Skip to main content
book image
Martin Popoff
A thorough (though occasionally repetitive) undertaking by Martin Popoff, this book takes you through the history of David Coverdale, pre-Deep Purple, through the many incarnations of Whitesnake up through the Doug Aldrich/Reb Beach era. There are brief stop overs on Coverdale Page, Coverdale's solo albums, some decent coverage of Blue Murder, and other ex-members' projects, both together, and solo.  There are nifty interviews from Adrian Vandenberg, Viv Campbell, Steve Vai, Rudy Sarzo. Conspicuously -- and predictably absent was anything recent or of substance from John Sykes. 

That said, the book leans heaviest on the pre-John Sykes era lineups.  There are extensive interviews with Coverdale, Marsden, Neil Murray and a bit less from others by other players who passed through the band's early incarnation.  

For me, the most interesting interviews in the book are with former superstar A&R man John Kalodner of Geffen, the man who guided the band (and Aerosmith) into the 80s metal era.  His thoughts alone made this a worthwhile read for me.   

Most frustrating -- and again, predictable, is the book's failure to shed any new or additional light on the fallout between David Coverdale and John Sykes -- the guitarist who took the band through the stratosphere by co-writing the songs on the 1987 album that sold -- according to this book, somewhere between 14 to 18 million copies -- and was unquestionably the band's financial and popularity zenith.  We are simply told anecdotally through various interviews that the fallout happened, along the lines of "by that time, David and John were not speaking" etc.  

The impression presented here -- by eveyrone asked -- from his immediate Whitesnake bandmates to Kalodner -- is that John Sykes -- as they put it (very politely), was difficult to work with, and this book implies he is a bit of a Diva.  Sadly, it goes no deeper than that. Popoff does resurrect and reproduce one interview with Sykes circa the first Blue Murder album, to attempt to provide Sykes' side of the story, but the interview reads as vague now as it did at the time (I remember it, because it's one of only a few interviews Sykes has ever given).  

As many of us have watched the Sykes' career moves post-Whitesnake, the idea that he is "difficult" has gathered steam over the years as John recently left abruptly -- or was ousted from Thin Lizzy -- albiet, after single-handedly resurrecting the band post-Lynott, and touring with them for over 10 years. More recent was a project with Mike Portnoy that failed to achieve liftoff, where Portnoy has laid the blame at Sykes' feet.

That said, there are two sides to every story. The hearsay is that difficult or not, John Sykes just refuses to be financially raped by anyone. I can't fault him for that! One presumes Popoff would have done his due diligence and asked Sykes to comment for this book, but as Mr. Sykes almost never does interviews, and doesn't air his dirty laundry when he does, we will likely never know. Sykes has never gone on record with any details or his side of the Whitesnake story. As it's almost 30 years later, one can assume he will take his side of that story to his grave.

Again, the most interesting commentator on the Sykes era was from Kalodner -- who BEGGED Coverdale to work with John repeatedly for the follow-up to 87, and beyond. Story was, John Sykes was willing on a few occasions, but Coverdale was not. 

All in all, a good read for the hardcore Whitesnake fan. In summary, excellent coverage on the classic Marsden/Moody/Galley lineups; the questions still remain on the Sykes lineup; good coverage of the Vandenberg, Campbell, Vai era.  The Aldrich-era is under-covered by comparrison.