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35 Years Ago: Whitesnake Play Their First Show

David Coverdale

On Feb. 23, 1978, Whitesnake, led by former Deep Purple singer David Coverdale, performed their first concert at the Sky Bird Club in Nottingham, U.K. 

The dramatic and embarrassing collapse of Deep Purple surely made for one of the most spectacular rock and roll debacles of the mid-1970s; and while it was another British mega-band of the period that made of habit of placing zeppelins on its album covers, it was Purple that truly crashed and burned like the infamous Hindenburg.

Band members were quite literally scattered to the four winds amid their all-too public explosion in the Spring of 1976, and with the exception of guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, who had quit one year prior and was already off and running with his highly successful new venture, Rainbow, almost all of the other Purple players would need years to recover – both emotionally and professionally.

Some, like Mark IV guitarist Tommy Bolin, would sadly die trying.

In the case of final Purple vocalist, David Coverdale, who’d been plucked out of obscurity to replace famed screamer Ian Gillan in late-1973 and therefore suffered least of all involved from unbridled megalomania, getting back on his musical feet meant, first and foremost, overcoming his confessed terror of “living without Deep Purple.”

Secondly, it required coping with tax exile, as the singer was simultaneously forced to move his family to Germany in order to safeguard his voluminous earnings with Purple against Britain’s inordinately high taxes, thereby adding feelings of severe displacement to his existing disappointment over Purple’s demise.

But, figuring he’d better jump back into music before he stumbled right out of it, Coverdale almost immediately set to work composing songs with guitarist Micky Moody for the purpose of recording a pair of solo albums: the prophetically named ‘White Snake,’ released in February 1977, and ‘Northwinds,’ released in March 1978.

Even prior to the latter’s public unveiling, however, Coverdale had been cleared to return to England and, eager to get back to work, had assembled a real live band composed of Moody, fellow guitarist Bernie Marsden, bassist Neil Murray, keyboard player Pete Solley and drummer David “Duck” Dowle.

Initially billed as David Coverdale’s Whitesnake, this was the band that performed its debut concert at the Sky Bird Club in Nottingham, England – to widespread acclaim from the notoriously passionate U.K. press, which generally raved about the ensuing tours’ dates, as well.

And so, come April 1978, the newly solidified and now road tested Whitesnake was prepared to record its first batch of songs as the ‘Snakebite’ EP, followed just a few months later by a long-playing debut, ‘Trouble’ (featuring newly recruited Deep Purple keyboardist, Jon Lord), which, combined, would officially launch the second act of Coverdale’s remarkable career in rock.

This second act, following extensive success in Europe and the Far East, duly gave way to a third involving a more bombastic hard rock style, prettier band members, models humping automobiles and lots of peroxide to pave way for Whitesnake’s belated conquering of America; then a fourth act filled with disappointments after the inevitable fall from grace, if you can call it that.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, but rather celebrate the birth, some 35 years ago, of one of the world’s finest heavy blues-rock bands, backing up one of our finest ever voices.

Next: Top Rock Concert Opening Songs

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