Axl Rose Thinks Whitesnake Is The Biggest Sellout Ever

Axl Rose Thinks Whitesnake Is The Biggest Sellout Ever | I Love Classic Rock Videos

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Before their breakthrough self-titled album in 1987, Whitesnake was navigating the waters of hard rock, heavily influenced by Mel Galley and Cozy Powell. The additions of these musicians brought a distinct flavor to the band’s sound, steering it towards a more aggressive and bluesy tone.

However, as the lineup underwent changes, Whitesnake shifted gears, embracing a more Americanized sound with the release of Slide It In in 1984.

This marked a departure from their earlier blues-infused hard rock roots and set the stage for a significant shift in their musical direction, foreshadowing the polished sound that would define their later success. This change may have earned them tons of fans, but Guns N’ Roses frontman Axl Rose did not like this change.

“I don’t call Whitesnake crunch guitars; I call Whitesnake the biggest sellout I’ve heard…” the controversial hard rock singer said in a 1987 interview.

Axl Rose critiques Whitesnake’s transformation

Whitesnake’s mainstream success with 1987 did not escape the scrutiny of Guns N’ Roses frontman Axl Rose. In a 1987 interview, when asked about the prevalence of ‘crunch guitar’ in that era, Rose candidly expressed his disapproval of bands like Whitesnake.

He went so far as to label them as the “biggest sellout” he had heard in a very long time. “I don’t call Whitesnake crunch guitars; I call Whitesnake the biggest sellout I’ve heard this, you know, the biggest sellout I’ve heard in a very, very long time,” Rose commented.

Rose criticized what he perceived as a deliberate move to create a mellow version of their songs to cater to radio play, accusing them of compromising artistic integrity for financial gain. 

This critique reflected the tensions between artists navigating the balance between artistic expression and commercial success in the ever-changing landscape of rock music.

Praising individual musicianship amidst discontent

Despite his overarching critique of Whitesnake’s overall direction, Axl Rose was careful to acknowledge the individual musicians’ talent within the band. Specifically praising guitarist Vivian Campbell, Rose expressed deep respect for the players in the new lineup.

“Now, I’m not talking about the players, especially the players in a new band, Vivian Campbell blows my mind on guitar, you know. I’m just saying I don’t enjoy the record,” he went on.

However, the rock singer reiterated his displeasure with Whitesnake’s musical choices, emphasizing that their music had not influenced his own work, and he found the commercial approach distasteful. 

This tension between admiration for individual talent and dissatisfaction with the band’s artistic choices underscored the complexities within the rock music community during this era.

David Coverdale’s Reflections on Evolution

In response to the criticism and the evolving sound of Whitesnake, frontman David Coverdale offered insightful reflections on the band’s transformation.

Speaking in 2022, Coverdale noted that after the success of Slide It In, he saw an opportunity to rebuild and refresh the band’s lineup and sound, especially upon his move to America. The collaboration with guitarist John Sykes played a crucial role, bringing fresh ideas and energy to the table.

“I didn’t have a band after ‘Slide It In,’ so it was coming to America to start over, as it were. A huge element was working with John Sykes, the guitar player. He came with a bunch of ideas; I had a bunch of ideas. I wanted more electric musicians, ‘Notice me, not afraid to come on stage,’ and walk up and own the crowd,” Coverdale said.

The synergy between Coverdale and Sykes not only shaped Whitesnake’s future direction but marked a new era of success that resonated with fans and critics alike. Coverdale’s perspective provided a deeper understanding of the band’s creative journey and the decisions that led to their evolution.