David Coverdale called me after Christmas and invited me to play with him and the band at the Sweden Rock festival. I of course was delighted to accept, David and I have rebuilt our relationship over the last couple of years, all because of a chance meeting at London Airport in 2009. I was flying to Italy and Whitesnake were on route to Prague for a festival show. We spent an hour in Starbucks, simply chatting and enquiring about families and state of the business kind of thing. But it was a momentous meeting on reflection, it enabled me to contact him about a proposition I had been contacted for, regarding a Whitesnake situation.
He called me back and then our dialogue began in earnest, the proposed show never happened, but it did put him and I back in personal contact which has developed in a very positive nature. So, the gig in Sweden was terrific, I played four songs, “Fool For Your Loving, Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City, and Here I Go Again”, this the first time in the world the two writers performing the worldwide hit on stage, the audience response was incredible, we all returned for “Still Of The Night”, alongside another former Snake guitarist, the flying Dutchman Adrian Vandenberg, so we had four guitarists Doug Aldrich and Reb Beach, Lynrd Snakyrd!
We had all been at dinner the night before in Copenhagen, David and I spent a pleasant walk around the old quayside, and we had a chance to talk, and we did indeed talk for some time! The new band are a true rock and roll first division outfit, both the guitarists Doug and Reb are fine exponents of the genre, Doug has more of the old school feel, Reb is the shredmaster supreme, his background with Winger and Alice Cooper was plain to see, new bass player and drummer Michael Devin and Briian Tichy were superb, Briian has the power of Cozy Powell and the finesse of Ian Paice, some combination!
We travelled back to Copenhagen after the show, about a three hour drive on the tour bus, well things have changed since my overnight tour bus days, the luxury on board was great! I spent a long time chatting with the great Doug Aldrich, a real gentleman, far too thin, good looking and a great guitarist and writer, a family man, I saw the look in his eyes when he was talking on his Iphone to his little boy back home in California, he is a big fan of the original band and has a deep respect for the music, he played with the late Ronnie Dio, we both fondly remembered the man.
So after all of this I returned to the UK to play the Linton Festival near Ross on Wye, it was a triumph, I even through in “Fool For Your Loving” I was on a high still, great gig, fabulous audience and well organised festival, I hope to return soon.
I received a call from David Coverdale, he had reported my appearance in Sweden to his audiences in the UK, Newcastle, Wolverhampton, Manchester, I had received a huge cheer every night he told me, and then he asked if I would like to play at the Hammersmith Apollo with the band 20 June. Well, to say I was happy, I was a little emotional after the call, I expected to be the same in Sweden but I was so excited and the guys made me feel so welcome, all the crew, back stage people, drivers, I had no time to do anything but play.
The personal reasons for Hammersmith poured out of me, in the days of the original band we dreamed of playing there for one night only, let alone eight, we were the kings of the gig then called the Odeon, but since those days I have played there two or three times in ever declining circumstances, in fact after a show there with Lynyrd Skynyrd with the Company of Snakes I folded the band, it just felt bad, I was not the only one feeling that way, and so my memories of the great place were tarnished and I thought would stay that way. But now after a night of high emotion and great pleasure I can retire if I want too with my Hammersmith memories intact.
David was very gracious introducing me from the wings for “Here I Go Again”, this time I had a large lump in my throat as I walked out, the roar was so loud I thought Nelson Mandela had walked on the other side and upstaged me, even the band applauded as DC and I shared a band hug before the sell out 5000 Whitesnake crowd with David Coverdale and myself smiling at one another in a way only two people who know what the other is thinking can do.
We both stood and sang “We Wish You Well” at the end of the evening, there were a lot of tears in the room, something that many people thought would never happen, and I don’t mean only the fans, was happening right before their eyes, all this and I had Jimmy Page watching from the wings, no pressure then!
And then it was over, but only for now I hope, the bridge is rebuilt, I have to thank Doug Aldrich here, without his encouragement and downright niceness this might not have happened, the band, and of course David Coverdale, a man totally in control of his destiny, he was and still is the guvnor’ on that stage, I watched him working, that is how to do it, I probably never noticed how good he was when we first did it night after night, being away and then so close made me realise what I have been missing, class will out; and attitude.
For those who were present at these gigs, you know all this happened, for the rest I wish you could have been there; check out YouTube, it was real. See you out there with my new PRS guitar in hand in the autumn.
Bernie Marsden July 2011