Why Whitesnake's Biggest Album Almost Didn't Happen

Whitesnake was one of the most enigmatic hard rock bands of the 1980s. Founded by former Deep Purple band member David Coverdale, Whitesnake cycled through multiple different member lineups and musical styles over the course of just a few years (and several albums). After debuting with the same kind of blues rock that Coverdale had made with Deep Purple, Whitesnake gained popularity when the band — encouraged by the head of their record label, David Geffen — transitioned into the more polished, anthemic hard rock style that defined so much of the late '80s rock scene.

Coming off the success of their 1984 album Slide It In, Whitesnake released their most popular and successful project just three years later in the form of their self-titled 1987 album. In a series of circumstances that have afflicted other successful rock groups, however, Whitesnake's self-titled work came very close to not happening, thanks to some unfortunate health issues and growing friction between the band's members.

Work on Whitesnake's self-titled album started out well, with David Coverdale, guitarist John Sykes, and bassist Neil Murray getting together in 1985 to start writing the music that would come to define the album. Around this time, Coverdale also hired Aynsley Dunbar as Whitesnake's new drummer, and things seemed to be progressing nicely for the group.

What almost killed Whitesnake's self-titled album

Serious trouble hit, however, when, as Ultimate Classic Rock reports, Coverdale came down with a sinus infection, which hurt his vocal ability and eventually led to him undergoing surgery for the issue. By the time everything was said and done, the sinus infection put Coverdale out of commission for eight months, during which time Sykes apparently tried to replace Coverdale with another singer. As a result, when he had finally recuperated, Coverdale cut ties with Sykes and the rest of the Whitesnake band members. From there, he began trying to finish the album, working off the music that had already been recorded by Sykes and company.

Emerging from all that struggle and drama, though, was Whitesnake's self-titled 1987 album, which quickly became the band's most successful project to date, peaking at no. 2 on the Billboard 200 chart in the U.S. The album featured the most well-known and popular songs that Whitesnake would ever produce, including "Here I Go Again" and "Is This Love," the latter of which, according to another Ultimate Classic Rock post, was originally written for Tina Turner. 

It just goes to show: sometimes it's the worst struggles that help produce a group's best work.