A group usually has a focal point, often the lead singer or guitarist. Frequently, that person leaves to join a supergroup, a cult, or more likely, go solo. On occasion, they even die. So what happens to the group's bass player or drummer? Some musicians are lucky enough to find session work and tell amazing road stories between takes. Many drift into oblivion, never to be heard from again. Still others, find themselves in new groups. Whitesnake answered the question few thought to ask. "When a group's main draw departs, what happens to the other guys?"
After Ted Nugent's career stalled he formed Damn Yankees with former Styx guitarist Tommy Shaw and Night Ranger's Jack Blades. They did OK. Journey's Neil Schon and Jonathon Cain teamed up with ex-Baby's frontman John Waite for Bad English. The hit ballad "When I See You Smile" and the Rockin' "Forget Me Not" resulted. But Whitesnake outlasted them all and was far more successful. What was most amazing was the torturous path the group took.
Whitesnake began as Deep Purple was crashing. Singer David Coverdale had joined, replacing the group's signature wailer, Ian Gillian. Guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, not liking the direction the group was taking, decided to quit and form Rainbow. He was replace by ex-James Gang guitarist Tommy Bolin. But this "replacement parts" line-up didn't last long. Deep Purple called it a day after an awful UK tour in March of '76.
A short time later Coverdale recorded a solo album chock full of ballads and called it "Whitesnake." The album didn't do much except give Coverdale an excuse to start a band. The original Whitesnake plodded along for awhile. Then Deep Purple organist Jon Lord joined. Less than a year later Ian Paice, also from Deep Purple, was installed on drums. Finally, they made a dent in the UK and the rest of Europe with the "Come An' Get It" album.
But by the end of '81 band friction had brought Whitesnake to a halt. But Coverdale was nothing if not persistent. He reformed the band but with Paice out (he left to join guitarist Gary Moore) and former Rainbow drummer Cozy Powell in. Powell's tenure was short-lived. He split to join Greg Lake and Keith Emerson in the lackluster Emerson, Lake and Powell (replacing original drummer Carl Palmer). Also, Mel Galley was added on guitar while Colin "Bomber" Hodgkinson handled bass. This line-up, which also included Lord and guitarist Mickey Moody, recorded "Saints and Sinners" in '82. That album contained the original version of "Here I Go Again"
Of course, nothing could go smoothly. The following year, Moody and Hodgkinson left. Neil Murray returned. He'd been the group's original bass player but had left during the band's temporary break up in '81. Also joining was ex-Thin Lizzy guitarist John Sykes. Need a scorecard? Sykes would, for a brief period, serve as Coverdale's main songwriting partner.
Just as "Slide It In" was about to be released in the U.S., Jon Lord departed to participate in the re-formed Deep Purple. While on tour the following year Powell, who'd returned, left again and was replaced by journeyman drummer Aynsley Dunbar, a former member of Journey.
During '86 recording sessions Coverdale had trouble with his voice. It turned out to be a deviated septum which needed an operation. Once recovered, he worked with Heart's Mark Andes and Denny Carmassi but nothing came of it. However, a short time later Coverdale came roaring back with "Whitesnake" which he co-composed with Sykes. This album contained a re-recorded version of the "life on the road" song "Here I Go Again" and "Is This Love." With major success just around the corner Coverdale decided it was time to assemble a new band for touring.
"Slip of the Tongue," with "Fool For Your Loving" rolled out in '89 and was another commercial success. And that more or less concluded the Whitesnake story. A Greatest Hits package and "Coverdale and Whitesnake" was released. Coverdale briefly linked with Jimmy Page for "Coverdale/Page" but Page did a whole lot better with his former partner Robert Plant.
Spanning nearly fifteen years Whitesnake sold a few million records/CDs and created a handful of memorable songs. But Whitesnake's greatest legacy was keeping washouts from other groups employed just a little bit longer. Anything that postpones the need for a day job is always welcome.
There was renewed activity in '06 when Coverdale announced that the group had signed with Steamhammer/SPV Records. A double album "Live: In The Shadow Of The Blues," mined material recorded since the group's '03 reformation. There were also a handful of studio tracks.
The following year, Whitesnake released a dual CD/DVD titled "1987 20th Anniversary Collector's Edition" to mark the 20th anniversary of the group's mega-selling self-titled album. Then the band announced that drummer Chris Frazier had replaced Tommy Aldridge.
Returning to the studio, "Good To Be Bad," landed in '08.
Whitesnake made news in '10, but probably not the good kind, when it was announced that bassist Uriah Duffy (a member since '05) and drummer Chris Frazier (in since '07) had quit. "Whitesnake wish Uriah and Chris every success in pursuing their individual musical careers and express their sincere gratitude for the exceptional contribution they both made to the legacy of the band," the remaining group members said in a statement. The group replaced Frazier with veteran drummer Brian Tichy, who bailed in '13 to work full-time on Something Unto Nothing (S.U.N), his band with singer Sass Jordan.
Many early Metal fans, located mostly in the Midwest for some reason, felt Deep Purple could run with Led Zeppelin. Some even preferred Deep Purple because they were more focused and didn't let their songs 'ramble on'. But nobody ever suggested that Whitesnake was on a par with Deep Purple. That's not to imply that Whitesnake was bad, it's just that they weren't in the same league.
Whitesnake was never as popular as Coverdale hoped. And not without reason. Due to near constant personnel changes, the group's output was erratic. The one exception is "Slide It In" released in '84. It contains "Standing In The Shadow," "Give Me More Time" and "Love Ain't No Stranger." Next in line is "Whitesnake" with the pop hit "Here I Go Again." However, "Greatest Hits" captures the essential Whitesnake and does it economically.
"Good To Be Bad" is a solid effort. It opens with "Best Years" which rides a riff in search of a hook. A couple Deep Purplish tracks, "Can You Hear The Wind" and "Got What You Need," are serviceable. The group recovers with the swaggering "Call On Me." "Good To Be" features some hot guitar while "A Fool In Love" is a loaded shot of Blues Rock.
Given the band's history, it should hardly be surprising that the ballads, "All I Wanted All I Needed" and the acoustic "Summer Rain" are immediately appealing.