By Martin Popoff
Classic lineup WHITESNAKE legend BERNIE MARSDEN is enjoying the well-appointed reissue of his first two solo albums, ‘79’s And About Time Too and ‘81’s Look At Me Now. But Marsden, the blues marksman, is not resting on the past, speaking to us, in order to guarantee reception, “from a small cupboard in Abbey Road Studios.”
“Yes, I’m in the studio as we speak, at Abbey Road, recording a new album for release in the autumn, or as you guys say, the fall,” laughs Bernie. “It will be a solo album. I’m recording it for a company called Mascot, out of Holland, and they have a great line-up—JOE BONOMASSA, WALTER TROUT, STEVE LUKATHER—and Steve’s going to be playing on my album, Joe Bonomassa, JOE SATRIANI, and DAVID COVERDALE is singing on a track of mine. So that’s gonna exciting for me.”
As for general style, “I've kinda gone back to, sort of Ready An' Willing, kind of gone retro, but with a 2012/2013 sound, if you know what I mean. A young guy's producing it, and I’m very pleased for them to do it, because they bring a lot to the table. I just write the songs and play guitar, which is nice.”
As for the Cherry Red/Hear No Evil reissues, first concerning the debut And About Time Too, Bernie explains that, “The motivation was really, I was approached by a Japanese record company after the Whitesnake tour of Japan, and they got straight onto my management people at the time, and they said they wanted to do an album with me. That was the reason. Most unlikely to me, but there you go.”
And then, bang!, Marsden found himself in the company of some of rock’s greats, including JACK BRUCE, DON AIREY, JON LORD, COZY POWELL, Simon Phillips, Ian Paice and Neil Murray. Was the man intimidated?
“Totally! Jack Bruce... well, Jack Bruce mainly (laughs). I was just like, there is me, Jack Bruce and Ian Paice in the studio, or with Simon Phillips, and I’m just looking thinking, ‘Wow, this is Jack Bruce’ and how may times I queued up in the wind and rain to see him, as a kid. And always admired him as a musician. Suddenly, playing my music on my record. I was totally intimidated for like the first hour, to the point where Jack—and I love him forever for it—put his hand on my shoulder and said, ‘Look, I’m here because I want to be here, because I like what you’re doing. I like the way you play.’ But I kept making mistakes, because I was kind of freaked-out because Jack Bruce was playing on it. And then you’ve got these other guys involved. I always used to say that I was the least famous guy on the album, and people laugh about it now, but it’s true. But the Japanese label had the good foresight to make it happen (laughs).”
Concurrently, Whitesnake’s Lovehunter was being made. Fortunately, there was no tug of war for songs going this way and that... “No, there was never any conflict. That was the great thing about the Whitesnake set-up. Because you bear in mind, by Lovehunter, we still hadn’t become the world-famous group that it did become. So there was never any problem. But what I was conscious of was that I wanted to do something different from Whitesnake. I thought, what’s the point of doing a solo album with me singing, when I’ve got one of the best singers in the world, you know, in my real job? Plus I was writing kind of melodic songs—I was kind of into American music a bit, and it shows on both of those albums.”
Pan forward a couple years, and Bernie’s onto his second album...
“Well, Look At Me Now was strange. The other one was kind of worked out in advance. Suddenly, I was #1 in the import charts in the UK, and it was selling for, you know, a lot of money in those days, probably the best part of $20, which was a hell of a lot of money in those days. And it had been #1 for, I don’t know, five or six weeks in the import charts. So EMI in England, they picked up the option to release it for the rest of the world. But by that time, I was ready to do another one. And it just happened that I had to do it very quickly, after the first one came out. I think we had five weeks off, so I went to Britannia Row, which was the PINK FLOYD studio, and did Look At Me Now, but that was a pretty rushed job, really. That was all written and recorded in three weeks.”
“Look At Me Now and And About Time Too... I think more drummers bought those albums than any other people,” chuckles Marsden, asked about Phillips and Powell. “The second time around, it’s almost like a Whitesnake album really, without David, you know. I think I brought in a couple of mates to play, but Cozy played on a couple tracks, which was great. And it was just done very quickly. But I like the album now. There’s some kind of vibe about it, that it shouldn’t really have, because it was done fairly quickly. But maybe that’s the secret—in and out. I like the song ‘Look At Me Now’; should have been a Whitesnake song. I was naïve enough to think, no, I’ll keep that one for me, but Dave would’ve done a great job on that. And I would’ve sold a lot more copies (laughs).”
Were any of them put forward as Whitesnake songs, from that second album?
“Only ‘Look At Me Now’, and David expressed some interest in that, and I said, no, that’s the title of the album, need to keep that one. I’m the big loser in that one, really (laughs).”
for information on these two historic gems, each of which contain bonus tracks, archival photos and, printed in the booklet, interview footage with Bernie concerning their construction.