30 Years Ago: Whitesnake Hit No. 1 With Their Third Version of ‘Here I Go Again’
On Oct. 10, 1987, Whitesnake’s signature song reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. But the vast majority of those who put it there didn’t know they’d bought the third version of “Here I Go Again” to have been recorded by David Coverdale and his ever-changing band.
The song, co-written by Coverdale and guitarist Bernie Marsden, had first appeared on Whitesnake's 1982 album Saints & Sinners, but the singer had never been happy with it. “Saints & Sinners was what I called my contractual-obligation album,” he told Ultimate Classic Rock recently. “I refused to finish that album until my manager at that time was more reasonable in our divorce proceedings. I’d never really had a full complement of musicians to finish that record.”
The 1982 video (which you can watch above) features the band performing the song onstage, with drummer Cozy Powell sitting in for Ian Paice, who originally played on the track. This version is more bluesy, raw and understated than the later versions and includes the line “like a hobo I was born to walk alone," which was later replaced by “like a drifter …” because Coverdale was worried that the word “hobo” could be misheard as “homo."
Five years later, Whitesnake had completely changed. Coverdale was the only remaining member from the lineup that had created Saints & Sinners when they began work on what would become the band’s self-titled album, which is also known as 1987 to fans. He wanted to re-record 1982’s “Crying in the Rain,” and that led to a negotiation with label boss David Geffen. “It’s doing deals,” Coverdale told UCR. “Once they said, ‘Let’s do ‘Here I Go Again,’ I said, ‘I’ll do that if I can do ‘Crying in the Rain.’ That was the purpose of that.”
The album’s progress had not been smooth. Coverdale had been forced to take time off as a result of throat problems – recently admitting, “I thought I was done” at one point – and the lineup that recorded the 1987 LP had disintegrated. As a result, the second video (which you can watch below) saw him delivering an updated stage performance with guitarists Adrian Vandenberg and Vivian Campbell, bassist Rudy Sarzo and drummer Tommy Aldridge. (Only Vandenberg appeared on the album – the defunct studio lineup also featured guitarist John Sykes, bassist Neil Murray, keyboardists Don Airey and Bill Cuomo and drummer Aynley Dunbar.) The video also included actress Tawny Kitaen, who’d later become Coverdale’s wife, sexily writhing on the hood of a car.
It wasn’t over yet. Whitesnake had been released in April 1987, but several months later it was decided that a more radio-friendly version of “Here I Go Again” was needed – and that was the version that would go on to top the charts. “Personal phone call from David – ‘Could you do a more FM-friendly version?’ Which radio proceeded to avoid!" Coverdale explained. "But I did get to work with with the fantastic Denny Carmassi on drums, and Bill Cuomo, who’d helped me out on keyboards. And the amazing guitar played Dann Huff.” (The bass was provided by Mark Andes.)
While the later two recordings are similar, there are some notable differences: The radio version begins with the verse riff rather than Coverdale singing against keyboards; the production leans more heavily on vocals and keyboards; Huff’s guitar solo differs from Vandenberg’s; and there are changes in the drumming patterns. You can listen to that version below.
Eventually there was a fourth version of “Here I Go Again” when the band recorded an acoustic take in 1997 for their Starkers in Tokyo live album. And in 2017, there was a new video for the album's 30th-anniversary reissue. (You can see that one below.)
In a quirky twist to this story, in 2002, the DJ for the Chicago White Sox was fired for playing "Here I Go Again" during a game. The White Sox were playing the Cleveland Indians, whose team included pitcher Chuck Finley, who recently filed for divorce from Coverdale’s ex-wife Kitaen after she physically attacked him. The DJ’s stunt of playing the track as Finley warmed up was seen as poor taste – especially as the song’s lyrics were originally about Coverdale’s 1978 divorce from his first wife, Julia Borkowski.
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