In March 1976 David Coverdale contacted ex-Snafu guitarist Micky Moody and asked for his help with a planned solo album. Work began sooner than planned when Deep Purple broke up at the end of a poorly received UK tour. Despite lacking the finance to put a new band together, Coverdale was still able to record the solo album while still under contract to Purple's management. Roger Glover produced and contributed some bass, with Moody on guitar, plus session musicians Lisle Harper on bass and Simon Phillips on drums.
The album ‘Whitesnake', which included some tracks originally written for Deep Purple’s follow-up to ‘Come Taste The Band’, proved an introspective and under-worked collection of material. Even so, the good-time r’n’b title track (co-written with Micky Moody) was to give Coverdale the inspiration for his first group. By early 1977, when it was released into a punk-saturated vacuum, work was already approaching completion on a much superior follow-up. ‘Northwinds’ is regarded as one of Coverdale’s very best, in turn understated and powerful, soulful, and well produced.
In late 1977 Coverdale was finally in a position to begin putting together a touring band to promote ‘Northwinds’, whose release was held back to coincide. As a result the band was assembled in haste, and with the full knowledge that personnel might later change. Bernie Marsden joined from the ashes of Paice Ashton Lord to compliment Micky Moody and provide a twin lead guitar approach.
Bernie was followed by his ex-Hammer band-mate Neil Murray on bass. In turn Murray roped in David Dowle on drums, and the troublesome keyboard spot was hurriedly filled by Brian Johnstone, who at least brought the desired Hammond sound to the group. Both Dowle and Johnstone had previously been members of Streetwalkers. The band’s debut 'back to the roots' tour (many in cramped intimate UK venues) was chaotically organised, but despite everything proved a triumph. In its aftermath it was decided that with the new band already writing and performing its own material on stage (‘Northwinds’ barely got a look-in), a true vinyl representation of what the new band was about had to be captured as soon as possible. First though, a new keyboard player was required.
Brian Johnston had proved unsuitable for Whitesnake’s intense live performances, and Moody’s ex-Snafu colleague Pete Solley was quickly hired for the band’s first recording sessions.
The resulting ‘Snakebite’ EP included the old standard ‘Ain’t No Love (In The Heart Of The City)’, which was to become Whitesnake’s signature tune. After a follow-up round of live shows, and with a first group album almost complete, it was decided to replace Solley with Jon Lord, who agreed to join after hearing, and enjoying, the debut EP.
Jon Lord joined in time to overdub keyboards onto the new album, which was released as ‘Trouble’ in October 1978. It was generally viewed as a disappointment, largely failing to capture the energy which the band put across on stage. This was to become a recurring problem with a lot of the studio output.
The band’s stature
in the UK and Europe continued to grow apace however, aided
by Lord’s presence, and they ended the year with a headlining
show at London’s Hammersmith Odeon (soon to become their
second home). The show was recorded, and released in March 1980
(as a single edited album 'Live At Hammersmith') when the Japanese
decided that a live album would help the band's first tour there.
‘Lovehunter’ appeared in October 1979, and in good time for the supporting tour Ian Paice eagerly stepped in to the band, strengthening the live sound, and increasing the ex-Purple quota to three. The others responded with "No I wasn’t in Deep Fucking Purple’ t-shirts! With ‘Lovehunter’ already in the racks, the new line-up’s first recording sessions were for Bernie Marsden’s ‘About Time Too’ solo album.
The 1979 shows were possibly
the band’s peak live performances, and were followed up
in 1980 by their most consistent album to date in ‘Ready
& Willing’ and a #13 UK hit single in the shape of
the wonderfully taut ‘Fool For Your Loving’. In
the UK, Europe and Japan the band had hit the top, rounding
off the year at home with a headlining spot at the Reading Festival,
and another major album success with the 'Live In The Heart
Of The City' album, which added 1980 performances to the original
'Live At Hammersmith' to make up a double LP
.... 1976-78 David Coverdale Discography ....
.... 1976-1981 David Coverdale and Whitesnake Discography ....
.... 1978-1981 Whitesnake On Video ....
.... 1976-1981 David Coverdale And Whitesnake, Further Reading....