If you grew up in the 1980s, it's part of your pop culture DNA: Images of Whitesnake lead singer David Coverdale driving his white Jaguar XJ, intermingled with scenes of his future ex-wife, lingerie-clad Tawny Kitaen, cavorting seductively on the hood. It's the band's music video for "Here I Go Again," and the whole decadent affair is emblematic of the decade's overindulgence: big hair, big, unforgettable, choruses and big spenders.
Despite Coverdale's prominence in the 1980s hard rock pantheon, the British singer was already firmly established as a high-profile rocker by then, thanks to his tenure as the frontman of Deep Purple's "Mark III" and "Mark IV" lineups from 1973 to 1976. After the temporary dissolution of Deep Purple, Coverdale formed Whitesnake in 1978.
With the new Whitesnake release, "The Purple Album," Coverdale has brought his music career full circle, leading Whitesnake through new versions of tunes he originally recorded with Purple, like the title tracks to the gold-selling albums "Burn" and "Stormbringer."
Coverdale recently chatted with HNGN about "The Purple Album" - which was spurred by Coverdale's recent discussions with Deep Purple founding guitarist Ritchie Blackmore about a possible project together - Whitesnake's newest members, the potential for a Purple reunion and leaving the door open for Jimmy Page, the legendary Led Zeppelin guitarist with whom Coverdale formed the 1990s supergroup Coverdale/Page.
Tell me about your initial talks with Ritchie Blackmore about working together again.
The sole agenda I had when I reached out to Ritchie was twofold: to commiserate on the tragic loss of [former Deep Purple and Whitesnake organist] Jon Lord and to express my gratitude to him personally for his part in giving me such an incredible opportunity to be the lead singer for Deep Purple...still somewhat mind-blowing when I reflect on it.
After communicating back and forth for a while, Ritchie asked if I would speak to his manager. It was Carole [Stevens] who first asked me "Can you keep a secret?" I said, "Of course not, I'm a singer, I tell my secrets to the world!" It was then the discussions began about doing a project together, either under a Purple name, or Blackmore Coverdale, similar to the project I made with Jimmy Page. It was at this time I started to re-acquaint myself with the "Burn" and "Stormbringer" albums.
What specifically made you decide to ultimately not undertake the proposed project with him?
My first love is Whitesnake, obviously, but my reconnect and respect for Ritchie made the possibility of a mutual project interesting. But, as I continued talks with Carole through the summer of 2013, it became quite clear I couldn't share their vision of what they wanted to do.
I was and am fine with my decision to respectfully withdraw, as there truly was no agenda on my part to finish with the Snakes, though we did discuss my contributing to writing something new with him for a project. As you can hear, the music we wrote together has certainly stood the test of time, but the only caveat was that they had better be quick as I was preparing for promo and touring, and then my focus would be elsewhere.
I wish him, Glenn [Hughes] and Ian Paice all the success in the world...and who knows what the future holds? I feel that a reunion of all the surviving members of Deep Purple sometime would be the ultimate "thank you" to our incredible fan base that not only has supported Purple but all the spinoff bands for over 40 years. That would certainly be a night to remember, and I'd definitely be on board for that.
What did the other guys in Whitesnake think of the idea of doing "The Purple Album"?
I only discussed it with Doug Aldrich while we were touring in 2013. He was actually very encouraging that I should do it. Go figure... The rest of the guys were completely on board when I discussed the Purple project with them. They had all been inspired by Purple in their early careers. They couldn't have been more positive, and that was prevalent throughout the recording.
What type of approach did you take to the songs? Was it important to you to remain faithful to the original versions?
Of course. The House of Purple is stronger than ever. I feel we gave some things a fresh coat of paint, moved the furniture around and threw a nice Snake rug in front of the fireplace. Once I started digging in to the original albums, I was truly impressed by how f-----g good we were! The arrangement approaches were building day to day once I came to terms with the idea of this as a Whitesnake album. It was really unfolding as if it were meant to be.
Choosing the songs was as easy as ordering your favorite foods from your favorite restaurant, though I would have liked to have re-cooked "Dealer" and "I Need Love" from "Come Taste The Band," cool tunes I wrote with the exceptionally talented Tommy Bolin.
The primary concern was that everything we did would be respectful to the original songs and the musicians who created them. That was paramount not only to me, but to the band as a collective.
I found obvious, but at times surprising, musical threads from the stylings of Purple through pretty much through all my Whitesnake albums. Also, given the fact that Jon Lord and Ian Paice joined me in the Snakes early on, so obviously sonic identities came in to play way back then. But my learning experience with Purple has proved life-long. Such an amazing school to learn my trade and incredibly talented mentors to tutor me.
For instance, I started with the acoustic idea of "Sail Away" whilst still in dialogue with Ritchie, actually. I thought it might be a cool transition from his work in Blackmore's Night, and perhaps even a duet with his lovely wife, Candice. That arrangement unfolded beautifully. One of my favorites.
In essence, we just "Snaked" them up. Doug was initially on board and we worked on some of the early ideas together, but we couldn't find the necessary time to truly focus on what needed to be done. After he departed, Michael Devin came up to help me with "Lady Luck" and assorted goodies. Then Reb [Beach] flew in in between his gigs with Winger and had prepared so significantly, my co-producer Michael McIntyre and I asked him to co-produce the album with us. He did an amazing, heroic job, without a doubt. Joel Hoekstra was in the band a lot earlier than most people were aware, but we kept it under wraps out of respect to his band at the time, but he brought the magic, too.
So, in essence, everyone brought something to the Purple party. Tommy Aldridge came in to track the drums and brought an energy that really raised the bar for all of us. His relentless driving force kicked the whole project up several significant notches. It really is a band effort.
What types of memories were conjured up when you worked on these songs you originally recorded decades ago?
All positive, I'm happy to say. I reconnected on so many positive memories. I'm not the most "nostalgic" man - I'm very much "done that," now what, what are we going to do tomorrow? Sitting next to Reb and Joel while they roared through their solos on "Burn" and remembering sitting next to Ritchie in the Stones Mobile Studio when he was recording the original solo...amazing over 40 years later. Clear, vivid memories.
Tommy Bolin and I wrote "Love Child" after hanging out and getting somewhat compromised with Bob Marley and The Wailers. We loved Bob and reggae, and that was the first approach we took with the song...then realized that it wasn't something that Purple would have gone for, so we "butched" it up. We just added some nasty elements on the Snake version.
Tell me about the process of replacing Doug Aldrich and how you came to choose Joel Hoekstra from Night Ranger for the job.
Well, firstly I don't look at it as "replacing" anyone when we invite new blood into the band. I'd heard Joel when his band opened for us in Arizona and was very, very impressed, and he came well-recommended through good friends of mine in the industry.
He was, I believe, the first guy to throw his hat in the ring. I wasn't in any rush at that time, being caught up in the project, so I didn't respond quite as quickly to him as I should, but it all unfolded wonderfully. He is an absolute treasure, personally and musically, and most welcome to the Whitesnake family. Crowds are gonna love him and Michele Luppi, our fab new keyboardist extraordinaire. The House of Snake has a fresh, new energy that is infectious. A very positive bunch of lovely, talented people. I feel very fortunate.
Whitesnake has obviously had a long and amazing run. What are some of the highlights for you?
Oh, Lord...Impossible, sorry. There's been lightning in every chapter. An amazing adventure and it's still unfolding.
What else would you like to accomplish?
Getting through "The Purple Tour." It may go on longer than any we've done for many years. That is truly my current ambition.
In a press release for the new album, you said, "I thought it would be cool to go out, as it were, the way I came in to this music business." Does that mean this is your final album?
Not sure...I do know when we were mixing the album I told my dear friend and right-hand man, Michael Mac, that it felt as if I'd come full circle...a feeling of completion.
Obviously, I have other projects on the backburner, but I truly love expressing myself through music. The business I could turn my back on right now, but music? Nah. I love it way too much.
Were there any negatives to the huge success of songs like "Here I Go Again," "Is This Love" and so on in the 1980s? Do you feel Whitesnake became unfairly labeled as an "80s band" or a "hair metal" band and lumped in with some acts that maybe you shouldn't be lumped in with?
Who cares? It all unfolded as it was meant to. No complaints here.
Have you stayed in touch with Jimmy Page? Could you envision working with him again?
Jimmy is one of the most gifted and charming people I've ever met. The bonus for me is that I got to work alongside one of my heroes and maintain a wonderful friendship with him. He knows if he wanted my contribution, he's got it.
What drew you to Lake Tahoe, Nev., where you make your home, and what has kept you there?
Initially it was for tax reasons and proximity to Los Angeles, but, I found my soulmate there and I am at peace in that environment. You'd need an oyster knife to get me out of there.
How would you describe your relationship with Whitesnake fans?
For such an intensely private man, I have developed into quite the intimate social media hound through whitesnake.com, Facebook and Twitter, our global Whitesnake family.
Beyond the tour dates and any album promo, what's next for Whitesnake?
We shall have to see. We have a bunch of shows to perform and preach the Gospel of the Snake wherever we're invited.