This was the first proper full length Whitesnake album. ‘Snakebite’ was originally a four track EP and had four tracks from Coverdale’s solo album ‘Northwinds’ added to make it up to album length for release outside of the UK.
In between the EP and ‘Trouble’ former Purple man Jon Lord replaced Pete Solley in the keyboard department. Although Lord plays on the album he was not at the original sessions and his parts were overdubbed afterwards.
In truth the album is a bit of a mish mash and is a slight disapointment after the excellent ‘Snakebite’ EP and Coverdale’s two superb solo albums. There seems to be some sort of confusion as to the direction the music should be taking. There is good bluesy melodic rock alongside out and out almost early metal type rock. There are a couple of poppy Thin Lizzy type songs, an instrumental, a cover of a Beatles track and an awful track with Bernie Marsden on vocals. This makes the album a little disjointed in places.
‘Take Me With You’ kicks things off. A fast paced very heavy song with typical Coverdale lyrics it has survived in the live set to this day and Coverdale himself has stated it is one of his favourite Whitesnake songs. ‘Love To Keep You Warm’ is a personal favourite and is a solid rock track in the mould of Bad Company. ‘Lie Down’ was a live favourite for a while and has a catchy tongue in cheek chorus which was to become Coverdale’s lyrical trademark. ‘Day Tripper’ was a strange choice of cover but does feature some interesting voice box effects by Bernie Marsden. ‘ Nighthawk’ is pretty much run of the mill rock filler with hints of ‘Come Taste The Band’ era Deep Purple. ‘The Time Is Right For Love’ is a very poppy track making full use of the twin guitars and was released as a single although it failed to sell. ‘Trouble’ is possibly the albums highlight. A blues track in the ‘Mistreated’ mould but done in a Bad Company way. ‘Belgian Tom’s Hat-trick’ is a fast paced instrumental which is guaranteed to get the foot tapping. ‘Free Flight’ is by far and away the weakest track on the album. Firstly it is just not a very good song and secondly the vocal from Bernie Marsden is just plain awful. (Fortunately he has improved with time and is now a quite capable singer on his own albums). ‘Don’t Mess With Me’ closes the album in hard and heavy style.
So a strange opening album then. Full of promise but with a few false starts. Micky Moody,Bernie Marsden and Neil Murray were already starting to gel into the tight unit they still are today. Coverdale was still in top form but drummer Dave Dowle was already struggling and sounds a little out of place. The maestro that is Jon Lord was …….. well Jon Lord.
Thankfully better was to come in the next few years but all in all it was a decent start.
It’s a painting ……. not even a real woman. Did these chain stores ban art books because they may have had paintings of nude women on the front. I doubt it. I’m sure without too much difficulty we could find hundreds of covers far ‘worse’ than this one.
So, what about the music, for that is after all the main thing. Rather like its predecessor,’Trouble’, this album suffers from a little lack of direction. In some places the sound is reminiscent of Coverdales solo output and in other places it is leaning towards a harder rock sound.
Opening track ‘Long Way From Home’ is quite a lightweight pop rock track which could easily have been a leftover from ‘Northwinds’. It’s pleasant enough but doesn’t really go anywhere and is at least a minute too long as it does get rather repetative. Released as a single it predictably did nothing. ‘Walking In The Shadow Of The Blues’ meanwhile is blues based rock at its finest. A classic concert opener, its great melody and driving rhythm would get even the meanest of feet tapping. It is Whitesnake’s best song in my opinion and features Coverdale at his finest both vocally and lyrically. ‘Help Me Thro’ The Day’ is another blues cover in the vein of ‘Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City’ and again boasts a great Coverdale vocal. Showing clearly that when he was at his peak there were few better. Things get a bit heavier with ‘Medicine Man’ which wouldn’t have sounded out of place on the first album. ‘You ‘n’ Me’ is almost Whitesnake by numbers as it appears on all of the early albums in one form or another ( Lie Down, Black And Blue, Wine Women An’ Song etc). ‘Mean Business’ again reminds me of the first album and would have been all the better had Ian Paice have joined the band sooner. Dave Dowle’s drumming just doesn’t cut it for me. Jon Lord though takes the accolades with a fine solo. The title track ‘Lovehunter’ is another peice of classic Whitesnake that was always a highlight of the live set. Micky Moody remains a most underrated guitarist. For some reason, despite the absolute disaster of a track on the first album Bernie Marsden is again allowed a lead vocal. ‘Outlaw’ isn’t as bad a song as ‘Free Flight’ was and to be fair to him the vocal is a little better. However it should have been left as a B side or something and is not worthy of its place on the album. ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll’ Women’ is more than a little cliched and like the opening track goes on for about a minute too long. Like ‘You ‘n’ Me’ it is pure Whitesnake by numbers but is pleasant enough if not overly inspired. The short thank you song ‘We Wish You Well’ ends the album pleasantly enough with once again more than a nod in the direction of Coverdale’s earlier solo output. A recording of it was played at the end of live shows as the crowd began to disperse.
So in conclusion a step up from ‘Trouble’ but still a bit of a mixed bag. With NWOBHM just about to hit us Coverdale wisely went fully down the blues rock route and turned Whitesnake into the biggest rock act in the UK at the time.
I’ll leave the last word to Coverdale himself, when asked a few years ago about the first two albums he said, ‘ ….. as albums go they would have made great EP’s”
Through “Trouble” and “Lovehunter” the first two albums (“Snakebite” was only a four track EP and was only put out in LP format with some tracks from “Northwinds” much later) Whitesnake had built up a great live reputation despite the albums themselves being considered patchy. Even Coverdale himself suggested “as albums go they made great EP’s”. However the time was now right for Whitesnake to claim the UK hard rock crown just as NWOBHM arrived. With a solid rhythm section of Murray and the newly arrived Paice, the swirling Hammond and keyboards of the maestro Jon Lord. The ‘good as any other combination’ twin guitar attack of Marsden and Moody all behind a Coverdale who was at his stomping strutting best and at the time with a voice to match it was no wonder as this was serious heavyweight rock monarchy.
In December 1979 the band minus the absent Marsden, who had disappeared to Africa much to Coverdale’s annoyance, moved into Ridge Farm, a purpose built studio in Surrey which had been used by Bad Company to record “Desolation Angels” earlier that year and began recording what was to be their crowning glory …… at least to these ears.
Marsden eventually arrived and soon made up for his tardiness contributing four co-writes along with fellow six stringer Moody. Th album kicks off with, for me, the classic Whitesnake track ‘Fool For Your Loving’. Originally written for BB King, Coverdale soon figured it was too good to give away. It remains one of his best hard rocking vocals and this version is a million times better than the hair metal version recorded some years later. Coverdale’s theory was proved correct as it gave him his first ever top 20 single, reaching the heady heights of number 13 in the UK in the days when that actually meant something. ‘Sweet Talker’ follows and whilst it would be frowned upon by the PC brigade due to its dubious lyrical content you can’t argue that it is a stomping great rocker with a wonderful swirling keyboard solo from Jon Lord. The title track was the second single and good as it is, it is no ‘Fool For Your Loving’. Predictably it did nothing chart wise. After that slight dip the album gets back on track with two great examples of Coverdale’s brilliant vocal prowess in those days. ‘Carry Your Load’ would not have been out of place on “Northwinds” and nods most definately in the direction of Bad Company, a band Coverdale nearly joined at one point. The track that ended side one in the vinyl days ‘Blindman’ was a reworking of a track from Coverdales’s first solo album “Whitesnake” recorded a couple of years earlier. If the previous track was similar to Bad Company then ‘Blindman’ was more akin to “Free”. A wonderfully brooding melancholy tale it is surely one of Coverdale’s finest lyrics and at times I’m of the opinion it is his best ever vocal. It knocks spots off the original version as the vocal is far more heartfelt and the musicianship is far superior.
Side two kicked off with the superbly structured ‘Ain’t Gonna Cry No More’. Starting off acoustically with Coverdale singing the first part of the song over Moody’s 12 string before announcing its arrival as a rock tune with a thump of the drum and a groan from Coverdale it was the first of many Whitesnake tracks in this format and is arguably still the best despite the success of ‘Here I Go Again’ some years later. ‘Love Man’ is your standard twelve bar blues stomp with another set of interesting lyrics from Coverdale and ‘Black and Blue’ was the latest installment of Whitesnake by numbers after ‘Bloody Mary’, ‘Lie Down’ and ‘You and Me’. The closing ‘She’s A Woman’ was maybe a sign of things to come as it is lacking in the quality department for me and veers a bit too much towards a heavy metal version of The Rolling Stones.
Despite what record sales and MTV will tell you this was Whitesnake at its finest. A true British blues based rock band who guaranteed you a good night out when they played live and now finally had an album to match. For Coverdale and Whitesnake it really didn’t ever get any better than this.
The previous years studio album “Ready an’ Willing” and live set “Live …. In the Heart of the City” had thrust Whitesnake into the top flight of the UK rock scene and the highly anticipated “Come an’ Get It” soared to number 2 in the UK album chart on its release in April 1981. A special guest slot at the second Monsters of Rock at Donington in the summer capped off an excellent 18 months.
The album itself followed the same format as the highly successful “Ready an’ Willing” featuring a mix of high tempo blues based rockers and a few slower tunes. To be fair there was nothing on here with the sheen of ‘Carry Your Load’ or the raw emotion of ‘Blindman’ though, Whitesnake here edging more toward the harder hitting rock sound on most tracks.
The title track is a strutting peacock innuendo filled Coverdale classic and was regularly to be heard blaring from my speakers before a a night …….. on the town …….. so to speak. Just to get me in the right frame of mind for the night ahead you understand !! ‘Hot Stuff’ is just that and does exactly what it says on the tin. Almost veering into heavy metal territory its like ‘Sweet Talker’ on speed with a similar blistering organ solo from Jon Lord. Who said keyboards couldn’t be sexy. Trust me if you played those two tracks before you went out to a rock club on a Friday night in 1981 you just didn’t believe you couldn’t pull !!! Confidence was never in short supply …….”I’m ready for you, are you ready for me ….” etc. The poor girls had no chance. Crikey I’m even starting to sound like Coverdale now !!
‘Don’t Break My Heart Again’ was the first single, another strutter but more radio friendly and always a big hit with the ladies at the aforementioned rock clubs ……. ooh Coverdale made my life a joy in the early 80s ……. sorry I’m at it again here. Must try and stick to the point. ‘Lonely Days Lonely Nights’ is a slower track more in the bluesier vein and features some great guitar from Micky Moody. The bar room piano led boogie of ‘Wine, Women and Song’ ended side one in the original vinyl issue and is still thought of as a theme tune to the soundtrack of our lives by my oldest cohorts and I with lines like ” …….. give me a rock n roll band with a mean and dirty blues guitar, take me to a dance hall palace with a twenty four hour bar. You better lock up your daughter and your sister too, if you get in my way I’m gonna rock n roll over you ..”. Poetry it ain’t but at the time it was more like a battle cry for us.
The atmospheric ‘Child of Babylon’ got side two off to a flyer. Another bluesy epic it highlighted the talents of Bernie Marsden in particular. Second single ‘Would I Lie To You’ is not the best song and features some dodgy lyrics to say the least. The single had to be edited before UK radio would play it ……… the line “Would I lie to you just to get in your pants” causing no little concern. At the end of the album version Coverdale can be heard saying “I think so” this was removed from the 7″ version. ‘Girl’ is a nice track with a good funky beat and bass line courtesy of Neil Murray that bobs along nicely without setting the world on fire. ‘Hit an’ Run’ started life as ‘Love For Sale’ on the “Ready an’ Willing” sessions but got a complete lyrical re-write for inclusion here. It features a great voice box solo from Bernie Marsden and a slide solo from Micky Moody as well. Album closer ‘Til The Day I Die’ is very much in the vein of ‘Ain’t Gonna Cry No More’ from the previous album. A slow building acoustic folky beginning giving way to a full on electric finale.
It wouldn’t be right not to mention the cover either. Especially given the fuss that was made about the “Lovehunter” one a couple of years earlier. Just check out the snakes mouth. A tongue it most certainly isn’t. Now I wonder how they managed to get away with that !!
Make no mistake Whitesnake were THE band in 1981. They had the best rhythm section around in Neil Murray and Ian Paice. The best twin guitar attack in Micky Moody and Bernie Marsden and the man who wrote the book on how to play rock keyboards and organ. The first gentleman of rock Mr Jon Lord. Add to that the not inconsiderable talents of Mrs Coverdales lad from Saltburn. David Coverdale was very much at the top of his game through Whitesnake’s early years and was undoubtedly the best active rock singer at the time. The voice was still at its best and the posturing, posing and over the top sexual innuendo hadn’t quite reached the ridiculous stage that it sadly got to in later years.
Now, having listened to this album three times today I have this uncontrollable urge to go out on the pull. The sisters and daughters might be safe these days though but you best keep your eye on the mothers and aunties just in case they used to frequent rock clubs in the early 80s !
Firstly Bernie Marsden got on the wrong side of Coverdale as he started to resemble Eddie Large* more than a rock guitarist. Image was king to Coverdale even then and he was already casting a worrying eye towards the pretty boy rockers that were emerging. Marsden eventually jumped ship but not before he signed one of the best pension plans the rock world has ever seen by co-writing ‘Here I Go Again’ before departing.
By December 1981 Whitesnake were effectively a two peice with only Coverdale and Jon Lord remaining. Micky Moody had instigated a discussion about money …….. or rather a lack of it. It transpired that depite all of the success of the previous couple of years they were in debt to the tune of £200,000 and only on modest wages. Moody left, Paice and Murray soon followed and then Coverdale fired manager John Coletta taking over the reins himself.
Before all this had happened the old line up had recorded the music tracks for “Saints and Sinners” in three sessions at Shepperton, Britannia Row and Clearwell Castle. In the summer of 1982 Coverdale approached Moody and persauded him to return. Initially only to lay down backing vocals to complete the album. In the meantime Coverdale had replaced Marsden, Murray and Paice with Mel Galley from Trapeze on guitar, Colin Hodgkinson on bass and Cozy Powell on drums. Coverdale, Moody and Galley went into Battery studios in September and recorded the vocal tracks. However, the original music tracks were left in tact so Galley was the only new member to appear but as a backing vocalist not a guitarist. The band had found a new hunger as Coverdale called it when interviewed with new best mate Cozy Powell on an episode of The Tube in December 1982. So all appeared hunky-dory again, at least from the outside.
The album itself is patchy in places compared to the previous two and the production is much harder and harsher. Coverdale is also particularly high in the mix in places and some of the tracks are pretty basic and get a little repetative. However, it definately has an ‘in your face’ live feel to it too.
Opener ‘Young Blood’ kicks things of at 100mph with Coverdale sounding in fine form still. ‘Rough and Ready’ is short and punchy and soon became a live favourite. Things speed up even more with the keyboard driven ‘Bloody Luxury’. It is like ‘Wine Women and Song’s bigger faster brother. Coverdale sneering and snarling his way around Lord’s driving keyboard. The track was initially released as a double ‘A’ side single with ‘Here I Go Again’ and was on release expected to be the stronger of the two. However, radio picked up on the latter despite its length, five minutes for a single was often considered too long in those days, and the rest as they say is history.
‘Here I Go Again’ of course went on to become one of the most played rock songs of all time. This original version though is far better than the hair metal version recorded some years later and features the original lyric of “hobo” rather than “drifter”. Check out the promotional video on youtube for Coverdale in unbelievable ‘Fame’ style white leg warmers !!!
‘Crying In The Rain’ is the only other track on the album on a par with the tracks from the previous two. An out and out rocking blues track very much in the vein of ‘Mistreated’, a song Coverdale recorded with Deep Purple and which by this point was the only Purple song still included in the live set. Coverdale wrote ‘Crying In The Rain’ specifically to replace ‘Mistreated’ in the live set and the latter was played live for the final time in the headlining set at the following years Monsters of Rock.
‘Victim of Love’ has an unfinished almost demo feel about it, ‘Love an’ Affection’ is most definately Whitesnake by numbers and has some truly awful Coverdale lyrics as does ‘Dancing Girls’, which is quite possibly the worst track recorded by the proper Whitesnake. ‘Rock n Roll Angels’ has a riff curiously similar to a Bad Company track and goes on a good minute too long. The title track closes the album and after a promising start really fails to go anywhere.
“Saints and Sinners” is a much better album than many give it credit for. Harsher, faster and far heavier than the earlier albums it suffers from having a few weak tracks on it and it is evident that at times the musicians are merely going through the motions. Coverdale however certainly puts his heart into it and at times you feel he was trying to save the album from mediocrity on his own. On the back of this album Whitesnake conquered the Monsters of Rock at Donington, headlining this time and basically as Coverdale himself put it “…..taking the f***ing sky off”.
HMS Whitesnake was back on course for a while at least but troubled waters were on the horizon !
(*Eddie Large is a british comedian who was part of the well known 80s TV double act Little and Large.)
So what of “Slide It In”, was it the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning. Depends where your allegances are I suppose but for me its the crossover album. With the exception of ‘Gambler’ the songs themselves are very much old style Whitesnake and although the overall sound is moving towards the American sound it is still steeped in british rock and blues ……… at least on the UK mix.
By the time the album was released Moody had left citing a lack of chemistry in the new line up of the band. Live shows were getting more theatrical with Cozy Powell insisting on explosives and blinding spotlights. Coverdale was always harping on about image too. Even Powell getting it in the neck for cutting his hair. Soon after the departure of Moody John Sykes was hired as replacement and Hodgkinson was fired for being unsuitable. Neil Murray returned but Whitesnake never had a settled line up ever again despite the success.
To make things even more confusing David Geffen hated the production and insisted the album was remixed before it was released in America. At the same time Murray and Sykes recorded over Hodgkinson and Moody’s parts, except for Moody’s slide guitar on ‘Slow An’ Easy’. Bill Cuomo was even bought in to add extra keyboard parts as Jon Lord left to reform Deep Purple. The US mix has the guitars much higher and has toned down the bass and keyboards giving it a more American feel. They also messed about with the running order, lost a huge chunk of ‘Hungry For Love’ and made slight adjustments to the echo effect on Coverdale’s vocal. In essence making it two seperate albums. For obvious reasons yours truly prefers the UK version.
Of the individual tracks ‘Gambler’ was very experimental and nothing like a usual, for the time, Whitesnake track. ‘Slide It In’ and ‘Spit It Out’ were typical Whitesnake of old with risque lyrics packed to the brim with sexual innuendo. Coverdale even quipped in an interview when facing criticism of his sexist lyrics that he wanted to call the next album “Whip it out wipe it and slide it back in again” but he didn’t think the record company would let him. ‘Standing in The Shadows’ was ‘Don’t Break My Heart Again’ part two and ‘Love Ain’t No Stranger’ was almost a hybrid of ‘Ain’t Gonna Cry No More’, ‘Til The Day I Die’ and ‘Here I Go Again’. Are you beginning to see a pattern emerging here.
‘Hungry For Love’, ‘Give Me More Time’ and ‘All or Nothing’ are more typical fast paced Whitesnake which are difficult not to like especially the former with its swirling Lord organ, foolishly omitted from the US mix.
‘Guilty of Love’ and ‘Slow an’ Easy’ are the albums highlights though. The former was in the live set long before the album came out, almost a year in fact and was released as a single long before the album albeit with a slightly different (again) mix. All I need to say about ‘Slow an’ Easy’ is that it shows in six minutes why Whitesnake without Micky Moody is not Whitesnake.
As the final notes of ‘Guilty of Love’ fade away with it for me goes the true Whitesnake. Yes the later albums were good and you’ll see that I have rated them highly but this was the end of proper Whitesnake for a lot of British fans at least. As myself and rather a lot of other people told them at Donington on their third visit in 1990 “Oi Coverdale you cheapskate where’s Micky Moody” being one that springs to mind. Needless to say Dot was not amused.
(C. Martin Leedham. All originally published on RYM September/October 2007 and October/November 2010)