Charlie Griffiths takes a step through Whitesnake’s revolving door of guitarists to meet Messrs Moody, Marsden, Sykes and Vai.
Charlie Griffiths steps through the revolving door of Whitesnake six stringers including Moody, Marsden, Sykes and Vai.
Whitesnake have been rocking since 1978, cementing their place in hard rock history with classic albums like Ready An’ Willing, Saints & Sinners and Slide It In. Those albums featured Micky Moody and Bernie Marsden, who was subsequently replaced by Mel Galley. The mid to late 80s saw a significant line-up change; vocalist David Coverdale remaining as sole original member and signalling the band’s most commercially-successful period.
The 1987 eponymous album featured the harder-edged and higher-gain skills of one-time Thin Lizzy member John Sykes. His more modern riffing style shines through on Still Of The Night. The album also spawned two of Whitesnake’s biggest hits: Is This Love and Here I Go Again, which also features a guitar solo by Adrian Vandenberg. Although Vandenberg was primarily a live member, he has writing and recording credits on the 1997 album Restless Heart and is a credited writer on 1989’s Slip Of The Tongue, although he couldn’t play on the album due to a wrist injury. Enter one Steve Vai, whom Coverdale invited to play after seeing the 1986 Ralph Macchio movie Crossroads. Steve had previously played with Alcatrazz, Frank Zappa and David Lee Roth and his flamboyant style is a real show steeler on the album. Longtime fans felt the album was too big a departure from the classic Whitesnake sound, so after touring the album Coverdale put the band on hiatus – a blessing in disguise for Vai, who went on to forge his successful solo career. Since the mid-noughties ex-Winger man Reb Beach has been a stalwart of the band, joined by Doug Aldrich, but has subsequently been replaced by Night Ranger’s Joel Hoekstra.
This month’s examples illustrate the 80s golden era, starting with a classic G minor riff reminiscent of Moody and Marsden. Next we look at Steve Vai’s more aggressive approach with fast 16th-note picking and whammy-bar dive bombs. Riff 3 illustrates the no-nonsense style John Sykes brought in, with a heavy F# blues riff. For Example 4 we hark back to Moody & Marsden with a classic I-IV-V progression, rocking open chords and ringing strings. Our final riff is the most flamboyant and features a 12/8 groove and some Sykes-inspired fretboard gymnastics.
The solo offers you the chance to try a typical Whitesnake-style power ballad, which begins by focusing on melodic British blues-rock phrasing and tasty bends. Towards the end of the solo we switch to Steve Vai mode with multi-string cascading tapping and alternate-picked scale runs.
You’ll have great fun playing over these tracks. Practise each example slowly and build up the tempo, gradually working towards playing with the backing tracks provided.
NEXT MONTH Charlie gets to grips with the playing of that notorious rabble, Mötley Crüe