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Whitesnake's still slippin' it in 35 years later
"When you get to my age," David Coverdale says, "every (expletive) year is an anniversary!"
The 61-year-old hard rock singer from England -- who's led the band Whitesnake since 1978 -- has some significant ones this year, however.
It's obviously 35 years since he put Whitesnake together but also 40 since he put himself on the major music map by joining Deep Purple as a replacement for the iconic Ian Gillan. Coverdale recorded three albums with that band, which he says "gave me a lot of credibility, since they were really at their peak when I joined them." And, Coverdale acknowledges, he was a bit bereft when the group broke up in 1976.
"It was like the rug being pulled out from under me, the roof caving in, all of that," he says now. "It's hard to lose something like that."
Whitesnake wasn't Coverdale's immediate first move post-Purple, though ironically his first solo album in 1977 was titled "White Snake." But while touring to promote its successor, 1978's "Northwinds," Coverdale "was given minimal money to put a band together," which he dubbed Whitesnake and recorded an initial EP, "Snakebite."
"In a very short span of time we started making a lot of noise in Europe," Coverdale recalls, and before long he added a pair of former Deep Purple bandmates -- keyboardist Jon Lord and drummer Ian Paice -- to the Whitesnake ranks. "That was amazing. It looked like a master plan of mine to make Whitesnake into Deep Purple, but that wasn't the case. It was just the way the dice rolled, but it was great to have those guys in my band, you know?"
With punk rock all the rage during the late 70s and no real record company support in the U.S., Whitesnake started slowly. But Coverdale's fortunes changed when he signed with Geffen Records during the early 80s. "I'd never really worked America until I got involved with David Geffen, who told me it was time to work America, bless his soul," Coverdale remembers. With the new label and a fresh management team, 1984's "Slide It In" went double-platinum and 1987's "Whitesnake" sold more than eight million copies, and a string of slick 'n' slinky videos -- some featuring Coverdale's then-girlfriend and subsequent ex-wife Tawny Kitaen -- turned "Love Ain't No Stranger," "Slow And Easy," "Here I Go Again" and "Is This Love?" into massive rock hits.
Whitesnake's situation couldn't help but ebb, however, and Coverdale even put the group on ice for a time, working with Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page on the "Coverdale Page" album in 1993, though it came out at what the singer calls "an incredibly difficult time" when the record company was going through a transition period.
"We were two powerful names saying, 'We're not doing this to make MTV singles. We're going to do...the kind of music we want to do' -- which, of course, didn't sit well with the label," Coverdale recalls. "We're still happy with what we did together, though." There are, he adds, talks about remixing the album for a 20th anniversary reissue, though no firm plans yet.
Meanwhile, Whitesnake has been a going concern since reforming for a 25th anniversary tour in 2003. The group has released a couple of albums ("Good To Be Bad" in 2008 and "Forevermore" in 2011) as well as several live sets and DVDs, including the new "Made In Britain/The World Record" this year. Coverdale currently tours every-other year, but his plate is still loaded with ambitions for future projects, including an acoustic album of Whitesnake hits, a blues set and a covers album of 60s soul and rock favorites.
"I don't necessarily anticipate having a Top 10 record again," he says, "but over time Whitesnake sells very, very significant numbers -- very much so in Europe and the Far East. So I'm exploring a lot of options.
"It's just a very, very exciting time to be able to be a successful live act and have a foundation that you know is going to support your work. It's not exactly like I'm looking to forge a career like I was when I started (Whitesnake). I'm well-rewarded for having a s***load of fun."
Operation Rock! with Whitesnake and Queensryche featuring Geoff Tate takes place at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 24, at the DTE Energy Music Theatre, Sashabaw Road east of I-75, Independence Township. Tickets are $35-$75 pavilion, $15 lawn with a $44 lawn four pack. Active military personnel and veterans can receive free lawn tickets. Call 248-377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.
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