David Coverdale ‘Felt Presence’ of Jon Lord in Whitesnake Remix: Exclusive Interview
The 35th anniversary edition of Whitesnake's 1984 album Slide It In, the group's double-platinum U.S. breakthrough, includes six CDs and one DVD. The package contains three mixes of the album — the original U.K. and European mix by Martin Birch, the U.S. version remixed by Keith Olsen and a new 2019 mix by Christopher Collier — as well as alternate mixes, demos, live tracks and rarities.
"We're becoming, from what I understand, the king and queen of box sets," singer David Coverdale tells UCR with a hearty laugh, referencing the band's recent string of deluxe reissues. "Fucking yeah. We've gone from, I think, five discs, six discs, now it's seven."
Collier also mixed Whitesnake's upcoming new album, Flesh & Blood. However, in the process of that collaboration, Coverdale discovered that Collier also had a deep, nearly life-long affinity for Slide It In.
"We mixed the [new] album together in eight days in October," Coverdale says. "I had another week left of his time, and I said, 'Have you ever heard of an album called Slide It In?' He went, 'Dude, that was my father's favorite record. We drove cross-country one time, that's the only cassette he had, so I know the fucking record since I was six or seven or eight years old.'"
Watch Whitesnake's 'Slow an' Easy' Video
Collier having these insights led to a fantastic mixing experience. In fact, Collier "is like a George Martin for the Beatles, or Mutt Lange for Def Leppard," Coverdale says. "We finally found somebody who sonically gets it. [The 2019 remix has] brought a young, contemporary focus. It's absolutely recognizable as the Slide It In album. But it's got a complete fresh coat of paint. And some of the furniture's been rearranged. It was well worth doing."
For Coverdale, revisiting this album — which spawned the U.S. mainstream rock hits "Slow an' Easy" and "Love Ain't No Stranger" — was an unexpectedly emotional experience. "What was the most amazing thing for me, was while we were remixing this in the studio, I felt the presence of [guitarist] Mel Galley, [drummer] Cozy Powell and [keyboardist] Jon Lord," he recalls. "Half the band that made that record have passed away.
"Chris turned 'round to me, he said, 'Are you okay?' I said, 'My God, I can so feel their energy in here.' And he goes, 'Oh my God, I hope it's positive.' I went, 'Oh, it's absolutely positive.' And I just felt them — I could see them standing here, behind us, like, hands on his shoulders and my shoulders as we were mixing. Hearing the individual performances, like from 24-track analog transfers to digital … hearing Jon Lord's sound on its own, and then hearing Cozy Powell's immense drum sound — which just sounded like Phil Spector had fucking recorded him — was glorious. It was wonderful. It was touching. It was rewarding. It just made the project fresh and exciting for me."
As Coverdale recalls, the original process of mixing Slide It In wasn't quite so bucolic.
"While I was mixing it with Martin Birch in Europe, we didn't have FedEx, I think it was DHL, that was the quickest we could get the stuff to Geffen," he says. "None of them were responding to us, because I honestly feel that they were planning on forcing me to remix it, once I did what they called my European mix. And I adored Martin's, so I was determined to stand by that.
"[But guitarist] John Sykes had come into the band in the interim [before the U.S. remix]," he continues. "Neil Murray, the bass player, had rejoined me. So I said to Geffen, 'Okay, this is the deal. You fly over my guitar player and bass player, overdub them on the record, and then we'll see whatever.'"
Listen to Whitesnake's 'All or Nothing' Remix
Olsen — who was known for his work with Fleetwood Mac and Rick Springfield — came into the picture at the behest of Geffen for the U.S. remix, Coverdale says, and "knew FM radio. Which I didn't, you know."
Initial reaction to Olsen's take on Slide It In was, to put it mildly, mixed. "When it came back, the production cassette, Cozy and I listened to it together. He was so angry," Coverdale says. "He pulled it out of the cassette player, threw it against the wall and stamped on it. That's the U.S. mix."
Despite the reaction, Coverdale understood quickly that it was the right move for the album — and Whitesnake's career as a whole.
"And then of course, [Slide It In] goes through the fucking roof," Coverdale notes. "Cozy and I are driving somewhere with FM rock radio on, and we hear 'Slow An' Easy' and 'Love Ain't No Stranger,' and the amazing compression that American FM radio brings to the party. And we looked at each other and went, 'Fuck, they're right. We can teach an old snake new tricks.'
"And that was the beginning of relearning and rethinking, and not bloody-mindedly saying, 'Well, I'm doing this right.' Because my older work sounded distinctly muddy on American FM radio. The mastering of both the U.K. and the American Slide It In mix weren't really thrilling to me, but I can't contest the fact that they were really successful. And that album set us up for the ridiculous success we had with the '87 [self-titled] album. We were already radio darlings. Then as we released the videos for it, MTV was there, and suddenly we became MTV darlings. It was just madness for four years, utter madness. It was an express train that I couldn't get off."