Back in the ‘80s, there was a time when MTV could make or break music artists. And one of the channel’s biggest success stories of the later part of the decade was undoubtedly Whitesnake, and their oft-played video for “Here I Go Again”.
Over the course of several albums, Whitesnake — led by singer David Coverdale — had become one of the leading hard rock bands in Europe… but widespread commercial success eluded them Stateside. That all changed with the arrival of their self-titled offering from 1987, which spawned such hit singles/videos as “Still of the Night”, “Is This Love”, and “Give Me All Your Love”.
But it was undoubtedly the video for “Here I Go Again” — an older song that was re-recorded for the ’87 album — that has remained the most enduring, with its unforgettable images of Tawny Kitaen doing cartwheels atop two Jaguar XJs.
Heavy Consequence recently spoke with Coverdale about Whitesnake’s upcoming Flesh & Blood album, and having dusted off one of the Jaguars for Whitesnake’s new video for “Shut Up & Kiss Me”, the frontman was also up for discussing the iconic video for “Here I Go Again”.
“It’s an old song that I wrote about the breakdown of my first marriage,” he recalls about what inspired the song. “I had rented a villa in the Algarve — the southern coast of Portugal, opposite Africa — with my young daughter, and my wife and I ended up sleeping in separate rooms. We just went from being the best of friends to not being the best of friends. And ‘Here I Go Again’ was about that, and ‘Crying in the Rain’. I’m only inspired by events in my life, to document. There are three themes that are really prevalent — I had given up arguing with myself years ago about love songs, because every time I sit down, it’s never with the intentions of writing a love song. But now, everyone has a ‘Here I Go Again’ story, about a time in their life – either a sad time or a joyful time. And we already had American radio’s incredible support from the Slide It In record. So, they were ready for the ’87 record.”
But this time, not only was radio ready for Whitesnake… but MTV was, as well. “I had to put on my designer’s hat, because I had studied to be an art director and art teacher, so I have pretty good visual ideas. It’s just being able to capture them. When I’m writing a song, I hear in my mind what I want Tommy [Aldridge] to do, or Joel [Hoekstra] — there is already a map of what I’m hearing from the potential of the couple of dorky chord sequences I’m using. And it’s similar to that with video. I have a very visual mind. And I had a great relationship with the guy [Marty Callner] who did ‘Here I Go Again’, ‘Still of the Night’, and ‘Is This Love?’ They were f*cking huge — just ridiculous. At the time, I thought, ‘Wow. This has really saved me at least five years of hard-ass touring the States.’ MTV took over the world, and Whitesnake became a global entity.”
“Whatever hotel I would go in, the TV would be on from the housekeepers being in, and it would usually be on MTV, and it was usually cartwheels on a pair of Jaguars. This was all over the world. And, for a time, I thought, ‘Oh my God, we’re so over-exposed,’ because I’m old-school. I mean, working with Jimmy Page [in the short-lived Coverdale-Page project], and talking him into doing a promotional video wasn’t easy. We’re old-school — we let the music do the talking. But if you want to succeed in this, you have to embrace a multitude of sins — as long as they don’t compromise your integrity or who you are. And that was just lightning in a bottle. We had three very different videos. The set design I came up with for ‘Still of the Night’ was from the Elvis Presley movie, Jailhouse Rock, when he was performing. It’s like much more idealized prison cells, but this was done with a big full moon. And the band was fantastic – they sold the song brilliantly.”
Interestingly, Kitaen was not the first choice for the female figure featured in the video. “Claudia Schiffer was supposed to be ‘the Whitesnake woman,’ when she was the Guess Jeans girl. But that fell apart near the actual shoot. And I was taking Tawny out for dinner, when Marty Callner called me, and said, ‘You have to stop by, we have problems.’ We went to his house on the way to dinner, he opened the door, his jaw hit the floor — as you know, Tawny was an absolute beauty — and he said, ‘That’s her! She’s the Whitesnake woman!’ And I said, ‘Marty, this is a friend of mine. She’s an actress.’ And she said, ‘No David, I’m happy to do it!’ So, sorry Claudia — you did very well afterwards, too.”
Coverdale also recalls a certain dance choreographer (and soon to be pop star herself) coming down to the set. “I brought Paula Abdul down to the shoot to go over moves with Tawny, and she said, ‘I can’t show her anything, David.’ I can’t remember whose idea it was, because everybody takes credit for it, but we were improvising on the spot, really. It was so unusual to have a woman in a beautiful dress, doing cartwheels from a black Jag to a white Jag. It was fascinating. Nobody had that. It was unique. And I swear to God, a lot of people who came down to work with us on the [new] ‘Shut Up & Kiss Me’ video, they were just in awe of the car, and dying to do their thing. It was amazing. And these were a lot of young people, too. We wanted to shoot a cross-section — not just gorgeous girls in torn stockings, the old axiom of diminishing females. We wanted a beautiful cross-section of people. And we achieved it. It was great. But even the young ones were aware of the ‘Here I Go Again’ video, and the Jag.”
Lastly, why does Coverdale think that the “Here I Go Again” video remains so iconic? “F*ck, I don’t know. If I knew the answer to that, every video I produced would be iconic!”
Watch the “Here I Go Again” video below, followed by the video for Whitesnake’s new single, “Shut Up & Kiss Me”:
Our thanks to David Coverdale for taking the time to reflect on the “Here I Go Again” video. See Whitesnake’s tour dates here, and pick up tickets here. You can also pre-order the album Flesh & Blood at this location, or pick up their self-titled 1987 album on vinyl at Reverb LP.