Tales from a Metalhead: Chapter 27: Ready and Willing!

Tales from a Metalhead logo

This chapter is part of a book called Tales from a Metalhead written by Metal Express Radio’s President Stig G. Nordahl. The chapters will be posted one at the time and you can find them all here.

Every good rocker has a Whitesnake neon sign on the bedroom wall, right…?

I told you there would be more Whitesnake, so I hope you are “Ready and Willing”…  Unfortunately, I never got to see the band before they got “Americanized” and David Coverdale got new lineups. I appreciated the 1987 release (actually called Whitesnake) and Slip of the Tongue (1989), but that was like a totally different band. I grew up with the Hard Blues Rock band they were in the late 70s/early 80s, and nothing will ever beat that era. Many believe that Slide It In (1984) or Whitesnake was their debut album but they had actually released five albums prior to Slide It In. Check out what you have missed! After I discovered the band in the early 80s, I purchased all their albums including a bunch of solo albums released by the members. I have seen “new” Whitesnake and spin-off bands by ex-members a bunch of times. Actually, as often as I could. Up until now…

Someone obviously killed time between the bands drawing sunglasses…

In 1990, Whitesnake returned to Donington to headline Monsters of Rock. They also played a show under that moniker in Stockholm, Sweden, with Poison and The Quireboys. That was my first chance to see the band live after being a fan for so many years. I had planned to drive from Oslo to Stockholm with two friends to attend the show. I phoned my friend, who we had planned to pick up on the way out of Oslo, but his mom told me he was in England to see Whitesnake at Donington… That was life before mobile phones and the Internet. Now we had an extra ticket. After some quick brainstorming we drove down to our school to ask a rocker friend if he wanted to join us for a trip to Sweden to see Whitesnake. He said: “Sure, when?” “Uh, right now…” “Sure!” He ran back to the classroom to pick up his bag and skipped the rest of the day. I believe my friend and I had skipped the whole day. We drove by his house to pick up a sleeping bag and off we went.

A lot of Norwegians who live close to the border go to Sweden regularly to buy cheap food, tobacco and alcohol. You can actually go between the countries without a passport. It’s not unusual to be stopped by the customs officers at the border on the way back into Norway, for a check that you haven’t brought more of the good stuff than what is allowed. This time we were stopped at the border driving INTO Sweden for a far more thorough search than I ever experienced going in the opposite direction. The customs officers waved us into a garage and emptied the car completely. I was brought into a small room next door and was asked to take off my jacket. I got kind of shaky and was halfway expecting him to reach for gloves and Vaseline. Luckily he didn’t. He went through my pockets and asked if I had any hashish. I told him I don’t even smoke cigarettes and that we don’t bring any booze INTO Sweden. I believe three Hard Rockers in a small yellow Mazda 1300 playing loud Rock music made the border patrol suspicious. I was often stopped by customs while I had long hair, but never in a car going into Sweden.

Monsters of Rock took place in Globen. Yes, it’s a huge globe and it was cool to visit for the first time. The bands put on a great show. I thought Poison’s show was ruined by the volume being too low, so it lacked some spark. It was not the band’s fault of course. The strongest memory I have from Whitesnake’s performance is actually Steve Vai’s solo spot. Not so much because of his playing, but the show he put on. He obviously didn’t have any restrictions and posed just as much as Coverdale. Even though Slip of the Tongue is a fairly good record I never thought Vai was a good match for the band.

After the show we jumped in the car to drive back to Oslo. I was the only one with a driver’s license so I had to do all the driving. The trip took several hours and it was getting very late. My buddies were fast asleep in the backseat. After driving for a few hours I kind of dozed off and abruptly woke up as the car was going into the wrong lane. That was a scary experience and it could easily have gone really bad. I parked the car right away and slept for a few hours. We woke up almost freezing to death. Rock ‘n’ Roll life is hard.

The first time I ever talked to any of the Whitesnake members from my favorite period was in 1990. Right out of the blue I noticed that Bernie Marsden was going to play a show in Oslo with the Norwegian band Perfect Crime. He had produced their debut album Blonde On Blonde and even written a track for it. It’s a great AOR album by the way! The band and Bernie were available for interviews so I signed up for both. Spending some quality time alone with Bernie was huge for me. He turned out to be a real British gentleman who gladly shared stories from the past. I was excited to hear his thoughts on the new slick versions Whitesnake had released of the older tracks “Crying in the Rain” and “Here I Go Again”. The latter penned by Bernie himself. I hated the new versions. You can simply not replace Jon Lord’s Hammond organ on “Here I Go Again” with some cheap 80s keyboards. Well, of course you can and that’s what happened, and it became a huge hit. I hated it and I still do. To my huge surprise Bernie said he liked the new version, but he actually changed his mind in an interview I did with him later.

Bad or good re-recordings aside, Bernie laughed all the way to the bank in the end anyway. I’ll get back to that later. I was also curious to hear his thoughts on David Coverdale as Bernie was fired by him because he wanted guys that “didn’t look like they played in a pub band”. Bernie answered in a diplomatic way that Coverdale is an “artistic kind of guy” and that he never had any problems with him. After reading Bernie’s bio I know he was very disappointed being fired from the band. The meeting was one of the highlights for me up to that point, even though I had interviewed far bigger artists. I actually found the cassette with the interview recently. Bernie appreciated the interview too. He bought me a drink and a sandwich and said: “We need people like you”. Oh boy, a great compliment from one of my all time heroes!


The show took place at Elm Street Rock Café. Perfect Crime played songs off their new album and Bernie came on stage to play on the track “Liar”, which he had written for them, and Whitesnake’s “Youngblood”. After the show we hung out in the bar and chatted even more. It was a great day for a fan of the real Whitesnake.

Mickey Moody @Smuget, Oslo

Both original Whitesnake guitarists Bernie Marsden and Mickey Moody started playing together again a few years later. They spent a lot of time in Norway and actually formed a band with Norwegian musicians, which they called The Snakes. On vocals they had Jorn Lande (known from his own band Jorn, and bands like Masterplan, ARK and Vagabond) whose voice could be mistaken for Coverdale’s if you closed your eyes. The band carried on the old Whitesnake legacy by playing songs from the first albums. They did a show in Oslo at a place called “Lusa”. I was excited to see both Whitesnake guitarists onstage playing all my favorite songs. The show was great! I was in the first row singing my lungs out to every song. Towards the end of the show Bernie pointed at me and said to the audience: “If anyone here has any questions about the lyrics, just ask that guy!” I know all the songs by heart! For a long time me and a friend quoted lines from Whitesnake tracks on every possible occasion. Coverdale didn’t always write the deepest lyrics, but there is nothing to say about the sleaziness. I heard Jorn was fired from the band because he was acting too much like David Coverdale on stage… They changed the band’s name to Company of Snakes and recruited a Swedish vocalist, but I never really checked out that lineup.

It was supposed to be a solo album. The label put “Whitesnake” on it.

In 1999, the real deal, well at least David Coverdale with new musicians, was playing a show in Norway. He had just released the Restless Heart (1997) album which really disappointed me, mostly because it showed some signs of Coverdale’s voice cracking. He recorded a cover version of “Stay With Me Baby” that a Norwegian singer Trine Rein also had done some time before. David’s vocals on that song are the worst I’ve ever heard and I couldn’t believe they put it on the album. The chorus is just terrible and I just can’t stand listening to it. It is a shame because the album has some good tracks on it.

I don’t remember the reason, but I didn’t have a ticket for the sold out show. Maybe I didn’t get on the list as expected or I had prioritized a different event. What I do know is that I was invited to taste the new Christmas brews at Ringnes Brewery in Oslo. It’s always a joyful event. After tasting (well, drinking!) a lot of beer, a nice dinner was served. One of the other guys attending noticed that something was troubling me. I told him that Whitesnake soon would go on stage at Rockefeller and that I didn’t have a ticket but really wanted to be there. He encouraged me to order a taxi, show my press card at the door and ask to get in. And so I did. On my way out I found that the brewery had a surprise for everyone attending. A sack full of beer! It contained one bottle of each beer they were releasing that year. I couldn’t say no to that! I arrived at Rockfeller with just as much beer in the sack as in my body. I delivered the sack to the wardrobe attendant and ran to the entrance just as Whitesnake started the show. I told the guys at the door I was on the guestlist for the show. They obviously couldn’t find me on the list. It was a bit like when I went to see Judas Priest in 1990, but then I was actually supposed to be on the list, of course. I explained that it was really important for me to cover the show and that they needed to call the press officer. I couldn’t act like a serious reporter considering the inebriated state I was in and on top of it all I am a terrible liar. But to my big surprise they just let me in! I immediately fought my way to the front row to pay my respects to the band, if only for a couple of songs. It had been close to ten years since I last saw Coverdale live. The larger than life Rock ‘n’ Roll image was gone for a while, and this was more like a solo thing than Whitesnake. Even the album cover says “David Coverdale’s Whitesnake”. It was cool to see him in a more intimate setting though. This is the only time I have ever talked my way into a concert venue.

The classic Whitesnake guitarists Bernie Marsden and Mickey Moody interviewed by Stig

Some time later The Moody Marsden band visited Oslo. Mickey and Bernie toured a lot as a duo (with backing band). The material they played together was not mainly Whitesnake like with The Snakes, but mostly Blues songs and some Whitesnake classics. I couldn’t let the chance of interviewing both the old Whitesnake guitarists slip away so I had an appointment set up. Unfortunately, I cannot find the tape, but it was an interesting interview. I remember asking Bernie about the desire to travel around playing club shows. Was it for the money? The answer was clear: “no no no, Whitesnake sold a lot of albums”. It’s of course obvious that Bernie made a fortune after his composition, “Here I Go Again”, became a great hit in the US after he left the band. After recently reading Bernie’s biography, I discovered that he actually had to sue Coverdale to get any money from his time with Whitesnake. If he’d lost that case and “Here I Go Again” wasn’t re-recorded I guess this would have been a different story. It was cool to see the guys back on stage together. They did a really nice version of “Ain’t Gonna Cry No More”. Still looking for the interview. Stay put!

EDIT: the tape was found! Here is the interview with Mickey Moody and Bernie Marsden

Stig with a sweaty Bernie Marsden after a gig

According to Bernie’s biography Where Is My Guitar?, it took quite a few years before he and Coverdale made up after he was fired from that band. In 20011, Bernie actually did a guest performance at Whitesnake’s headlining show at Sweden Rock Festival. He came out for  “Ain’t No Love…”, “Fool For Your Lovin'” and of course “Here I Go Again”. Unfortunately it was the “new” polished version. I need the Hammond organ in that track! The last song was “Still of the Night”, a track written and recorded long after Bernie was out of the band. I never understood that choice since Whitesnake played several other tracks from Bernie’s time with the band that night. That was just weird! I would’ve definitely preferred one of the classic Whitesnake tracks that Bernie penned for the band.

Coverdale backstage in 2004

You can read all about the grand Whitesnake comeback in 2004 and all that happened there in the first chapter in this book. The closest I have been to a conversation with Coverdale (apart from press conference) since then was the day when I noticed a missed call from my buddy and ex-MER crew member Frode Johnsrud. I called him back and asked what’s up. He told me he had just been hanging out backstage with David Coverdale who was willing to say hi to me. Dang!! It’s similar to when I interviewed David Lee Roth and had him talk to one of my friends. The only difference is that I didn’t pick up. Metal Express Radio has done several interview with Coverdale of course. It is just funny that I never get to to them myself. It’s too early to finish the bucket list, right?

Tony Martin trying to remember some lyrics with M3

The closest I have been to see the classic Whitesnake lineup was when Mickey and Bernie formed M3 in 2003. It was time to focus on Whitesnake music again and they brought in the brilliant bass player Neil Murray, who played on the first four Whitesnake albums as well as the self-titled one. So there you got the 3Ms in M3. What was especially interesting about the show they did in Oslo was that they had Tony Martin, who sang in Black Sabbath in the late 80s and early 90s, on vocals. I think the previous vocalist just had quit and Tony did the rest of the tour. A couple of the albums Tony did with Black Sabbath are fantastic. Especially Headless Cross and Tyr. I really like his voice and was curious to hear him sing Whitesnake songs.

I met the 3M’s outside the club after their soundcheck. It was just a quick hello, but I was annoyed with myself for not having brought a Whitesnake album for Neil to sign now that I finally met him for the first time. I was actually messaging with him a few years back about an interview at Sweden Rock Festival, but it never happened. That’s typical for festivals. The show in Oslo turned out to be something close to disaster. The band was very tight, but Tony didn’t know the songs nor the lyrics. Bernie had to give him signs for when to start singing. In the middle of one song Tony was completely out on the lyrics so Bernie, obviously annoyed, took over the mic to finish the song. Bernie referred to this show from the stage the next time he played in Oslo. It was really cool to see the old guys playing together though. There were obviously quite a few Black Sabbath fans present so Tony stayed behind after the show to sign autographs. I wanted to record a station ID for Metal Express Radio so I asked if he was up for that. He said yes, but wanted to go somewhere more quiet to do it after having signed the autographs. It took forever so I asked if he could just do one right away regardless of the noise. He became a bit irritated with my nagging and dragged me to a room next door, did the ID and ran out to sign more autographs. Well, at least I got the ID. I talked to Tony later and he was really nice then. Not a perfect match for Whitesnake, but a great setlist though. Tony is a brilliant vocalist in his own right!

Hanging by the pool in Portugal finding comfort in a Whitesnake t-shirt while the band plays in Oslo

I have seen the modern version of Whitesnake several times. In 2016, Whitesnake did a tour that was said to be their last. This was in the middle of the summer, and I was on vacation in Portugal and couldn’t attend the show. I felt really sorry about missing the opportunity to see them for the last time. I even posted a pic of myself by the pool wearing a Whitesnake tee on Facebook the day the show took place. Good setlist, my friends said, but Coverdale was totally out of shape. I had seen that coming. I was actually glad I didn’t go. I didn’t even have tickets for the covid-19 cancelled show that Whitesnake was supposed to play in Oslo in 2020.

I hope Coverdale will reunite with the old guys to play some delicious Hard Blues Rock before it’s too late. I think maybe his voice can still handle that. And a quick tip from me; give the pre-1987 albums a spin if you haven’t already!

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  • Stig G. Nordahl

    Stig is the founder and the president of Metal Express Radio, based out of Oslo, Norway. He has been around doing Metal radio since the mid-eighties. In fact, running Metal Express Radio takes almost all of his time. Is it worth it...? "Most times, yes," Stig says. "My philosophy is to try to give all Metal releases a fair chance to get promoted in one way or another. As you can imagine, it can be an arduous task to listen through about 20 albums every week! Still, I know we have the best METAL dedicated radio on this planet, and that is a reward in and of itself. I hope one day the whole Metal community can and will make listening to Metal Express Radio part of their daily rituals! Yeah, right..."

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