ALBUM (1987)

Rewind, album: 'Whitesnake', by Whitesnake

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 February, 2013, 6:00pm



Geffen/Warner Bros

Think big hair, think histrionic guitars, think women cavorting over cars. Think Whitesnake.

For a moment in the 1980s, the biggest band from Middlesbrough (closest contender, soft-pop crooner Chris Rea) were the kings of the Los Angeles hair metal scene.

They may not have scaled the heights of day-glo ludicrousness reached by American peers such as Poison and Motley Crue, but David Coverdale's blues-rockers-turned-glam-metal squealers did win British bragging rights to strut down Sunset Strip in Neanderthal rock's cross-dressing heyday.

Derided as derivative, preening peacocks, they nonetheless bestrode MTV with a preposterously kitsch combination of confidence, nauseatingly provocative promo films and an eye for cashing in on changing pop fads.

Coverdale was no stranger to fame: he'd been drafted in to strut and holler for metal pioneers Deep Purple in the wake of their early 1970s peak after Ian Gillan, the band's most celebrated of their many lead singers, called it a day. But what could a poor boy do when, in 1976, his lead guitarist - meta-loon Ritchie Blackmore - stormed out of the band in a huff?

Answer: form the group that rock-TV station VH1 would vote the 85th greatest hard-rock band of all time (behind Led Zeppelin and AC/DC, obviously, and, less obviously, flute-toting minstrels Jethro Tull), and sell a shed-load of hairspray-metal records into the bargain.

After a few shaky albums with lewd names that revelled in apostrophic brevity ( Ready an' Willing and Come an' Get It) brought a modicum of commercial success in Britain, Whitesnake hit the big time in 1987 when they shifted style from heavy-blues denim boys to poodle-perm pomp-metallists for their eponymously titled seventh album.

If you're not familiar with the Whitesnake oeuvre, it's the album that (like those released by so many long-running bands at the time, Bruce Springsteen and ZZ Top included) should be renamed The Album With the Song You Probably Know. Among the hits Whitesnake spawned were Here I Go Again (No2 on the US charts and No9 in Britain) and Is This Love (again, weirdly, No2 in the US and No9 in Britain).

By pandering to the American taste for squealing guitars and effeminate wardrobes welded to misogynistic videos, Whitesnake broke away from the down'n'dirty British blues-based heavy-rock template. But it didn't take long for the bandwagon to roll to a stop. With the emerging alternative rock scene feeding a hunger for less showy metal, Whitesnake's appeal began to sag.

By the late 1980s, The Pixies, Nirvana and Pearl Jam were satisfying the hard-rockers' need for noise and within months the air had been taken out of the hair bands. In 1990, months after the release of Slip of the Tongue, Coverdale finally folded the band. Until the inevitable re-formation, that is.