Whitesnake are an English hard rock band, founded in 1977 by David Coverdale (formerly of Deep Purple). Some of the more notable musicians who have been members of the band include: Jon Lord, Ian Paice, Micky Moody, Bernie Marsden, Mel Galley, Cozy Powell, Aynsley Dunbar, Rudy Sarzo, John Sykes, Adrian Vandenberg, Vivian Campbell, Tommy Aldridge and Steve Vai.
The band's early material has been compared by critics to Deep Purple, not only because three past members of the band were once in Deep Purple, but also because of their sound and influences. Later, the band took on a sound more in line with the melodic hard rock popular in the mid to late eighties.
David Coverdale officially founded Whitesnake in 1978. However, the core line-up had been working as his backing band (he called them "The White Snake Band" on the White Snake album tour, and they retained the title) on tour prior to Whitesnake's official founding. They toured with him in support for both of the solo albums he released between exiting Deep Purple and founding Whitesnake—White Snake (1977) and Northwinds (1978).
First era (1978–1982)
During the band's early years, their music was primarily blues rock (although Coverdale described Whitesnake's early style as "progressive R&B"). At this time, the band was made up of David Coverdale, Bernie Marsden, Micky Moody, Neil Murray and drummer David "Duck" Dowle with keyboardist Brian Johnstone. Johnston would soon be replaced by ex-Procol Harum member Pete Solley, who, because of his record producing commitments, had agreed to cover the keyboard postion until they found a permanent replacement was replaced by ex-Deep Purple legend (and Coverdale bandmate) Jon Lord during sessions for the first LP.
Their first 7" EP, Snakebite (1978), includes the well known track, "Ain't No Love in the Heart of the City", a re-arrangement of Bobby "Blue" Bland's song, which was the first hit from the band. The album had varied success throughout the UK. Subsequent reissues of this EP included four bonus tracks from Coverdale's second solo album Northwinds produced by Roger Glover. All four tracks from the original EP have been included in a 2006 reissue of Trouble.
The full-length debut, Trouble, came out later that autumn and made it to #50 in the UK. It was a blues rock/R&B–styled album with some Led Zeppelin and Free influences. Coverdale steered away from any Deep Purple connotations during this time period. Whitesnake toured Europe to promote the album and their first live album, the Japanese-only Live at Hammersmith (1979), was recorded on this tour.
Whitesnake released Lovehunter in 1979, which courted controversy due to its risque album cover, by artist Chris Achilleos, which featured an illustration of a naked woman straddling a coiled snake. The album made the UK Top 30 and contained the minor hit "Long Way From Home" (#55). Shortly after that Ian Paice replaced David Dowle in the band giving Whitesnake three ex-Deep Purple members. The new line-up recorded the 1980 release Ready an' Willing which became a breakthrough hit for the band reaching the UK Top 10 and even breaking the U.S. Top 100. The single "Fool For Your Loving", which the band originally wrote for B.B. King, but kept for themselves, made #13 in the UK and #53 in the States. The title track also hit #43 in the UK. Following the tour in support of Ready and Willing, which included a headline appearance at the Sunday night of the 1980 Reading Festival (highlights of which were subsequently broadcast by BBC Radio One), the band released Live...In The Heart Of The City. This album utilised recordings from 1978 and 1980 and landed at #5 in the UK.
In 1981 the band recorded Come an' Get It which climbed to #2 in the UK and produced the Top 20 smash "Don't Break My Heart Again" and the Top 40 hit "Would I Lie To You". The album flopped in the U.S. however, where they failed to tour often and seemed out of touch musically.
During 1982 Coverdale took time off to look after his sick daughter. He decided to temporarily break up the band.
When David Coverdale returned to music he reformed Whitesnake. The first major change in the band's line-up occurred right after the recording of 1982's Saints & Sinners album, when half of the band (lead guitarist Bernie Marsden, drummer Ian Paice, and bass player Neil Murray) were fired. Marsden was replaced by Mel Galley (of Trapeze fame), Murray was replaced with Colin Hodgkinson, and Cozy Powell became the new drummer. Powell was famous for his solo hits, as well as time with Rainbow and The Jeff Beck Group. "Saints An' Sinners" was another Top 10 UK album and contained the hit "Here I Go Again". The new lineup toured in 1982–83 to support the album and headlined the Monsters Of Rock Festival at Castle Donnington in August of 1983. The new single "Guilty Of Love" reached #31 in the UK, tied into the appearance.
Shift from blues to rock music
After another major personnel shift (including the firing of Moody and hiring of John Sykes and firing of Hodgkinson and re-hiring of Neil Murray) and a major recording deal with the Geffen Records label, Whitesnake released a partially re-recorded and fully remixed version of Slide It In (guitar parts redone by Sykes and bass parts by Murray) for the U.S. market in 1984 (released April 1984). Coverdale initially hated the new Geffen re-recording of Slide It In, as he had found nothing wrong with the original, famously declaring that it had "lost its British bollocks". Despite his misgivings, however, the album did manage to give Whitesnake some much-needed U.S. exposure, and David soon altered his opinion. Slide It In later went double platinum in the U.S. on the back of 1987. The Slide It In album spawned the American album-oriented rock hits, "Slow an' Easy", "Love Ain't No Stranger" as well as the album's title track—although in Europe the band had a run with other songs, "Guilty of Love" and "Give Me More Time". While touring the first few months in support of the album, Mel Galley was forced to leave in the spring of 1984 due to an accident involving a broken arm, leaving John Sykes solely handling the guitars for the rest of the dates. A few weeks after Galley's departure, the next to leave was Jon Lord, who left to reform Deep Purple MKII. Keyboard duty was then handled by an off-stage keyboardist, Richard Bailey.
From blues-rock to hard rock
At the end of the tour (their last gig being the monumental Rock in Rio festival, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for a crowd of over 100,000 people), Cozy Powell left to join Emerson, Lake & Powell. Veteran drummer Aynsley Dunbar (of Journey and Jefferson Starship fame) was brought in for the rehearsals and recordings of the 1987 Whitesnake album as was ex-Ozzy and Rainbow keyboardist Don Airey.
Their next album, Whitesnake (entitled 1987 in Europe and Serpens Albus in Japan) marked the band's first mainstream success in the U.S. Thanks to the guidance of A&R guru John Kalodner, the album sold over eight million copies in the U.S. and also pushed sales of Slide It In from its RIAA certified gold status to over two million copies. The album continued to sell throughout 1987 and 1988 and hit #2 in the U.S. The group were slammed as being Led Zeppelin clones at this time, with former Zep frontman Robert Plant referring to Coverdale as "David Coverversion" in interviews. Regardless, the band had never sounded heavier.
The album's biggest hits were the power ballad, "Is This Love" and the #1 hit single, "Here I Go Again" (a re-recording of a song on Saints & Sinners in 1982). Other hit singles from the album were "Still of the Night" (#79) and "Give Me All Your Love" (#48 in 1988).
The album's exposure was boosted by heavy airplay of its videos on MTV, which featured actress Tawny Kitaen, whom Coverdale later married. None of the band members who played on the album appeared in these videos, as Coverdale had fired all of the band members (John Sykes, Neil Murray and Aynsley Dunbar) prior to the album's release, except Adrian Vandenberg, who had been hired to complete the album after the others were dismissed. Vandenberg's only work on the album was the solo on "Here I Go Again" though he became a full time member of the band shortly afterwards.
The resulting music videos from Whitesnake featured new band members Rudy Sarzo, Tommy Aldridge, and Vivian Campbell. Sarzo and Aldridge had played together in Ozzy's band and Campbell had been with Dio for many years.
The band's line-up changed yet again for the 1989 album Slip of the Tongue, when Vivian Campbell left in late 1988 (he later joined Def Leppard). While preparing for the recording of the album, Adrian Vandenberg suffered a debilitating hand injury related to isometric exercises and was unable to participate in the sessions. With all of the foundation tracks completed, guitarist Steve Vai was called in to record all the guitar parts. The resulting album sold three million copies and hit #10 in U.S. and UK. Hit singles included a re-working of "Fool For Your Loving" (#37 U.S., #43 UK) the melodic "The Deeper The Love" (#28 U.S., #35 UK in 1990) and "Now You're Gone"(#96 U.S., #31 UK in 1990).
After a period of inactivity, Whitesnake officially went on hiatus in 1991. Coverdale decided to try working with Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page on their Coverdale-Page project in 1992. His voice and style had in the past been compared to Robert Plant (also of Led Zeppelin), which may have inspired this. The album became a #5 platinum record upon release in 1993.
Despite the album's success, the Coverdale-Page tour failed to attract ticket sales outside of Japan. Tickets were sold for some USA dates, but the tour plans were canceled and no shows done, right after tickets had gone on sale Robert Plant quickly announced a solo USA tour and put his dates in the same cities within as few days of the Coverdale-Page dates as he could. Plant did perform his scheduled USA tour. Due to the collapse of Coverdale-Page, Page decided to tour as Page and Plant with Robert Plant, they performed "Shake My Tree" as part of the show. Coverdale revived Whitesnake. The initial success of Page and Plant made Coverdale very conscious of his own lack of success, and just as Page brought back his best known musical partner (Robert Plant), Coverdale brought back the name that brought him to his greatest fame: Whitesnake.
First revival—Greatest Hits tour (1994)
In 1994, "Whitesnake: Greatest Hits" was released. As well as the release of the compilation, a new incarnation of the band went on a short tour in Europe (to help support poor sales), with former Ratt guitarist Warren DeMartini playing lead guitar and Denny Carmassi on drums. Adrian Vandenberg, one of Whitesnake's guitarists during the 1987–1991 period, also returned to the fold as did Sarzo. Paul Mirkovich was now on keyboards. Following this the band returned to hiatus upon losing their recording contract.
Second revival—Starkers in Tokyo and Restless Heart (1997–1998)
In 1997, to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Whitesnake's popular self-titled album, Coverdale and Vandenberg released an unplugged-style show recorded in Japan entitled Starkers in Tokyo. This reunion inspired them to then work together on a new album—Restless Heart. This was originally to be a solo album for Coverdale, but record company pressures made him release it under the Whitesnake name (similar to the case of Seventh Star by Black Sabbath, originally a Tony Iommi solo project). However, despite a release in both Japan and Europe, it was never available officially in the United States. The album marked a return to the band's earlier R&B stylings. The album peaked in the UK Top 40 and produced the bluesy ballad "Too Many Tears" (#46 UK). The album featured Coverdale, Carmassi, Vandenberg and Pink Floyd touring bassist Guy Pratt and keyboardist Brett Tuggle who, like Carmassi had played in Coverdale/Page. The touring lineup featured Coverdale, Vandenberg, Carmassi, ex-Mr. Mister guitarist Steve Farris, keyboardist Derek Hilland and ex-The Firm and Blue Murder bassist Tony Franklin. Coverdale folded the band at the end of the tour.
25th anniversary reformation (2002–present)
In December 2002, Coverdale reunited Whitesnake for a 25 year anniversary tour. By the time of the anniversary in 2003, the band was ready. Joining Coverdale was; Doug Aldrich (guitar), Reb Beach (guitar), Marco Mendoza (bass), Tommy Aldridge (drums), and Timothy Drury (keyboards). That same year, they headlined the "Rock Never Stops Tour", with other popular 1980s rock bands. This line-up remained stable until early 2005, when Mendoza left to pursue the Soul SirkUS project and was replaced by Uriah Duffy.
In June 2006, it was announced Coverdale had signed Whitesnake to a new record deal, with Steamhammer/SPV records, to release a double live album entitled, Live: In The Shadow Of The Blues, on November 27, 2006 (November 24 in Germany, Switzerland and Austria). It was made up of recordings from tours since the reformation in 2003. It also included four new studio tracks (the first new studio recordings since 1997's Restless Heart): "Ready to Rock", "If You Want Me (I'll Come Running)", "All I Want Is You" and "Dog". These songs have been described by Coverdale as "three balls-to-the-walls rockers and a ballad".
In June 2007 the band released a dual CD/DVD titled 1987 20th Anniversary Collector's Edition to mark the 20th anniversary of the mega-selling album 1987. The album was remastered along with a host of bonus material like four live tracks from the recent Shadow Of The Blues Live set. It also includes the four promo videos for the album on the DVD.
On December 26, 2007 the band unveiled drummer Chris Frazier as the latest member of Whitesnake, replacing Tommy Aldridge.
Whitesnake played at the Rock2Wgtn two day festival held on 22 March and 23 March 2008; also featuring Ozzy Osbourne, Kiss, Poison, Alice Cooper and Lordi, with special effects by Peter Jackson's Academy Award winning WETA Workshop of Lord of the Rings and King Kong fame.
On April 22, 2008, the band released a studio album called Good to Be Bad, which reached the position No. 5 at the UK album chart.
The band co-headlined a UK tour with Def Leppard in summer of 2008. Black Stone Cherry opened the UK arena shows in June, while the second UK leg, which comprised three concerts in July, was opened by Thunder.
In early November 2008, Whitesnake received the Classic Rock Awards 'Best Album' prize for the album "Good To Be Bad".