Death by Power Ballad: Whitesnake, “Here I Go Again”

Written by Music, Power Ballads

We’re gathered together today at the Popdose dinner table to fill ourselves with the bounty of goodness from local farms and our communal garden out back (and, later, we shall light up and pass around the bounty from our favorite part of the communal garden). The bird is lovely, juicy, and glazed with some concoction that smelled like cheap bourbon (no sense using the good stuff on a turkey); the stuffing is peppery and warm (I took a forkful earlier); the vegetables look fresh and delicious; and I’m sure that pink thingie that Ann brought will be tasty.

Before we dig in, though, I’d like to take a moment to give thanks, not only for the fellowship of my fellow writers and editors and the attention and warm comments from faithful DbPB readers (both of you), but also for the fine, often under-appreciated music I am fortunate enough to feature under the DbPB banner. And, if you’re not too ravenous (yes, Ken, I see the knife you’re wielding), I would like to present you with a gift right now.

You probably noticed during his interminable Thanksgiving blessing that Jason quoted from Benny Mardones’ “Into the Night” four times (dude, I don’t think the merlot is “just 16 years old”—the bottle says it’s 2008 vintage). While those of us gathered around this very table have been known to poke fun at the number of times St. Benny has recorded his only hit single, he can’t touch the volume of recorded versions of one of the great pillars of the power ballad arts, Whitesnake‘s “Here I Go Again.” “Here I Go Again” has been recorded 22,387 times.

My dwarf valet Passepartout is handing out to each of you a CD with six of those 22,387 versions. It’s a Coverdale cornucopia, if you will. Each disc contains the following:

  • The original. Recorded in 1982 for the Saints & Sinners album. You’ll notice several things immediately: the church organ that opens the song, the guitars that sound ripped from Bad Company, and David Coverdale’s un-reverbed vocal. Oh, yeah, and there’s the chorus, which contains the line “Like a hobo I was born to walk alone.” Rumor has it Coverdale changed the “hobo” reference on future recordings, because he didn’t want American audiences to think he was singing, “Like a homo I was born to walk alone.” Like we Americans couldn’t tell an antiquated reference to homeless vagabonds from a gay slur. What a retar—I mean, idiot.
  • The 1987 album cut. This is the one you know, if you listened to rock radio back in ’87. The beginning of the guitar solo reminds me of the beginning of the guitar solo for Scandal’s “Hands Tied.” Some day I’ll do one of those side-by-side comparison MP3s, but the sweet potatoes are getting cold.
  • The single mix. This is the one you know, if you listened to Top 40 radio back in ’87. It dismisses the dramatic keyboard opening of the album cut, in favor of going straight into the first verse. Lots more keyboards in this version, and a different, crappier guitar solo, played by Dann Huff, from the band Giant (who also played on several Peter Cetera and Michael Bolton numbers, so you know his rock cred was stellar). Compared to the album version, this one sucks, yet it topped the charts. Go figure.
  • The “Starkers in Tokyo” version. In 1997, Coverdale released a “Whitesnake” record called Starkers in Tokyo, consisting of “unplugged” versions of ‘Snake tunes played live by him and Adrian Vandenberg. It’s an interesting variation, though it’s pretty obvious that Coverdale had spent the previous two or three years of downtime gargling gravel instead of practicing hitting high notes.
  • The “Live … in the Still of the Night” version. Whitesnake obviously consists of David Coverdale and whomever he feels like playing with on any given day (the current lineup includes Winger guitarist Reb Beach, Don Henley’s old keyboard player Timothy Drury, and the late Will Geer on Jew’s harp). Recorded in London in 2004, this one features a tight band, a fine-voiced Coverdale, and the requisite audience singalong.
  • The “Live … in the Shadow of the Blues” version. This 2006 recording is virtually indistinguishable from the previous version, though Coverdale’s voice does sound a bit more ragged than it did for the London show.

I recommend listening to all six versions in one sitting, really loud, while drinking a strong beverage or three. And just because I love you all, I also dug up a dance version of the song, performed by a Polish person:

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Okay, then, let’s eat. Word of warning, though—if you’d seen what I saw Giles doing to the pumpkin pie earlier, you’d know why I’m going to skip dessert.

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