It is a well-known fact that Led Zeppelin has borrowed (or stolen depending on how people view this) bits and pieces from other artists. It is also a well-known fact that they are innovators. Their influence and reach was vast and if there was no Led Zeppelin, a lot of bands that we love and like today would have not have existed in the form that we know them.
One such band is Whitesnake. Founding member, David Coverdale had a three album run with Deep Purple before leaving to start a solo career which after two albums ended up morphing into Whitesnake.
Whitesnake is basically a blues-rock band heavily influenced by Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple. For a lot of people, their first hearing of Whitesnake was in 1987 and a song called “Still of the Night”.
That was my first exposure. After that I went back and started purchasing their back catalogue. On initial listens, it didn’t grab me. By 1988, I was into the over produced and slick sounds of pop metal and if the album didn’t have that tone, I didn’t invest time. Of course, years later I did go back and give those earlier albums a re-listen and I am better musically for it.
So going back to “Still Of The Night”. The song was written by lead singer David Coverdale and guitarist John Sykes and it was Produced by Mike Stone and Keith Olsen.
David Coverdale in an interview with Metal Hammer commented on the origins of the song:
“When my mother died I was going through the stuff at her house and found some early demo cassettes. One of them was a song that Ritchie Blackmore and I had been working on which was the basic premise of what would become “Still of the Night”. It was totally unrecognizable, so Ritchie doesn’t have anything to worry about… neither do I! Ha ha ha! I took it as far as I could then I gave it to Sykesy when we were in the south of France, and he put the big guitar hero stuff on there. John hated blues so I had to work within those parameters. I manipulated to be electric blues, but how he performed it was fabulous for his time and relatively unique because of the songs. There were a lot of people doing that widdly stuff but they didn’t have the quality of those songs.”
John Sykes in another interview on the Melodic Rock website had this to state about “Still Of The Night” when he was asked about the famous solo with the cello.
“Yeah, well that was actually the first part of that song I wrote…was the middle section. All that was written on guitar in my mum’s kitchen. It wasn’t till months and months later that I came up with the other stuff and basically got the riffs and the chord for the verses.”
Read the interview for yourself. http://www.melodicrock.com/interviews/johnsykes.html
Somewhere in between is the truth. From listening to the song, the Led Zeppelin influence is unmistakable.
The vocal delivery over the F#5 power chord in the intro is Robert Plant from “Black Dog”.
When the riff kicks in straight after, the ears are treated to a combination riff based on “Black Dog” and “Immigrant Song”.
The whole interlude section resembles the part in “Whole Lotta Love”. Listen to all of the cymbal and hi-hat work, as well as the distorted guitar noise and Coverdale’s moans. While the “Whole Lotta Love” interlude was more of a free form jazz improvisation jam with lots of knob turning, the “Still Of The Night” interlude is more musical and metronomed that builds into the cello solo.
There is only one John Sykes and Whitesnake hasn’t been the same since. The same way that the Sammy Hager fronted Van Halen wasn’t the same as the David Lee Roth fronted Van Halen.
“Still Of The Night” is almost an anthem. Not like Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ On A Prayer” anthem, more like a get together and remember a glorious time anthem. That’s how good John Sykes is. That is why “Still Of The Night” still exists and is part of the public conversation. Even though it is derivative, it is hard to burn out on it because it doesn’t sound like anything else. I know it is a contradiction and that it is why the song is perfect.
In information starved 1988, Adrian Vandenberg and Vivian Campbell got the nods, however John Sykes is the real superstar.