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30 Years Ago Today: John Sykes’ Blue Murder released

John Sykes was involved in one of the most popular albums of the 1980s, Whitesnake’s self-titled 1987 release. He co-wrote all the songs on the album except for two that were re-recordings of songs from the band’s back catalog. He played all the lead guitars on the album…except for the most popular song, the new version “Here I Go Again.” Blue MurderDavid Coverdale hired Adrian Vandenberg to record the solo after firing Sykes near the end of the recording process.

Two years after Whitesnake’s 1987 album was released, John Sykes exacted his revenge with his new band, Blue Murder. Sykes handled vocals and guitars for the hard rock outfit, while icons Tony Franklin and Carmine Appice played bass and drums, respectively. The self-titled debut was released April 25, 1989, and reached #69 on the Billboard 200 in June 1989. Blue Murder released two studio albums and one live album before the label dropped the act and Sykes went solo.

If you’re looking for an often overlooked hard rock masterpiece, pick up a copy of Blue Murder’s self-titled debut.

Christmas gift ideas for your Zeppelin fanatic

I didn’t run out of ideas when doing my “Christmas gift ideas” posts, but I’ve had other things going on. I appreciate all who have clicked on the links so far, as I get a tiny kickback from Amazon and can put it toward things that I really shouldn’t be spending actual money on…but “gift card” money, that’s a whole different ballgame. Even if you don’t buy the products I post, if you click one of my links before browsing and making your purchase I get a little credit.

Perhaps the biggest hard rock band of all time is Led Zeppelin, and not without reason. Not only is “Stairway to Heaven” a masterpiece, but nearly every song on the first four or five albums is perfectly put together (even if they were not all written by the band). For these lists, I’ve made three sections. First we have other projects of the members of Led Zeppelin. Second we have artists that sound like they were inspired by Plant, Page, Jones, and Bonham. And in many cases, they were. Finally, tribute albums to one of the greatest classic hard rock bands in history.

Zeppelin members’ other projects

  • Lead singer Robert PlantLed Zeppelin solo projects has released numerous solo albums; the most recent is 2017’s Carry Fire. He also collaborated with Zep-mate Jimmy Page and classic rock guitarist Jeff Beck in 1984 on The Honeydrippers, Volume One. In 1994, he joined Jimmy Page for an MTV special and released No Quarter, followed by Walking Into Clarksdale in 1998. In 2007, Plant teamed up with bluegrass singer Alison Krauss for Raising Sand.
  • Guitarist Jimmy Page’s post-Zeppelin output is not as straightforward as Plant’s. He started by recording the soundtrack for Death Wish II, but that one is going to cost you a pretty penny as it is no longer in print. His only non-soundtrack solo album, Outrider, did not perform well. One other soundtrack was recorded for Kenneth Anger’s Lucifer Rising, but is not currently available unless you want to drop nearly $400 on the vinyl. In 1985, Page contributed to Roy Harper’s Whatever Happened to Jugula? 1985 also saw the self-titled debut of The Firm, a supergroup featuring Page, Bad Company/Free vocalist Paul Rodgers, bass extraordinaire Tony Franklin, and then-future-AC/DC drummer Chris Slade. A follow-up record was release by The Firm in 1986, Mean Business. In 1999, the guitarist joined the Black Crowes for two shows; most of those recordings were released in 2000 under the title Live At the Greek, but singer Chris Robinson was not enthused about the performance.
  • Bassist John Paul Jones wrote the soundtrack for the movie Scream For Help, which also includes contributions from Page and Yes vocalist Jon Anderson. In 1994 he appeared on the album The Sporting Life with Diamanda Galas. Jones has also released two solo albums, Zooma (1999) and The Thunderthief. In 2009, Jones joined a supergroup with Josh Homme and Dave Grohl; unfortunately only one album has been released, the self-titled Them Crooked Vultures. Lastly, Jones contributed to two records released by the band Seasick Steve, You Can’t Teach an Old Dog New Tricks and Hubcap Music.

Artists that sound an awful lot like Led Zeppelin

  • Greta Van Fleet Sounds like Led Zeppelinis the band getting a lot of attention right now, as they should. They have taken the rock world by storm and don’t appear to be slowing down. From the Fires was released last November, and Anthem of the Peaceful Army had an October release this year. Watch this band closely as their star is still on the rise.
  • Rival Sons have been around for several years, but is just now starting to gain some traction in the mainstream. You may have heard “Do Your Worst” from the soon-to-be-released Feral Roots on the radio, but the title track from 2011’s Pressure and Time really exhibits the Zeppelin connection.
  • Wolfmother‘s debut over a decade ago exploded on the scene, but then the band imploded. Three more albums have been released since the debut, but none have sold as well.
  • Zebra gigged for years playing Zeppelin songs before releasing their self-titled debut in 1983, and while there are some enduring classics on the record, it is not a cover-to-cover masterpiece like most of Zep’s catalog.
  • Kingdom Come is often cited as a hair metal version of Led Zeppelin, and Lenny Wolf’s vocals were certainly reminiscent of Robert Plant. The songwriting isn’t going to land them in the Rock Hall, but Kingdom Come has proven to be popular enough to release thirteen albums since 1988.
  • Whitesnake may be the most all-around Zeppelin sound-alike. David Coverdale’s vocals are spot-on. Whoever is playing guitar, be it John Sykes or Steve Vai or Doug Aldrich, does a great job laying down some Jimmy Page-like riffs.
  • Coverdale/Page may have been a slap in Robert Plant’s face for refusing to do a Zeppelin reunion in the early ’90s. Guitarist Jimmy Page recruited David Coverdale, one of the most Robert Plant-ish singers around, to record an album of new tracks. The band probably would have lasted more than just one album had Page been able to convince John Paul Jones or Jason Bonham to participate.
  • Speaking of Jason Bonham, he had a band in the late ’80s and early ’90s called Bonham featuring a Robert Plant clone, Daniel MacMaster, on vocals. Their most popular (and most Zeppelinish) song was “Wait For You” from 1989’s The Disregard of Timekeeping.

Tribute albums

Sail Away: Whitesnake’s Fantastic Voyage by Martin Popoff (2015)


Sail Away: Whitesnake’s Fantastic Voyage
by Martin Popoff
Soundcheck Books, 2015
224 pages

David Coverdale is a rock icon with a stellar voice that never quite received the respect he deserved. In Sail Away: Whitesnake’s Fantastic Voyage, author Martin Popoff sheds light on the underappreciated singer and his career, starting with Deep Purple in the 1970s, following him through various early incarnations of Whitesnake and the success of Slide It In, Whitesnake (1987), and Slip Of The Tongue. Coverdale’s project with Jimmy Page, solo albums, and the 21st century Whitesnake albums are covered very briefly in an epilogue.

Much of Sail Away reads like an interview, with long quotes from musicians and publicists. Popoff conducted thirty interviews between 1998 and 2014 for this book, and researched a number of publications for additional information, including Circus, Hit Parader, Kerrang!, and Music Express. This is a decidedly British biography, and Popoff has a tendency to editorialize at times while commenting on the records and musicians.

There is quite a bit to do with the process of selecting songs, and the relationships that Coverdale had with the guitarists he employed over the years, including John Sykes, Adrian Vandenberg, and Steve Vai. Not much is written about the backstage antics on tour; the focus is almost entirely on the albums, songs, and relationships.

Sail Away is an interesting read, but not necessarily thrilling. It seems Whitesnake was generally a business-like band that lacked much personality beyond the records themselves. Classic rock and hair metal fans may enjoy learning more about Coverdale, but the book is far from essential reading.

Learn more about Soundcheck Books.

Purchase music by Whitesnake.

Purchase Sail Away: Whitesnake’s Fantastic Voyage by Martin Popoff.

Top 50 Hair Metal Songs: #7 – Whitesnake “Here I Go Again”

One of the most epic songs of all time, regardless of genre, Whitesnake made waves in 1987 with a re-recorded “Here I Go Again.” The original version, a bluesy hard rocker on Saints & Sinners in 1982, was reworked and received some very slick production for its re-release five years later. David Coverdale’s voice was in top form, and everything just clicked.

Other songs considered: “Slow An’ Easy,” “Still Of The Night,” “Fool For Your Loving”

Purchase Whitesnake music.

Bonus video:

It’s coming…


Starting August 9…only on

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