David Coverdale Reflects: Going in Through the Out Door with Jimmy Page
JAM Magazine Speaks with Rocks Deepest Voice, David Coverdale
By David Huff
Live concert photos by Jeff Jones
It was a period of time in David Coverdale’s life he’d like to forget. One moment his alter ego, Whitesnake, was the biggest band in the world. The next, it had literally lost its way and floundered. The year was 1991, and the British-born singer, in the midst of a divorce from his video vixen wife, Tawny Kitaen, was now living in Lake Tahoe. For all intents and purposes, Whitesnake as a touring and recording entity was dead.
The extremely moderate success of his band’s 1989 release, Slip of the Tongue, had severely tested the singer’s resolve to continue in the music business. Several factors contributed to the album’s lukewarm reception by the public. First off, Coverdale had totally miscalculated what guitarist Steve Vai was bringing to the table when he asked him to play all the guitar parts on the album. Guitarist Adrian Vandenberg had been Coverdale’s songwriting partner on the album. An injury to Adrian’s hand forced the guitarist to go back to Holland to seek treatment. Subsequently, Vai was brought in to handle all the guitar parts. The original bluesy feel Vandenberg had brought to the songs was lost in translation as the technically brilliant Vai recreated the music. Second, there was an ongoing sense of betrayal Coverdale felt from former Whitesnake guitarist John Sykes. His debut album, Blue Murder, had been released seven months earlier to Slip of the Tongue. Many of the songs on the brilliantly overlooked recording, had been built upon foundations Coverdale created when he and Sykes were still writing together. With those songs no longer an option to pursue, Coverdale started from scratch with Adrian Vandenberg. After conquering the globe two years earlier with the multi-platinum Whitesnake ’87 album, the mediocre response to the new release took Coverdale by surprise. The heart and soul of his baby was missing, and the singer couldn’t figure out why. When he finally did, it was too late to fix the problem. The damage was done.
With his personal life in shambles, and his professional career in a state of flux, the singer seriously considered opting out of the music business to become a country gentleman. A phone call from his agent in London changed everything. Would David be interested in taking a meeting with Jimmy Page? The invitation was too intriguing to pass up. The legendary guitarist had been in a musical funk since the death at his home, of Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham, ten years earlier. Coverdale didn't care. Suddenly the past two years of discontent within the Whitesnake organization was a distant memory.
The Coverdale / Page project would revitalize the spirits of both musicians. Though the album was mostly overlooked by the grunge buying public at large, for those fans longing for the good ol' rock and roll days of the '70s, this album was an instant classic. Jimmy Page rediscovered his inner Led Zeppelin, and was musically brilliant. Coverdale wrote some of the smartest lyrics of his career. Unfortunately, the one thing that would have the won public over - a world tour - would never see the light of day, (outside of a handful of select dates in Japan).
For Whitesnake fans the world over, the following interview with David Coverdale fills in a missing piece of a very large puzzle often speculated about, but never actually discussed, until now.
JAM: David, your work with Jimmy Page resulted in some of the most incredible material you've ever written as a musician. It truly is a shame the Coverdale / Page project was never really given its due, not only by your record company at the time, but the two of you. You were supposed to tour together, record another album, and it just fizzled. Was there any one thing to blame for this project simply falling apart?
David Coverdale -- Jimmy (Page) came to see me after a Whitesnake show in London eight months after the last of our seven Coverdale / Page shows together in Japan. Afterwards we sat down for a chat. He told me that he was really sad about the way things turned out. I looked at him and said we had produced an album together I was eternally proud of. I told him, "Jimmy, I don't hold anything against you whatsoever. The person that I hold responsible for the debacle that it turned into is your ex-manager. I couldn't be happier that you dumped him."
JAM: Jimmy's manager?
That's right. The guy couldn't tell whether it was day or night. I have worked with a lot of assholes, but this was an enormous pill I could hardly swallow. For the entire period I worked with Jimmy, I had no level of respect for his manager at all.
JAM: Are you telling me Jimmy Page's ex-manager was responsible for cancelling the Coverdale/ Page tour in America that was suppose to take place after the album’s release?
Yes. I had sat down with Howard Kaufman, who is probably one of the most respected and powerful managers in the music business, and worked out a campaign of touring. It would have given everybody in the world an opportunity to see this band perform live. His manager wouldn't even talk to Jimmy about it. This is what I found out later. I remember one of the first things this guy ever said to Howard and myself when he met us was, "Whatever you do, never discuss business with Jimmy. He hates it!" Consequently, Jimmy and I had already built a great relationship, both private and professionally, without ever really discussing business before this guy entered the scene. So, when his ex-manager said that Jimmy was only prepared to work in July and August of '93, Howard said that we might as well forget the tour. That is why all the tour dates were pulled the first time.
JAM:What do you mean the tour dates were pulled the first time?
We were preparing to go on the road two to three weeks after our album was released in March of '93. The record blew out of the box if you remember. This is the '90s. You didn't release an album and wait around to see how it sold. You jump on it. The whole arrangement for the Coverdale / Page project was to go directly to the theatres, to the stage, and nothing, not even a whisper, came from Jimmy’s manager when the album was released. It was one of the singularly most frustrating periods of my professional career.
JAM: How did you get Jimmy to perform in Japan?
Originally, the Japanese shows were supposed to be the end of our six-month tour. We were going to cover the world in six months. Everybody who would have wanted to see Coverdale / Page would have seen it. I finally talked to Jimmy directly, and told him it would be a shame if we didn't at least play live once. The seven dates in Japan were tentatively still booked. Since Jimmy hadn't been to the country in 20 years, he agreed to perform the shows. Then his manager, without even consulting with his client, nixed the idea of recording and videoing our shows in Japan. Everywhere I went in Europe that following summer during the Whitesnake tour, I had people coming up to me with Coverdale / Page stuff to sign. They were saying, "Didn't you record it? When is the live album coming out? When's the video coming out?" I was just going mad, feeling like a fool, not being able to give them any answers.
JAM: I've seen the bootleg videos from the first two Tokyo shows I flew over to Japan to attend. If it's any consolation, Coverdale / Page would have been a great theatre show to see live in the United States.
I told Jimmy, when I saw him, that we had the most bootlegged project ever recorded in Japanese bootleg history. I was offered codes and telephone numbers so I could order the video taped shows we did over there. Anyway, his manager was dumped, unfortunately three years too late.
JAM: Throughout the '80s, Jimmy Page was nothing but a shadow of his previous self after the death of John Bonham. The project he did with you brought him out of the self-induced musical coma he'd been in for over a decade. In fact, that album was hugely responsible for Page and Plant getting back together, whether Robert Plant wants to acknowledge it or not.
Jimmy will be the first one to tell you that the Coverdale / Page record was the first time he'd played consistently in over 12 years. It was very sad that our project ended. He went on to good hands with Bill Curbishley after we parted ways. When I saw Jimmy again after several months, we got along immediately. He looked great, sounded great and I wished him well, regardless of who he was working with. There's certainly no love loss between myself and Robert Plant.
JAM: To be honest with you, I didn't think you would ever work with another guitarist again after what you and Page accomplished. The magic you two created seemed like it could go on forever. It’s bittersweet your relationship ended the way it did.
Well, that album was a tough one to make and finish up. I lost my mother during the end of the actual recording of the record. For somebody who is supposed to be verbose, her loss was indescribable. It’s still very difficult to come to terms she is physically no longer with me. That added a couple of months to the album. While I was dealing with my mother, I had to put my part of the project on hold. Jimmy plodded through. I came to find out later that Jimmy was constantly getting calls from his ex-manager to get on with it, do this and that, without Coverdale. I finally called Jimmy up and told him that away from our representatives in New York, we shook hands and said everything was 50/50. The scenario included finishing off the recording and mastering. Other than that, this would be a solo project.
JAM: I've read where you stated that after the 1990 Slip of the Tongue tour, you were emotionally and physically spent on Whitesnake. In fact, you were seriously considering retiring to your compound in Lake Tahoe and getting out of the business completely. What happened to you back then to put you in such a funk?
The scenario was this. Quite honestly, I was sucked dry and not in a pleasurable sense. I never stopped working. If I had a day off, I'd start doing interviews, traveling, working and recording. That's what happened. I was never given a break. There was nobody there to say don’t do that and this is the wrong decision. A very powerful wrong decision on my part was to include Steve Vai on the Slip of the Tongue album. I think the world of him as a gentleman and a musician, but I think he was a mistake in the identity of what the 'Snakes were about. He was a technician with the guitar instead of a purest. It's funny, but Vandenberg and I were doing some writing one day and came across the old demos we'd put together for the Slip of the Tongue album. And you know what? The demos were far more superior, much earthier, than the actual finished project. It took me about a year and a half to realize that it didn't work with Vai because I had done everything I could to make it work.
JAM: Was anybody in your organization afraid to say no to you?
At times, yeah, but I must accept the responsibility of that because I can be ruthlessly inflexible. The scenario was this. I had to disguise the emotional elements that played out through the making of the record. At one point, I had to suggest delicately, and as timely as possible, that Adrian return to Holland to tend to his hand. It had been inflicted with a form of tendonitis. He couldn't hold the guitar let alone play it. After all of the work we had done on the project, I told him I was going to approach Vai about playing the guitar. I'd had glitter in my eye about working with him since I saw the movie Crossroads, because of the guitar work he'd performed in the film. Only later did I find out the music I heard on the guitar was really all Ry Cooder's doing. He told Vai exactly what to play and how to play it. Being the consummate technician that he is with the guitar, Vai played the music you hear in that movie according to what he was instructed to play, not from his own gut feelings. And of course, I've never met anybody, outside of my ex-wife, who could alienate so many people around them so unbelievably quickly. I have never in my life had people, members of my crew and so forth, want to bail from a Whitesnake project like they did on that tour.
JAM: You obviously had more than just the music to contend with.
All through 1990 that's what was going on. It was a very insidious year. I did an ostrich. I put my head in the back of the old bus state room and tried to preserve any energy I had for the shows. It was a particularly debilitating year. I didn't know if I'd lost my passion for the business or what. I didn't even speak to my closest friends for more than a year. I was so drained during the American segment of the Slip of the Tongue tour; I called my manager to see if he could get me out of the European dates. They were set to start after the American leg was finished. I am delighted to say he fought me to do it. Right at the beginning of the European tour, I couldn't tolerate the personal behavior of my partner (Tawny Kitaen). That was the end of it for me. I had been embarrassed too many times, so at the moment that particular person left the entourage, I became myself again. So consequently, I had a blast on the European and Asian tour.
JAM:When did your passion for music start waning?
Privately, I didn't know what I wanted to do when I got home and started reviewing my options. Honestly, I didn't know if I still had the passion for this business. I told my London agent, Rod McQueen, I was thinking of retiring and taking up some questionable pastime, like fishing maybe. Two months later, Rod calls and asks if I would be curious to sit down talk with Jimmy Page. That was obviously too large of a carrot to ignore.
JAM: On a musical level, Jimmy Page had been virtually nonexistent for over a decade, outside of the short-lived Firm with Paul Rogers. Did you really know what you were getting into?
I had picked up his work over the years.
JAM: Then you know exactly what I'm talking about. Listen, I’ll be blunt. Did you want to meet with Page so that news of it would get back to Robert Plant?
JAM: Did you want to meet with Jimmy Page as a way of indirectly getting back at Robert Plant, for all of the bullshit he slung your way in the press back '87 and '88, when Whitesnake was the top selling rock band in the world?
Again David, the answer is no!
JAM: The news of you two meeting, to explore a musical arrangement, would certainly have made Plant stop and take notice, a real notice?
Those comments in the late ‘80s from him were based purely on jealousy. Robert, regardless of his denial, he and Bonzo (John Bonham) were the ones I knew from the Zeppelin camp. In fact, Robert was an honored guest at several Whitesnake shows in Europe because at the time, his daughter was a big fan of the band. They were treated with the greatest hospitality one could imagine. For reasons known only to him, I think Robert would have preferred it had I remained relatively obscure. I think he ruined the nobility he possessed, from his legacy with Led Zeppelin, by that ridiculous witch hunt he pursued against me.
JAM: What was it about Jimmy Page that intrigued you enough to want to meet with him?
I had been a fan of Jimmy Page's since the early '60s.
JAM: Come on David, this wasn’t the same Jimmy Page you had come to admire musically. He hadn’t done anything worthwhile since before John Bonham’s death. He was a shadow of his former self!
That wasn't the point. The prospect of us working together interested me. I don’t think you understand. If Miles Davis had called me up, I would have reacted the same way. I have tremendous loyalty to artists who have endured. Those types of musicians really intrigue me. Prior to our meeting, number one, I told the parties involved in these discussion that until my divorce was clear, and I have an open canvas, I don't want to discuss anything. The reason we actually met before my divorce was based solely on professional courtesy more than anything else. Jimmy was coming to New York, from London, to remaster a Led Zeppelin box set. It would have simply been rude of me not to meet him half way.
JAM: Did you two really walk down the streets of New York and stop traffic?
That story is absolutely true. We met in New York, had dinner, and afterwards agreed to do everything with a handshake agreement, one step at a time. Yes we got on terrific. Yes we stopped traffic in New York. The big step was to see if we wrote well together. Both of us had nothing prepared when we got together to write. The first day we were together we wrote "Absolution Blues."
JAM: At what point in time did you know you were playing with a different Jimmy Page?
In terms of what?
JAM: In terms of dealing with a musician who was at the top of his game, instead of playing well beneath his talent level.
As you very well know, I do my homework on the people I'm interested in associating myself with. Like I told you earlier, I was a big fan of Jimmy's going back to his studio work in the '60s. He was a guy who took the blues and turned it into accessible rock. Zeppelin inherited the mantle from Cream. Initially, I wasn't really a fan of Zeppelin. A lot of people in England didn't like Led Zeppelin because they knew they were putting their names on fairly well-known blues songs by Willie Dixon, Memphis Minnie, and so on. God knows what happened there. I think one of the things that stuck in Jimmy's throat was quite simply, when presented the premise of a song he'd heard, he would take the best parts and make it his own. He would then play the idea to Robert, who would basically take the original lyrics, rework them into a Led Zeppelin song, and it was a dead giveaway as to what they had done. That was the big problem with that band, and everyone in England knew it.
JAM: After the uproar, Led Zeppelin corrected the situation and forged an undeniable identity and sound all its own.
And that's when I became a fan of Jimmy's again. Without a doubt, he is one of the most innovative and influential guitarists we'll ever see in our lifetime.
JAM: So it was that later image of Jimmy Page with Zeppelin you had in mind when you entertained the notion of working with him?
Yes. I had gone to see The Firm in the mid-80s and I wasn't that impressed. Geffen sent me a tape of his solo album Outrider, and I did my own research. I could see what was going on with him, musically, much deeper than most people.
JAM: So your curiosity, and gut instincts, told you there was more to Jimmy Page than met the eye?
It did, and after we met, we took it one step at a time. Right from the start, if either one of us felt uncomfortable, we had full light to discuss it and dissolve our situation. Initially, we bankrolled this entire project ourselves. When we were playing together, there were sparks there and suddenly it was a fire. I am fairly familiar with teasing something out of people. You dig what I'm saying? Most of the individuals I have worked with - regardless of the critiques I have received from them afterwards - usually their finest musical hour has been involved with me.
JAM: I don’t understand why Jimmy would allow someone else to dictate the terms he would work under when it came to touring and presenting your music to the public?
I don't think the guy was ever honest with Jimmy. Unfortunately, Page and I only talked music and left the business to our representatives.
JAM: Jimmy Page doesn't need anyone to tell him what to do.
Well, the circumstances were this. Jimmy was this guy's only client, his meal ticket, his golden goose! You know what I'm saying.
JAM: Regardless, it destroyed a great and promising partnership.
Well, we had a blast in Japan and each show got better and better. Sadly, it was only seven dates. A few months after that short December tour, I went on the road to do some Whitesnake concerts in Europe and England. It was much more successful than anyone would have anticipated, including myself. I love writing, I love performing. It’s all that other stuff like record company attitudes and the necessity of wooing MTV - which I didn't like.
JAM: Speaking of MTV, why was the second video from Coverdale / Page, "Take Me for A Little While," which had dazzling special effects, never released on MTV?
It was. The circumstance was MTV just wouldn't play it.
JAM: They certainly played the hell out of "Pride & Joy."
Yes, that song came out and did terrifically well. In the beginning, Page and I fully anticipated that a scratchy, grainy "Shake My Tree," should be the first video and single released to introduce the Coverdale / Page project. But the artist, regardless of the stature, gets shot down by the record company. They meet around a long table and they say, "We think 'Pride & Joy,' should be the first single!" And that was it. That was a fun tune that I wrote in Barbados, and rather than argue with them, we said okay. Originally, the song was shot with all of these Helmut Newton-esque things in the video, because of the imagery in the song. Diamonds on your ankles / sapphires on your shoes, it is screaming Helmut Newton stills. There's an eye looking through a venetian blind and you don’t know whether it's a guy or a woman. You know what I'm saying? There was real, obscure stuff filmed that was drenched with underlying sexually.
JAM: I don't remember seeing any of those types of images on that video?
That's because an executive at Geffen, who shall remain nameless, goes down and re-edits the video that Page and I have approved beforehand. It was flat as a fire.
JAM: So what actually happened to the "Take Me for a Little While" video?
After we submitted the original version, the MTV people said, "We want more stuff in there, more effects. We want a woman in it." I said okay and talked Jimmy into spending a fucking fortune to remake it. When we presented the video to them, I said, 'Just a minute. It's coming upon the summer and we're going to make this gothic video for MTV when all it is, is beach blanket bingo?' They kept on saying, 'No, this is what we want, this is what we want.' So, that is what they got. I understand we got maybe six plays, which were proba bly in the middle of the night, that you probably never saw. They wanted us to go in and re-shoot some more scenes of the video. By that time, there was no way I was going to get Jimmy to commit to the kind of idiot money it costs to make a supposed contender video.
JAM: Do you feel that a relative degree of disrespect had befallen you at this time, by Geffen executives, still mad at you for deli vering an album like Slip of the Tongue? The label was expecting another Whitesnake '87 recording from you. What you gave them didn't even come close. In return, the powers that be exorcised their ang er on you, by pulling shitty little backhanded stunts in re gards to your project with Jimmy Page?
It's an excellent observation I never thought about it, and you may very well be correct in stating. When Jimmy and I start ed work on the Coverdale / Page album, yes, the concept of Whitesnake had degenerated, and that over-inflated image had compro mised the music on Slip of the Tongue. That was something I came to realize immediately working with Jimmy the first couple of weeks. It's the music - not the image - that fuels a band. For me, working with him was like going back to my roots. I loved it.
JAM: Love affairs come and go David, especially in the music business. You know the old adage, “You’re on as good as your last album.” Your record company indicated that to you in not so many subtle ways.
It's very difficult to be a recording artist because of compromise. Initially, I always thought I'd work with art, then commerce. Do you understand? Now it's the other way around. It's a very strange circumstance.
JAM: What was the circumstance surrounding Whitesnake's Greatest Hits package that was released by Geffen?
When I was rehearsing with Jimmy in London, I received this package from Geffen that contained Whitesnake's greatest hits. I initially thought they wanted to capitalize on the Coverdale / Page project. I had never been consulted, it had never been discussed, nor was there ever a seed of discussion about putting one together.
JAM: A greatest hits package usually indicates the end of an artist’s recording career with a label. The handwriting was on the wall.
Tell me about it. You know, when I came back to the States after Whitesnake's European tour in the Sping of ’94, I was on top of the world feeling great. Then I found out that Geffen had been remarkably unspectacular in the way they had not promoted the greatest hits album. In fact, I took my misses down to the village one morning, and there was this guy down there shivering with excitement that he was meeting me. He said he'd lived in the village all his life, heard I lived there for the several years, and wanted to know if I had another album coming out. I told him a greatest hits package had just been released. So there you have it. Once again, I feel it's been a slap in the face when you consider how successful Geffen and I were together in the '80s. It's very strange how success has many fathers and failure is quickly orphaned.
JAM: Did you intend to let Whitesnake quietly slip away as you got more deeply involved with Jimmy Page?
Not really. Whitesnake is my baby, which could be reactivated by myself when the urge struck.
JAM: The song "Easy Does It," off the Coverdale/Page album, is as iconic a piece of work as "Still of the Night." Is that a song you brought to the table for Jimmy Page to look at?
I had been trying to get that song recorded for I don't know how long. I've presented it to every guitarist, including John Sykes, that I ever wrote music with. I think the only reason I didn't present it to Adrian Vandenberg is because we already had this enormous shower of ideas flowing between us. That was the only thing that I brought to the Coverdale / Page writing sessions that I'd had on the shelf for maybe a dozen years.
JAM: "Shake My Tree" surprised me at the amount of success it enjoyed on radio.
Jimmy came up with something he'd presented on Zeppelin's In Through The Out Door sessions that went no where. It became the opening lick to "Shake My Tree". As soon as he played it, I went, "I love it!" That was the one song the two of us worked on, more than any other tune, during the actual writing stage for the album.
JAM: Did you ever think your revolving door of guitar writing partners had ended with Jimmy Page?
I don't know. What encouraged me about Page was the fact he was a normal, down-to-earth person. He's the only musician I have ever worked with, that during the mix he took the guitar over dubs out of the song, to make it breathe better. He's a very musical man. Over the years, I've met with people and the actual court ship has been blissful. Then there were times I had to deal with the attitudes, egos and backbiting. That said, I have derived certain benefits from those experiences. As far as Jimmy Page, I can't tell you how pleasurable it was to work with him. Not only is he a great musician and a remarkable gentleman, I con sider him a true friend as well.
JAM: I never quite understood your relationship with Geffen Records. They stuck with you in the ‘80s when you had health problems, advancing you enormous sums of money to keep yourself going, which they recuperated...
And quite substantially I may add.
JAM: ...and the label literally turns its back on you after disappointing sales of Slip of the Tongue. Not only does it not make sense, it's literally a slap in your face.
What I do in those scenarios is use it to my advantage. I'm still furious, there's no question about it. I'm an artist and I res pond emotionally whether the news is good or bad. What it did was add more fuel to an existing fire of, "Right, I'll show you!" I want to play music, but I'm not going to work with people that I don't want to work with. That's why I won't go back to people like John Sykes, or whatever. After the Coverdale / Pate thing was over, I hit Europe the following Spring. Suddenly there were all the rumors going around that Ritchie Blackmore was joining Whitesnake. He was out of Purple, and apparently the band was having more fun working with Joe Satriani. The thing is, I believe Purple was contracted to tour and Ritchie walked on them. They got a hold of Satriani to do some dates, probably had a blast doing it. The other one that wouldn't go away was Sykes. People would ask me if I was going to revisit the situation, and I'm saying to them, "No, no, no, you can't be serious! Why would I go back?"
JAM: When you were working with Page and constructing the music, was there any type of tug-of-war going on between the two of you?
Not in the least. As far as the writing and the structure of the songs, the music and thoughts between us just flowed. I don't think I've ever been quite as supportive towards a colleague as I was with Jimmy.
JAM: Were there regrets when you left Japan knowing the Coverdale / Page union was over?
No. I wished him well. He wished me well. We had a hug, as it were, after the last show and that was it. No, I don't have any regrets - well, I’ll take that back. The biggest regret of all is we never made it a world tour. That would have been the icing on the cake for our project. I do remember signing a shit load of Coverdale / Page material in Europe, bootleg and all. That record was a lot more successful than people were aware.
JAM: Do you still have the same fire and feelings you had the day you reintroduced yourself to America at the Texxas Jam in 1987, three years after going through literal hell and back in regards to your music and your health?
I was recharged after I came back from Japan doing the Coverdale / Page project. After a month it wore off. Living on the mountain here in Tahoe, I don't have a radio, the guys that work with me at the house drive up listening to it, so they keep that affirmation going for me. The European trip prior to going, everybody was concerned that it was going to be dead in the water. It turned out to be completely the opposite. They were some of the best rock and roll shows I've done in my life. That's no bullshit, that's true. And of course me being Mr. Emotional, I returned to see the pathetic job that was being done here on the Greatest Hits album. That immediately cancelled out the joy. But I always have stuff in the works. I am always writing, love singing, and I’m back into seduction. I have been listening to a lot of old blues tunes. Almost every compilation tape that I make has got Muddy Waters all over the place. I also rediscovered Johnny Winter.
JAM: I still firmly believe the only reason that Plant made the first move to contact Page resulted directly from his work with you. The bullshit excuse he publicly used, saying he thought he'd call up Jimmy to see if he would be interested in playing an Unplugged MTV special with him, was about as lame as it goes. Page was back in full form. It was a direct result of working with you on material for Coverdale / Page. You can’t spin that accomplishment no matter how hard you try to deny it.
A close friend of mine happened to be at a dinner with Jimmy and Robert. He said Plant was in Jimmy’s face going, "That Coverdale / Page record was a bunch of old crap wasn't it, wasn't it?" He just kept going on and on, putting people on the spot, until Page turned around and said, "Leave alone Robert! Nobody's interested!" It was probably the best advice the guy had for many years. The petty attitude is ridiculous. All I can tell you, I wished Pagey well. If I got a call from him, asking if I'd work with him on a solo album or anything, I'd be there in a heartbeat. I think the world of the guy and I wish him well in every aspect of his life.
JAM: Do you really hate the Slip of the Tongue album?
I don't hate it; I just think that it was a huge musical lesson for me to be aware of. You see, I have no ambition to recreate that scenario ever again. Those songs, stripped down from all their over-flamboyance, and over-decorating, are beautiful.
JAM: Did your marriage to Tawny Kitaen have any affect on the Slip of the Tongue album?
None at all! All I'm going to say about that marriage is I didn't care how much it cost me to get out of it, I was going to pay it. If you want to know how I really felt about my marriage, read the lyrics to "It's Over Now," from the Coverdale / Page album.
I always thought "It's Over Now," was talking about Page and Plant.
No, that song was much more personal than that. One of the good things I had on the Coverdale / Page album, through the 50-60 tunes we came up with, is this. I wanted to make sure Jimmy identified with every lyric. Through the course of our discussions, we found that apart from our shoe size, we had a lot in common. We both lived with grief, which became the subject of "Take Me for a Little While."
JAM: What exactly was that song about?
One day Jimmy and I were sitting in front of a fire at my home, drinking a cognac, talking about the past. We discussed people we’d both lost in our lives, women we'd encountered that on the surface were wonderful, but turned into demons from hell. We were just reflecting. You see, I am very motivated by the feeling of a song. I play pretty adequate guitar, but I can only sing to it when somebody else plays the damn thing. Everything that Jimmy and I wrote was on acoustic guitar. The way Page would play, he'd come up with different versions for the themes of the songs I wrote. "Take Me for a Little While," is a jam lyric. It's a very original feeling, and theme, that came to mind without thinking about it. I honestly don't know where Jimmy came up with the riffs that he did on those songs.
JAM: When that "Pride & Joy," video hit the airwaves, you and Jimmy really looked happy out there playing the music.
We were. Jimmy was back in the ballpark. One of the first things that we discussed was the fact I was doing everything I could to get out of the ballpark. All Pagey wanted to do was go back in. I caught a bit of his fever, and unfortunately, I think his manager called mine and well, you know what happened. But seriously, I think that project reenergized the musical spirits of both Jimmy and myself. It was very interesting to share responsibility instead of shouldering the whole burden. Like I told you earlier, I am extremely proud of the music we created. They were some of the finest moments of my career.