Bernie Marsden has achieved many things of which others could only dream. Seven albums with a band that filled stadiums around the world and the co-writer of a multi-million selling song that reached Number 1 in the US and Canada. But regrets, there are a few.
Between 1978 and 1982 Bernie was in Whitesnake, the band that picked up (sort of) where Deep Purple left off, and in most respects, it’s this that will draw people to Bernie’s book. Aside from his natural regret at seeing his time in the band come to an end before he wanted there’s added poignancy surrounding writing and recording of “Here I Go Again”. A joint composition with Dave Coverdale. It’s a standout track on Whitesnake’s 1982 album “Saints and Sinners”, and today represents three of the top five ‘Snake tracks played on Spotify.
Bernie acknowledges that this song has given him financial freedom but there’s a sense of the bittersweet in that he never played the song live with the band as he was fired almost immediately after making the album. Barely troubling the UK charts at the time,“Here I Go Again” really took off five years later when the 1987 hair-metal incarnation of Whitesnake re-recorded it withTawny Kitaen (a future ex Mrs Coverdale) writhing on the bonnet of a Jag in the accompanying video garnering it a spot in the MTV hall of fame and worldwide chart success.
As much as Bernie and Whitesnake are synonymous (and fair play, he didn’t call the book “Here I Go Again” or “Here I Am Again”) Whitesnake represent just 4 years of a career that’s been going for over 40. Bernie crowdfunded this book via Pledge Music. He admits to being difficult to manage and someone who does things on his own terms, so the book is written how he wants it, which turns out to be both a good thing as well as problematic. One of the positives is that he’s stuck to a chronological narrative that documents in some detail the bands and tours he’s experienced. No breathless opening chapter dealing with the day he found he’d been sacked from Whitesnake to lure the punters in.
The negatives – well, crowdfunding your publication means you sidestep some of the traditional publishing steps, and the book suffers little as a consequence. A small font with narrow spacing makes the reading hard work, and an editor would have sorted minor spelling errors along with gaffes such as referring to the Sunset Marquis as the “Sunset Marquee”. These are really just minor distractions – more evident is the clunky text here and there. On stage Bernie is quick witted with a sharp tongue, but in writing a number of the anecdotes become somewhat lumpen which an editor could have straightened out. It also means that there was no-one to push Bernie to reveal more, whether it’s his feelings about the twists and turns of the business or the excesses of bands on the road. Maybe having your daughter as Associate Editor is a constraint.
I thought I knew his work petty well – early days with UFO, Wild Turkey etc but there’s plenty more including work with a couple of Beatles, work at the National Theatre, how he came to be buddies with Pat Cash and almost getting a gig with Cliff Richard.
His respect for most of the people he’s worked with shines through. The fondness with which he relates his time playing with the late Tony Ashton contrasts starkly with the distain he has for Tony’s drinking buddy Ronnie Fraser, a ubiquitous face on 70’s and 80’s TV. There’s also tremendous respect and warmth for Cozy Powell, Jon Lord, Ian Paice and Neil Murray. Steve Marriott is also well regarded despite giving Bernie a bollocking for refusing to play Whitesnake songs. Indeed it’s noticeable how little rancour Bernie has for others in the business (Phil Mogg and Pete Way of UFO excepted).
Which brings us to Dave Coverdale. Prior to Whitesnake Bernie had been in and out of numerous bands, sometimes of his own volition, sometimes not. Either way, he just seemed to roll with it and moved on to something new. Being fired from Whitesnake just after recording “Saints & Sinners” in 1982 was different – a body blow at the age of just 30 that Bernie felt for decades to come and left him feeling “shattered”. Yet he continues to hold Dave Coverdale in high esteem – DC has written the preface to this book, despite having someone else throw him out the band.
Bernie closes the book with chapters devoted to guitars – “a sickness for which there’s no cure” and some details of his blues “field trips” over the years where he met the likes of BB King, Hubert Sumlin and Sonny Boy Williamson. It’s a neat way to close the book. Across the preceding 240 pages Bernie packs in a lot, and still left me wanting more. His is a great story and all the better for being shared.
Length of Read:Medium
Might appeal to people who enjoyed…
Not just blues guitar but anyone with an interest in British rock music history
One thing you’ve learned
He once met Queen Sonja of Norway