On April 7, 1987, Whitesnake released their (self-titled) seventh studio album. The album, which almost didn’t come to fruition due to a major shakeup in the lineup, ended up becoming the band’s most successful release. It peaked at #2 on the Billboard 200 chart, and featured five hit singles, including “Here I Go Again” (which peaked at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart). The success of this album actually helped to push the band’s previous release (Slide It In) from gold to platinum status.
During the Slide It In tour, tensions arose between frontman David Coverdale and drummer Cozy Powell. After the final show of the tour, which took place at the Rock In Rio festival in Brazil, Powell left the band. Even before Powell’s departure, Coverdale was getting ready to disband entirely. If not for executives at Geffen Records convincing Coverdale to bring guitarist John Sykes into the fold, the band may very well have broken up just before their greatest success.
Along with bassist Neil Murray, who helped with some of the arrangements, Coverdale and Sykes got together in the south of France to begin the writing process for the album. Two of the band’s biggest hits came from these writing sessions – “Still Of The Night” (which was based off of an old Deep Purple demo that Coverdale did with Ritchie Blackmore) and “Is This Love” (a song that was originally written for Tina Turner).
After the writing sessions in France, Coverdale, Sykes and Murray moved to L.A., and began their search for a drummer. They settled on British drummer Aynsley Dunbar, whose resume was as impressive as their departed drummer, Powell.
With a newly reformed lineup, Coverdale and company headed up to Vancouver to begin the recording process. The first challenge that the band faced was solved fairly easily. Sykes was having trouble finding the sound that he wanted, but when Coverdale brought in his friend (and producer) Bob Rock, that issue was overcome.
The bigger challenge that the band faced was Coverdale being stricken with a sinus infection that resulted in surgery and a six-month rehab, putting the band way behind schedule. Even though it was Coverdale’s band, Sykes started to grow impatient and floated the idea of finding a new singer. This mutiny caused Coverdale to part ways with Sykes and producer Mike Stone.
Upon returning to the band after rehab, Coverdale worked with other producers on the vocal tracks. Famed keyboardist Don Airey, whose credits are as impressive as any keyboardist in rock, was brought in to record, as was guitarist Adrian Vandenberg to add a solo for the updated version of “Here I Go Again.”
After the recording process was completed (but before the album’s release) Coverdale shook up the lineup again. The new lineup featured Vandenberg as a permanent member; he was joined by Vivian Campbell in the new two-headed guitar attack. Rounding out the band was Rudy Sarzo (Quiet Riot) and Tommy Aldridge (Ozzy Osbourne). Even though this wasn’t the lineup on the album, this touring lineup was featured in all of the videos that the band made (“Still Of The Night,” “Is This Love,” “Give Me All Your Love,” and of course, “Here I Go Again” – one of the most iconic videos in the history of MTV).
While the album was self-titled in the U.S., it was released as 1987 in Europe. Not only was the order of the tracks different from the U.S. release, but it also featured two bonus tracks (“You’re Gonna Break My Heart Again” and “Looking For Love”). To make matters more confusing, the album had a different title in Japan as well – Serpens Albus (which translates to Whitesnake in Latin).
In 2007, Whitesnake released a 20th Anniversary edition of the album, which also featured a DVD.
Whitesnake’s 1987 release is an album that is a must-have for any hard rock music fan. It is the album that turned the band into a household name, and carried them forward to the present day. In retrospect, it’s hard to believe that this album came very close to never being written, and before it was even released, that the band was totally revamped. Numerous lineup changes seem to be a page ripped right from Blackmore’s playbook. You have to wonder how these two ever got together in Deep Purple, much less playing on more than one album before parting ways.
Although Slide It In is the album that turned me on to Whitesnake, their 1987 self-titled release is the album that was a major part of the soundtrack of my youth (and other Gen Xers as well). Growing up in the MTV era, there are a number of videos that bring back nostalgic memories, but few were as iconic as “Here I Go Again.” Take a walk down memory lane as you watch Tawny Kitaen sprawled across the hood of Coverdale’s car…