Ex-Whitesnake Guitarist Addresses Coverdale’s ’Tongue-in-Cheek’ Lyrics, Explains What He Loved About the Band

Guitarist Adrian Vandenberg looked back on his time in the hard rock and glam metal band Whitesnake and addressed the band’s lyrics.

If you’re remotely familiar with 1980s rock music, you most definitely know what Whitesnake’s lyrics were like. Although not as over-the-top or outright cheesy compared to some other bands and artists, you could clearly see Dave’s clever approach to, let’s say, insinuations to adult-themed topics. In some cases, they might feel as if they’re a deliberate yet cleverly conceived parody of the ’80s lyrical tropes.  

Whatever may be the case, Adrian Vandenberg is a huge fan of Coverdale’s creative works and all of its aspects. Appearing on Paltrocast With Darren Paltrowitz, he was reminded of the “juvenile” lyrics that Whitesnake had back in the day, with the interviewer saying how “Slide It In” might not be “the most mature song in the world.”

Adrian Vandenberg On Whitesnake, Touring With Queensryche's Geoff Tate, Painting, Van Halen & More

“I suppose I have to agree with you,” Vandenberg said. However, the musician also pointed out that it has a completely different dimension when Coverdale sings this stuff. He explained (transcribed by Killer Guitar Rigs):

“The thing with David is, he’s such an amazing singer. He could sing a kiddie song and make it sound like a rock song because of his delivery and his voice.”

“It has become, of course, a Whitesnake thing,” he added. In his view, there’s some obvious irony with the themes that these songs were exploring:

“I mean, it started with Whitesnake — the way it’s very tongue-in-cheek and sexual. Which is great, because rock ‘n’ roll without sex is not complete. I mean, listen to Chuck Berry’s lyrics. In those days, you couldn’t make such direct references as you can these days.”

You have modern music which, instead of using clever innuendos, just bluntly goes straight to the point. Coming from the Netherlands, Vandenberg says that he hears a lot of this stuff on the radio:

“If you listen to some of the hip hop songs on Dutch radio… I thought, ‘What?’ And most Dutch people don’t know what they’re talking about, but I do.”

After sharing an explicit example of what modern R&B singers are doing these days, he added:

“You go, ‘WHAT? Kids listen to it, you know? Holy shit!’ But yeah, it is the way it is, I guess.”

Whitesnake - Still of the Night (Official Music Video)

Of course, being a member of such a huge band like Whitesnake is a huge honor for any musician. With David Coverdale at the helm, the band had countless musicians pass through the lineup, all of which are nothing short of absolute professionals.

Vandenberg played guitar and co-wrote some of Whitesnake’s greatest songs between 1987 and 1990 and has returned on a couple of occasions in the 1990s. He’s participated in writing and recording three of the band’s records.

Speaking of all the great musicians that passed through the lineup, Adrian said that he looks fondly to this period in his life. Although many would immediately think the band was all about drama, the guitarist has a completely different story to share.

Whitesnake - Fool for Your Loving (Official Music Video)

“We always had a wonderful time,” he said. “Sometimes we were rolling on the floor laughing. Everybody’s got a great sense of humor. Tommy Aldridge [drummer] is hilarious. He always had the funniest expressions, very much Richard Pryor stuff, one-liners — just great.”

“Imagine us living in a bus, with all of us, for a year and a half on the road. Most bands would start killing each other after three weeks, but we had just a wonderful time.”

As of this moment, the guitarist is touring with his own band Vandenberg. These fond memories, as he explains, are the reason he now plays Whitesnake material on tour. Adrian continued:

“I only have the best memories of my days with Whitesnake, which is one of the important reasons why I’m really enjoying playing so many Whitesnake tracks on this tour — because for me, it all comes back.”

Vandenberg - Hit The Ground Running (Official Music Video)

“I haven’t played those tracks in over 30 years, and it feels like I’m on the road with Whitesnake again. it’s just really great.”

Adrian was a member when Steve Vai also joined in for the “Slip of the Tongue” record. Although playing guitar on the 1987 self-titled record, “Slip of the Tongue” was the first one where Vandenberg had significant creative input. However, as he recalled in an interview last year, having Vai on board initially felt like it was somewhat of a disservice to his writing.

“It took me a while to come to terms with it,” he offered. “I was a big admirer of Steve, but I had a vision of how I wanted those songs to sound: I wanted big rhythm guitars, melodic, and bluesy licks.”

Whitesnake - Slip of the Tongue - Mannheim 1990

Nonetheless, Vandenberg said that he dealt with this “frustration” and then added:

“It was one of the most challenging things I’d ever done, and it took me a few weeks to start appreciating Steve’s work. I had to overcome my frustration about not being able to play the songs as I’d hoped, but once I overcame my frustration and became close with Steve, I came to love how they turned out.”

Photos: Unknown (Metal revista whitesnake)

  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at Ultimate-Guitar.com, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor and brands like Sam Ash.