Did anyone think I wouldn’t post this video soon after that Tawny Kitaen entry? I never claimed I wasn’t predictable.
Anyhow, Whitesnake is a British hard-rock band centered around lead singer David Coverdale, who had formerly been a member of Deep Purple. They formed in 1978 and did pretty well in Europe and Japan, but failed to make any significant in-roads in North America. As a result, Coverdale was ready by the mid-80s to call it a day and dissolve the band. But a new deal with Geffen Records and a collaboration with guitarist Jim Sykes (formerly of Thin Lizzy) convinced Coverdale to give it one more shot. The result was the self-titled 1987 album Whitesnake. While some longtime fans lamented the band’s revamped sound and image, accusing Coverdale of “Americanization” (i.e., selling out), the makeover did the trick: Whitesnake was a smash success in the United States, where it peaked at number two on the Billboard chart and remained at or near that spot for an incredible seven months. (It would be occasionally eclipsed by three other monster albums from that year — Whitney Houston’s Whitney; Michael Jackson’s Bad; and The Joshua Tree by U2 — but it always seemed to drift back into position.) Whitesnake became the band’s biggest selling album globally and was so successful that it boosted sales of their previous effort, Slide It In, as well as spawning four singles: “Give Me All of Your Love,” “Still of the Night,” “Is This Love,” and “Here I Go Again.”
The biggest of these was “Here I Go Again,” which was actually a reworking of a song the band had recorded five years earlier. “Here I Go Again ’87,” as it was officially titled, was a number-one Billboard hit and finished out the year in the number-seven slot; it has since gone on to be listed on several retrospective lists, including VH1’s “100 Greatest Songs of the ’80s” and Rolling Stone‘s reader-selected “Best Hair Metal Songs of All Time.” It should be noted that there are two variants of the song: a radio edit that starts off with the electric guitars and the album version, with a longer, more introspective opening. This longer version is what was used in the video, and curiously it’s the one that appears on most of the compilations of ’80s music that are floating around out there. For years, I thought I must’ve imagined the other edit until the internet came along to help me track it down. (It’s not that I prefer the radio edit, per se, I just needed to know my memory wasn’t completely scrambled.)
The video, which prominently features Coverdale’s then-girlfriend Tawny Kitaen, is often credited for the song’s incredible success — Tawny herself wasn’t shy about making that claim — but as I said the other day, the song was out there and climbing the charts before the video debuted, and I think it probably would’ve been a hit with or without her. It’s simply a damn good tune with some evocative lyrics. Still, her gymnastic stunts and general sprawling across a pair of Jaguar XJs (one of which was Coverdale’s, the other director Marty Callner’s) is one of the more indelible images of the era. The New York Times has called this clip one of the “15 Essential Hair-Metal Videos”:
Tawny also appeared in the videos for “Still of the Night” and “Is This Love,” but neither of them impacted on the public consciousness the way this one did. One of those mysteries of the ages, I guess. Something about Tawny and those damned Jags just clicked with the public. She would marry David Coverdale two years later, in 1989, and they divorced two years after that. She later said in interviews that he couldn’t handle sharing the spotlight with her or knowing that she’d had a hand in the band’s success. Whether there’s any truth to that is open for debate; in the golden era of MTV, image often counted for more than substance, so she might not have been wrong about her contribution. However, I also think both of them had sizable egos, which couldn’t have made for the smoothest relationship. Whoever was right about the importance of those videos, though, it is true that Whitesnake never again reached the heights they experienced in 1987. Of course, that could have been because Coverdale had a falling out with Jim Sykes, who cowrote much of the album, and fired him from the band before the album even came out. The followup, Slip of the Tongue, was created with a completely different lineup than had appeared on Whitesnake, and these things do make a difference.
I will say this for David Coverdale: Ego or not, he’s one of the hardest working guys in rock and roll. Before COVID hit, he and the current iteration of Whitesnake were still out there touring, and in fact, I had tickets to see them — along with Sammy Hagar — last fall. The show was cancelled when the plague hit. I hope I get another chance.
Just for fun, here’s the earlier version of “Here I Go Again,” as heard on the 1982 album Saints & Sinners. It’s a pretty different animal, much more simply produced, much more of a ballad, even a bit soulful with an electric organ featuring prominently. And yes, that really is David Coverdale with dark hair; part of his “Americanization” makeover was bleaching it. I almost always tend to prefer originals to covers, and this one’s not bad. But I thought of the ’87 version as my personal theme song for far too long for this one to grab my heart. And I really prefer the slight change of lyrics from “hobo” to “drifter.” See what you think…