Whitesnake are a hard rock band formed in London in 1978. The group was originally put together as the backing band for singer David Coverdale, who had recently left Deep Purple. Though the band quickly developed into their own entity, Coverdale is the only constant member throughout their history.
Whitesnake enjoyed much success in the UK, Europe and Japan through their early years. Their albums Ready an' Willing, Come an' Get It and Saints & Sinners all reached the top ten on the UK Albums Chart. By the mid-1980s, however, Coverdale had set his sights on breaking through in North America, where Whitesnake remained largely unknown. With the backing of American label Geffen Records, Whitesnake released their eponymous album in 1987, which became their biggest success to date, selling over eight million copies in the US and spawning the hit singles "Here I Go Again" and "Is This Love". Whitesnake also adopted a more contemporary look, akin to the Los Angeles glam metal scene. After releasing Slip of the Tongue in 1989, Coverdale decided to put Whitesnake on hold to take a break from the music industry. Aside from a few short-lived reunions in the 1990s, Whitesnake remained mostly inactive until 2003, when Coverdale put together a new line-up to celebrate the band's 25th anniversary. Since then Whitesnake have released four more studio albums and toured extensively around the world.
Whitesnake's early sound has been characterized by critics as blues rock, but by the mid-1980s the band slowly began moving toward a more commercially accessible hard rock style. Topics such as love and sex are common in Whitesnake's lyrics, which have been criticized for their excessive use of sexual innuendos and double entendres. Whitesnake have been nominated for several awards during their career, including Best British Group at the 1988 Brit Awards. They have also been featured on lists of the greatest hard rock bands of all time by several media outlets, while their songs and albums have appeared on many "best of" lists by outlets, such as VH1 and Rolling Stone.
In March 1976, singer David Coverdale left the English hard rock group Deep Purple. He had joined the band three years prior and recorded three successful albums with them. After leaving Deep Purple, Coverdale released his solo album White Snake in May 1977. His second solo album Northwinds was released in March 1978. Both combined elements of blues, soul and funk, as Coverdale had wanted to distance himself from the hard rock sound synonymous with Deep Purple. Both records featured former Snafu guitarist Micky Moody, whom Coverdale had known since the late 1960s. As Coverdale began assembling a backing band in London, Moody was the first to join. Among the other early candidates for the group were drummers Dave Holland and Cozy Powell, as well as guitarist Mel Galley. The decision to recruit a second guitarist was made at Moody's suggestion. Bernie Marsden, formerly of UFO and Paice Ashton Lord, agreed to join. Through Marsden, they were also able to recruit bassist Neil Murray, as the two had played together in Cozy Powell's Hammer. The band's initial line-up was rounded out by drummer Dave "Duck" Dowle and keyboardist Brian Johnson, who had played together in Streetwalkers.
The band, dubbed David Coverdale's Whitesnake, played their first show at Lincoln Technical College on 3 March 1978. Their live debut had originally been scheduled for 23 February at the Sky Bird Club in Nottingham, but the show was cancelled. Coverdale had originally wanted the group to be simply called Whitesnake, but was forced to use his own name as it still carried some clout as the former lead singer of Deep Purple. In interviews, Coverdale would jokingly state that the name "Whitesnake" was a euphemism for his penis, while in fact, it came from the song of the same name found on his first solo album. After completing a small UK club tour, the band adjourned to a rehearsal place in London's West End to begin writing new songs. They soon caught the attention of EMI International's Robbie Dennis, who wanted to sign the group. According to Bernie Marsden, however, his higher-ups were not ready to commit to a full album. Thus, the band entered London's Central Recorders Studio in April 1978 to record an EP. By this point, original keyboardist Brian Johnston had been replaced by Pete Solley.Martin Birch, who had worked with Coverdale during his time in Deep Purple, was chosen to produce. The resulting record, Snakebite, was released in June 1978. In Europe, the EP was combined with four tracks from Coverdale's album Northwinds to make up a full-length album.Snakebite also contained a slowed down cover of Bobby Bland's "Ain't No Love in the Heart of the City", which had originally been used by the band to audition bass players. While the song was only included because the group were short on songs, the track would later become a popular live staple at Whitesnake concerts, with Coverdale calling it "the national anthem of the Whitesnake choir", referring to the band's audience. When Snakebite reached number 61 on the UK Singles Chart, the band were duly signed to EMI proper.
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