David Coverdale, fourth from left, shows off his new Whitesnake.
Run for Coverdale, because Whitesnake is back and it's bringing its hair spray

A couple of years ago, Whitesnake lead singer David Coverdale was talking with an interviewer about the rampant commercialization of rock music.

Coverdale revealed that he'd been offered serious cash for the use of his chart-topping 1987 hit "Here I Go Again" in a TV ad for breakfast fiber cereal. Coverdale's never been one to pass up a sure payday, but he's got his mercenary limits. "What are they trying to say?" he asked. "Here I go again to the toilet?"

Apparently so. But if such an overtly scatological image does not befit an English elder statesmen whose sense of subtlety can be found in album titles like Slip It In and Slip of the Tongue, it does provide a pretty accurate picture of Coverdale's career fortunes over the last decade.

After Whitesnake disbanded in 1990, Coverdale fell off the face of the rock world, as grunge obliterated all remnants of '80s pop-metal. Although Whitesnake regrouped for a "farewell" tour in 1997, Coverdale's focus seemed to be on establishing a solo career. His 2000 solo disc, Into the Light, was accompanied by proclamations from the wizened whiner that he had no interest in revisiting his Whitesnake catalog. But Into the Light quickly tanked, so Coverdale reconsidered his options.

He knew his name meant zilch in the music marketplace without the Whitesnake stamp, and he knew that he didn't want to reassemble the old band (which was actually a Spinal Tap-esque series of ever-changing lineups), so he did what any calculating hard-rock survivor in his position would do. He formed a new band, called them Whitesnake, and ventured out to the heartland.

If there's one factor that unites Whitesnake and its current tour mates, Warrant, Winger, and Slaughter - other than cases of hair spray and armadillos in their trousers - it's a spate of dead-on-contact solo albums. After all, nothing brings metal dinosaurs back together like a solo disc that stiffs. Warrant's Jani Lane failed to heat up the charts with his 2002 magnum opus, Back Down to the One (an apparent reference to the number of people willing to shell out money for it). Kip Winger's Songs From the Ocean Floor never found its way to land. And let's not even bother with Slaughter.

Actually, there is another connection between these bands. Despite their tawdry images, their members possess some impressive credentials. Coverdale not only recorded an album with Jimmy Page, he fronted Deep Purple in the mid-'70s. Kip Winger played bass for Alice Cooper. And Warrant ... well, they once toured with Brittany Fox. Let's give credit where it's due: She was the first Brittany to inform us that naughty girls need love too.


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You've got to hand it to Warrant. They were always what they appeared to be: lunkheaded horn-dogs who got into music just so they could meet porn stars. With Coverdale, you always got the feeling that he was slumming, that he thought he was too good, too classy for hair-metal. Sure, he paraded auburn-maned girlfriend (later wife) Tawni Kitaen all over a fleet of parked cars and tried to come off like a super stud, but in interviews he assumed that haughty, aristocratic tone that let you know the shtick was all about business for him.

Coverdale's a particular type of rock hack, like Ronnie James Dio or Sammy Hagar, the kind of guy who joins a mega-band after another frontman has paved the way, and uses the recognition to start a tequila business. No true metal fan looks at Coverdale's years with Deep Purple as the band's golden period. But he used the connection to cultivate an image as a hard-rock legend, when he was always a poor-man's Robert Plant. In fact, Plant himself once dubbed him "David Cover-version."

By contrast, Warrant were authentic down boys, and they made us want to be down boys too. And when Jani Lane put his beautiful mind to a metaphor, the results could be breathtaking: "She wanted me to feed her/So I mixed up the batter/and she licked the beater."

Robb Chavez, host of the public-access show, Robb's Metalworks, thinks there is a legimate reason why fans still turn out for bands like Warrant.

"Some of that has to do with nostalgia," Chavez says. "People want to relive their youth, and bring back good memories. But above all, the bands from that era all had great stage presence. They were really crowd pleasers, 'cause they knew how to feed the crowd."

Not to mention mixing up the batter, and making the crowd lick the beater. •

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