WHITESNAKE (1978–PRESENT). David Coverdale (vocals), Doug Aldrich (guitar), Reb Beach (guitar), Uriah Duffy (bass), Timothy Drury (keyboards), Chris Frazier (drums).
Beginning as a bluesy solo vehicle for former Deep Purple vocalist David Coverdale in the late seventies, Whitesnake would go on to evolve a more hard-rock style and reached their peak as million-selling superstars of MTV in the late eighties.
After leaving Deep Purple in 1976, vocalist David Coverdale released a string of three solo albums beginning with Whitesnake in 1977. In the process of touring and recording, Coverdale assembled a crack backup band featuring the bluesy guitarists Bernie Marsden and Micky Moody. Eventually he decided to give the band a name and took the title of his first solo album. From 1978 to 1982, the band put out a series of albums of soulful blues-based rock that well featured Coverdale’s bluesy vocals. As the band developed, Coverdale took them in a harder rock direction enlisting former (latter day) Thin Lizzy guitarist John Sykes to write and play on 1984’s Slide it In. The album became the band’s first platinum album and was the first to do well in the U.S.
Now on the Geffen label, the band was stripped down to Coverdale, Sykes, Neil Murray on bass, and Ansley Dunbar on drums, for 1987’s self-titled release. The album was a huge hit in large part to Coverdale’s new collaborator Sykes. The
songs were still blues based but much harder and heavier than anything else the band had attempted before, and tracks like “Crying in the Rain,” and “Still of the Night” evoked Led Zeppelin in their production and Coverdale’s vocals. Additionally, Sykes brought a huge and aggressively original and metallic sound to the guitars, which helped to give the tracks a larger-than-life quality. The album would become a huge hit, but unfortunately, Coverdale and Sykes had a falling out just before the album was completed and Sykes was fired before its release (going on to form and front the similar-sounding Blue Murder).
To tour and promote the album, Coverdale put together a whole new lineup o photogenic veterans including guitarists Adrian Vandenberg and Vivian Campbell (ex-Dio), bassist Rudy Sarzo (ex-Ozzy and Quiet Riot), and drummer Tommy Aldridge (ex-Pat Travers, Ozzy). With a series of MTV videos for the songs “Here I Go Again,” “Still of the Night,” and “Is This Love?” the album sold phenomenally well, going six-times platinum in the U.S., making Coverdale and the band superstars.
1989’s Slip of the Tongue saw Steve Vai taking Vivian Campbell’s place in the band, initially though, entering to fill in for Vandenberg, who had injured his hand. The album was a modest success, but a disappointment after the success of its predecessor. Lacking Sykes’ writing input, it more significantly lacked his signature guitar tone that had defined the sound of the 1987 album, a sound that arguably rivaled Eddie Van Halen’s early tone, both in its quality and in its pivotal role in defining the overall sounds of the respective bands.
After touring for Slip of the Tongue, Coverdale disbanded the group and went on to a collaboration with Jimmy Page in 1993. 1997 saw a brief reunion with Vandenberg for the album Restless Heart. The solo album Into the Light with guitarist Earl Slick followed in 2000.
Finally, in 2002, came a new lineup of crack musicians including drummer Tommy Aldridge, veteran guitarist Doug Aldrich, ex-Winger guitarist Reb Beach, bassist Marco Mendoza, and keyboardist Timothy Drury. Touring in the U.S. and Europe, the band proved to be one of the strongest Whitesnake lineups ever, and with Aldrich in particular proving to be a uniquely powerful guitarist, whose muscular yet fluid and soulful playing served the band well. After live CD and DVD releases in 2006, the band finally returned with the stellar studio release Good to Be Bad in 2008.
Discography: Snakebite (Geffen, 1978); Trouble (Geffen, 1978); Lovehunter (Geffen, 1979); Live at Hammersmith (Sunburst, 1980); Live in the Heart of the City (Geffen, 1980); Live … In the Heart of the City/Live at Hammersmith (Geffen, 1980); Ready an’ Willing (EMI, 1980); Come an’ Get It (Geffen, 1981); Saints & Sinners (Geffen, 1982); Slide It In (Geffen, 1984); 1987 (EMI, 1987); Whitesnake (Geffen, 1987); Slip of the Tongue (Geffen, 1989); Restless Heart (EMI, 1998); Starkers in Tokyo [live] (EMI, 1998); Live … In the Shadow of the Blues (Steamhammer UK, 2006); Good to Be Bad (Steamhammer, 2008); Box Set (Alex, 1992); Whitesnake’s Greatest Hits (Geffen, 1994); 20th Century Masters—The Millennium Collection: The Best of Whitesnake (Geffen, 2000); Here I Go Again: The Whitesnake Collection (Universal, 2002); Best of Whitesnake (EMI, 2003); The Silver Anniversary Collection (EMI, 2003); The Early Years (EMI, 2004); Chronicles (Geffen, 2005); The Definitive Collection (Geffen, 2006); 30th Anniversary Collection (EMI, 2008).