Early Years Part 1





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Well, well, well... 25 years... and sometimes it seems like only yesterday... (Cue the slow, and terribly sentimental music)... But, what a wonderful journey!!!

Against all the odds, some would say...

Other than the splendid audiences who supported us from the very beginning... modest in size tho' they were... I can't remember ANYONE thinking we had a chance in hell of making it... It was the late 70's... London was bristling with punk bands... most of whom couldn't really play, God Bless 'em... and didn't particularly care if they could... It was all about attitude... frustration... rebellion... safety pins, Vaseline... their own unique fashion... and why not???

For me, coming out of Deep Purple... an acknowledged 'superstar' band... to be told I was too old to rock at 25 years old... it was all somewhat daunting, to say the least...

After the bloated, decadent excesses of what the press dubbed the 'dinosaur' bands... ('guilty', M'lud)... the punk rebellion was lovingly embraced by the majority of the UK music press... some of whom took perverse delight in putting completely unknown pub bands on the cover of their weekly papers...

This was the time when I was putting the first chapter of Whitesnake together...

Even after being part of one of the biggest bands in contemporary rock music... the ever so fab Deep Purple... a 'MEGA'-dinosaur band, according to the terribly fashionable press... I found it hard to get a decent record deal... and ended up with about a dozen small labels all over the bloody place... EMI, whom I was with until 2001, almost 30 years, weren't even sure if there was a market at that time for a hard rock blues band... (shocking, really, when you think of how good looking we all were!!!)...

Eventually, we talked them into releasing a 4 track EP ... 'Snakebite'... featuring the great Bobby Bland song 'Ain't No Love In The Heart Of The City'... from his 'Dreamer' album... (an absolute 'must have' if you like them good rhythm and blues songs... )

Micky Moody and I had rearranged the song, and slowed it down, to audition the 'feel' and test the groove sensibility of potential members... From what I'm told the 4 song white vinyl EP went on to become quite the collector's item...

Originally I had no plans to actually record 'Ain't No Love In The Heart Of The City'... if you can you believe it... a song that connects so deeply with so many that I still play it today, 25 years later, in concerts throughout Europe and Japan... I don't have the balls to leave it off the set-list!!

As I said many years ago... the song doesn't belong to the band anymore... it belongs to the Whitesnake Choir...

I had flown to London in 1977 to start looking for players... Micky Moody was the first 'Snake... We'd worked together on my first two solo albums 'Whitesnake, and 'Northwinds'... and had known each other for several years... In fact, he was a local hero of mine, back in Teesside, in the North of England... (wipes a nostalgic tear from his eye)... I can still remember seeing him up on stage, playing a beat up, cream coloured Telecaster, with Gibson pick-ups, which was rumored to have once belonged to the Guv'nor... Jeff Beck... I believed in Micky, and thought he had tremendous potential to be a great blues rock slide player... it was just waiting to be encouraged out of him...

At that time he was working with Frankie Miller, a great Scottish soul singer... I had arranged with Micky to go and see them perform somewhere in London... (the Rainbow???)... and it was at that show that I bumped into Mrs. Marsden's little lad, Bernie... I'd met Bernie casually in Munich when he was with Paice Ashton Lord... He asked what I was doing in town, and on being told, immediately offered to come and help out... Shrewd, was ol' Bernie... At first I wasn't sure... I hadn't really determined if I would pursue the concept of TWO guitarists... or, if I could actually AFFORD two guitarists!!!... Anyway, he turned up at the rehearsal room... classic Les Paul in hand... and the rest, as they say, is history...

The first real problem we encountered was bass players... Everyone who turned up was of a rather 'punk' persuasion... stick thin with spiky, greasy hair... They all looked the part... but, sadly, couldn't really play more than the E-string... but, which they played with GREAT attitude!!!... Sadly, on something like 'Ain't No Love', with it's subtle, humping groove, that approach simply didn't work... Bernie said a friend of his lived close by... and would probably come over to help us out...

Enter stage right... Mr. Neil Murray... another player whom I didn't think would be 'right' for the part at first sight... very nice, but, a VERY 'straight' looking chappie... but, the more we worked together... it became obvious... and, once again... Fate played it's hand... A STERLING and caring player whose remarkable, melodic work stands up today, without any shadow of a doubt... YEAH!!!

I can't remember how David 'Duck' Dowle came to be our drummer... being a fully paid up member of the CRAFT CLUB... .( 'Can't Remember A Fucking Thing' ) I know originally I was very keen on the rhythm section of bassists Alan Spenner, DeLisle Harper, Chrissie Stewart, or Mickey Feat and a cracking drummer Graham Broad... and I think it was Mr. Feat, or Graham who suggested Duck... Yet another player that I was unsure about at first!!!... His playing was light, but, crisp and excellent... His obvious youth concerned me... but, a sweet man, nonetheless... Very enthusiastic...

A fine bunch of misfits...

So... this was to be the first Whitesnake... or, as it was originally called... David Coverdale's Whitesnake...

Our first mission as a band was to promote my second solo album, 'Northwinds'... and, as nobody really believed my unfashionable 'name' would be any guarantee to sell a decent amount of tickets at that time, it was agreed that to save 'face', we would embark on a small club and modest theatre tour...

I knew somebody was wrong when at most of the gigs there were more people outside than could get in the actual venue!!!

It was almost a complete disaster from the start as all the dates were printed incorrectly in the music papers!!!

Oh, by the way... I believe the first actual show by Whitesnake was at the Lincoln Polytech... NOT the Nottingham 'Whatsit'... or wherever most of the unauthorised history books say... Oh, yes...and the van broke down on our way back to London!!!

After the tour, Micky, Bernie and I adjourned to a smelly cellar, just around the corner from the Purple office at 25, Newman St... in London's West End... We immediately dubbed it the Cat Piss Cellar... Quite horrid... but, it definitely contributed to us working fast... just so we could get out of there... breathe... and cut a dash across the street to the Newman Arms... A fine watering hole... and pretty soon the songs; 'Come On'... 'Bloody Mary'... 'Trouble'... 'The Time Is Right For Love'... 'Lie Down, I Think I Love You'... 'Steal Away'... 'Don't Mess With Me', etc... started to take shape... and we discovered much 'fun' was to be had in the creating... a somewhat unknown element for me in the latter days with Deep Purple... Get the work done... and have a good laugh at the same time... Not too shabby a concept, and still embraced today...

In fact having a good time and a laugh was a HUGE factor in the early days of Whitesnake... and it helped immeasurably in our ability to overcome the many obstacles placed in our path... We were true comrades in arms...

It was also at that time I introduced the concept of taking the publishing credit of one song per album and sharing it equally among the band... So, if those early albums had been more commercially successful then the publishing 'gesture' would have made more sense... A little extra incentive, an 'appreciation', as it were... Well... that was the idea... Anyway, the main reason was that I was so uncomfortable with the modest budget that I had to offer the players in those days... The early wages were nothing to write home about, but, it was the best I could manage at the time... and as someone said... it was better than having a 'proper' job!!!

All the early Whitesnake albums were recorded and/or mixed at Central Studios... and Sauna!!!... Located in Denmark St, just off the Charing Cross Rd...

I'd been introduced to the studio when Roger Glover and I were doing some recording for my second solo album, 'Northwinds'... which for an assortment of unfortunate contractual reasons, could not be represented here on this splendid little package...

Sad, actually, as 'Northwinds' was the blueprint for Whitesnake's original musical direction... but, you know those 'olde' contracts... (well... I do!!!)

Martin Birch, my old pal from the Purple days, agreed to produce us... Man, it was so hot down in that basement studio!!!... Not the most salubrious joint... tiny, actually, but, it had all the toys we needed to commit our sweaty performances to tape...

The control room was actually above the studio... Lovely people running the place, too... Stash Yeadon... Freddie... and God Bless 'em... they gave us a princely deal... When Jon Lord joined us, halfway thro' the recording of the 'Trouble' album... the whole place shook with the sheer power of his sound...

I distinctly recall Micky Moody being shocked at how 'heavy' it sounded... and me being delighted!!!... There is no one... NO one... with his sound... The ability to shake mountains, Mate!!!

If I remember correctly... we recorded and mixed the 'Trouble' album in 10 whole days!!!... Whatever happened to those days???... Anyway... other than live stuff... that was without a doubt the quickest in and out album I've ever been involved with... OOO-ER!!!

For the 'Lovehunter' album we adjourned to the beautiful Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire... Clearwell Castle... the scene of former glories with the Ever-So-Fab Deeps... accompanied by an old tried and trusted friend...

"Ladies and Gentlemen... put yer hands together... the Rolling Stones Mobile Recording Studio!!!"... or Café Mobile, as it came to be called... Basically, it was a little, but, fully functioning studio built inside a big truck... Perfect for live recording... The songwriting team of Coverdale, Marsden and Moody was definitely improving...