy, but due to John Sykes’ disdain for blues, that was changed for this version. This was the second single off the album that spawned five in total.
“Bad Boys” was next up and continued the pace set in the first track. More great guitar work and more of David’s howling. The onslaught of rock was on.
The gem on the album was “Still of the Night”. The opening riff and David’s opening verse grabs you and doesn’t let go for over 6 minutes of pure rock bliss. The song was based off an old demo he and Ritchie Blackmore had worked on long before. It was the song that broke the band and made them a house hold name. Maybe it was the video. This song quickly became one of the most requested songs on MTV in large part due to the beautiful Tawny Kitaen. Reality is the music was what made it. The long break in the middle with the guitar solo and the string instruments playing added a great texture to the song. Check out the video.
“Here I Go Again” was the final track on Side 1. It was another remake of an old Whitesnake song. It was also off ‘Saints & Sinners’ and was written by David Coverdale and Bernie Marsden. Not much was changed in the song except one word. Where they replaced the word hobo to drifter in the line “Like a drifter I was born to walk alone”. Coverdale was afraid it would sound like homo if he left the word hobo in the lyric. And Tawny is back in this video and dancing around on the two beautiful Jaguars that I talk about in this old post on best Rock Cars. The song gave the band their 1st #1 single in the US.
- “Give Me All Your Love”
- “Is This Love”
- “Children of the Night”
- “Straight For the Heart”
- “Don’t Turn Away”
The final single off the album is the opening track to Side 2. “Give Me All Your Love Tonight” didn’t do that great and only hit #48 on Hot 100 Billboard chart. The song does have another great guitar solo by Sykes (on the ’88 Remix, the solo was replaced by Vivian Campbell’s solo). It is another rocker and what people came to expect from the heavier songs on the album. The video actually didn’t feature Tawny, so no point in showing it here.
The band was great with ballads as well and “Is This Love” is one of their best. It was actually written for Tina Turner, but thankfully, Whitesnake held on to it and recorded it themselves. In a time when ballads ruled the airwaves, the song hit #2 on the charts in the US. Tawny Kitaen is in this video so I will include it.
“Children of the Night” brings the album back to life. The song is in the same vein as “Give Me All Your Love Tonight” and doesn’t offer anything new. If you like the Whitesnake sound and lost of guitar, then you will love the song.
“Straight For The Heart” is very generic and too upbeat and happy sounding for me. It was probably least favorite song on the album. Nothing for me to say nice about it so i won’t try.
The final song on the album was “Don’t Walk Away”. Another ballad but fills like filler to me. For an album that starts out so well, it really ended poorly with the final two songs. If you were to stop at song 7, you have one of the best albums of the decade. With those two, you get a great album for the year in its release.
Regardless of the 2 songs at the end, I do love this album and it gets spun every year without a doubt. It was this album that made me fall in love with Whitesnake. And what I have found is how much I enjoy their releases prior to this album and I think you need to check those out as well to see their very bluesy roots.
I hope you enjoyed another My First Time experience and until next month…keep spinning those tunes.