In 1987 I was 14 and having a very difficult time. Puberty was in full swing and most of my classmates directed their frenzied hormonal energies towards proper pop stars: George Michael was the rampantly heterosexual, dangerous choice for bad girls, and Michael Jackson seemed like the most uncomplicated, innocent fella that any girl could kiss a poster of.
Aaah, they were simpler times. But I had a dirty little secret. One that even now causes me to blush as I type it: none of those pop fops did anything to stir my girlish heart, I was aswoon for someone a little bit more down and dirty. There was something about David Coverdale that just… well, moved me in a way that my 14-year-old brain struggled to cope with.
I’m still not quite sure what it was that gave me that funny, fizzy feeling downstairs, I think it was a combination of…
1) The Voice
I have to confess that I was never a fan of Deep Purple (I was only three when they split up, so that’s my excuse). It was only recently that I heard any of their stuff at all. A rocker friend played me the whole of Machine Head during a session of ‘playing records to girls that they’d never normally hear because only boys listen to this kind of stuff’. I didn’t detest it, and loved Gillan’s voice.
So then we moved on to other Purple albums, until he reluctantly played me Stormbringer. I can’t deny that Gillan was a genius singer, but I just love the bluesiness of Coverdale’s voice. Also, I know now that he was originally from Saltburn-by-the-Sea (check out their smuggler’s museum, by the way), and I’ve always been a sucker for any accent from the North East – even [Geordie ex-England footballer] Peter Beardsley makes me go spoony.
2) The Look
What goes better with a big voice that even bigger hair? The 80s glam metal bands were all geniuses of back-combing and hairspray work. The nice thing about Whitesnake was that they weren’t quite as – well, to use a very 80s word – naff as the other cock rockers. Not for Whitesnake Dee Snider’s ridiculous curls or David Lee Roth’s unpleasantly tight spandex affairs.
Whitesnake looked like proper blokes, albeit blokes who’d spent a little bit too long in the hairdresser’s. Whatever Coverdale had goin’ on, it clearly worked – who wasn’t moved by the fact that the model who starred in their videos (the comely Tawny Kitaen) was swept off her feet and agreed to marry him? And she could do the splits and everything.
3) The Tunes
Is This Love still makes me nod my head along, Slide It In still makes me chuckle, but the song that gets me to turn the radio up loud, the song that I think we all know and love, the song, in fact, that I want played at my funeral (and I mean that most sincerely) is… join in if you know it: ‘Here I go again on my own/ Goin’ down the only road I’ve ever known/Like a drifter I was born to walk alone…’
Whitesnake, I salute you. David Coverdale, I love you.
Lucy Porter's Wake Up Call UK tour runs from January through May 2023, and tickets are on sale now (opens in new tab). This feature originally ran in issue 100 of Classic Rock.