It’s great to see David Coverdale celebrate the 20 and 30 year anniversary of the 1987 self-titled Whitesnake album.
Dokken and the work Lynch did with the band is another favourite of mine during this period and Lynch’s guitar work is a huge influence on my guitar playing and style. But “Back for the Attack” released on November 2, 1987 gets no anniversary treatment. It gets no attention and is rarely part of the conversation.
But back in 1987 it was everywhere. The momentum started with “Dream Warriors” which was released in February 1987 to promote “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors”. Back in those days, fans from different regions had to deal with windowed releases. The U.S got it first, then a few months later Europe got it and a few months after that Asia/Australia got it. Basically, for nine months, Elektra Records flogged “Dream Warriors” to death over a staggered windowed release.
So when the album dropped, people purchased. I was one of those people who devoured all the credits on albums. I don’t know why, I just found it interesting to see who wrote the songs, who produced the album, who mixed it and the places used for recording it. And I always asked myself why a band would use so many different recording studios to record an album. It doesn’t make sense to set up, pack up and reset up at another studio. And I saw a lot of different studios on the “Back For The Attack” credits and I had to google it to be sure.
The band recorded in 5 different studios around LA. The record labels are not stupid. They get the studios at a discounted rate and then charge the band the general rate + 20% for using them, which the labels will then recoup from the sales of the album. Even though the album sold in excess of a million copies in the U.S, I bet ya, the band was still in debt to the label.
So what does 1 million sales in 1987 mean in 2017.
Well if i use Spotify stats, 1 million sales in 1987 leads to 1.7 million streams of “Dream Warriors”. “Alone Again” has the most streams on Dokken’s Spotify account at 6 million plus streams. Being on a Spotify playlist of 80’s Power Ballads does help. What the stats do show is how a million sales in 1987 doesn’t equal a million fans. The same way a million illegal downloads don’t equal a million lost sales. As I’ve said many times on this blog;
- A person could have purchased the album, heard it once and traded it
- Another person could have purchased the album, heard it 10 times and then just added it to the collection or traded it.
- Another person could have purchased the album, listened to it and still listens to it today.
Even in YouTube, “Alone Again” has 1.5 million plus views. “Dream Warriors” (official music video on RHINO’s account) has 985,000 plus views and on the 80sRockClassics account it has 2.72 million plus views. Compared to how big Dokken was in the 80’s, these numbers are anaemic, because “Is This Love” from Whitesnake has 37 plus million streams while the “Here I Go Again” version from “Saints and Sinners” has 40 plus million streams and when you add the 60 million streams from the 1987 radio edit version and 1987 remastered version, “Here I Go Again” is topping 100 million streams.
Why the large disconnect?
Coverdale sang about not knowing where he is going, but he knew where he had been. And he’s made up his mind that he needs to keep going over and over again, so he can keep those promises he made to himself in the past.
And people from all walks of life and different musical genres could relate and connect with the words of Coverdale.
Don Dokken on the other hand sang about how there’s no justice in falling in love because it gives someone blindness when they are the one because a group called “they” are holding the gun. Seriously, they are the dumbest lyrics I have seen/heard, which is a shame because “Heaven Sent” has excellent music and melodies. Meanwhile in “Kiss Of Death” Don’s telling us about a brief encounter in the woods with a female vampire and in “Dream Warriors” Don’s weary eyes couldn’t face the unknown and he doesn’t want to dream no more. I’ve heard soundtrack songs that don’t follow the movie storyline which work and I’ve heard soundtrack songs that follow the movie storyline which also work and some which don’t work. Musically, Dokken the band was top-notch, but lyrically, not so good. Seriously, “Unchain The Night”. How can you do that?
And the choice of words, my friends, is the major difference between 7 million in sales and 1 million in sales. The major difference between 100 million streams and a million streams. The major difference between albums getting the anniversary treatment or not.
There’s a reason why “Livin’ On A Prayer” is more popular than “You Give Love A Bad Name” and “Wanted Dead Or Alive” and the rest of Jovi’s songs. There’s a reason why “Kickstart My Heart” is more popular than all the other Crue songs. For Metallica, “Enter Sandman” is the most streamed with 185 million streams due to it being on Spotify’s own playlists of metal essentials and also by being very high up on the playlist. However, “Nothing Else Matters” is the song with the words that connect and it has 163 million streams.
In the end lyrics matter and that’s why people who don’t play in bands and write songs for others have a career in music. Because they can write good lyrics. It’s why Sharon Osbourne hired Bob Daisley over and over again to write lyrics for Ozzy. You can beat a good lyricist.