Why You Should Know Him
If you know ‘80s rock, then you know who Adrian Vandenberg is. Whether you’re getting “back on your feet” or “going somewhere on your own,” Vandenberg is the man responsible for the soundtrack to your world. However, the reason you should know him probably differs from the reasons you do know him.
Vandenberg is notorious for his first band, Teaser, and even more so for being in constant flux with his role in the legendary metal band, Whitesnake. It seems like being the “in-between man” for John Sykes and Steve Vai would diminish a career, but Vandenberg has proven himself worthy of being that in-between man. Not to mention, the fact that he has written and played with Whitesnake on and off throughout the past decade.
One of his most appreciated works, no matter how secretive it may have seemed, was the self-titled album he and his band put out under the name, Vandenberg, in 1982. This was not only their debut, but also Vandenberg’s shining moment to show the world his blues-rock fusion. Even more important, with the combination of British rock and American blues guitar, Adrian was paving the way for young shredders to follow.
Vandenberg is also known for his melodic sense and well-composed guitar solos. His dexterity was comparable to many of the early pioneering shredders, while his songwriting chops were evident on songs such as the hit, “Burning Heart,” from his bands’ debut album. Hit-making didn’t necessarily blast the band into superstardom, but it did bring his sharp playing and writing to the attention of bigger named artists.
In 1986, the Dutch rocker was recruited to do contributing work with the band, Whitesnake, where he co-wrote tracks for the self-titled, multi-platinum album including the hit single, “Here I Go Again.” However, the band’s existing guitarist at the time, John Sykes, played most of the guitar on the Whitesnake album. Vandenberg replaced Sykes, toured with the band, and wrote much of Whitesnake’s follow-up album, Slip of the Tongue, before being replaced by Steve Vai.
It should be noted that while Vandenberg plays lead guitar on this song, none of the original band members besides vocalist David Coverdale appear in the video.
In Vandenberg’s earlier days he had the tone of a classic Les Paul played through Marshall amps. His constant modifications to the pickups on his iconic tiger-striped Les Paul led to a gradual crunch that would be tested and increased over time to increase the attack on the notes he was hitting.
When recording with Whitesnake, however, Vandenberg began a relationship with Fernandes Guitars, who made him a Superstrat with active pickups, contrary to his typical passive guitar playing. Though the Superstrat was featured in the hit singles in ’87, toward the end of 1988 Adrian was playing his signature guitar designed by Peavey. These guitars had a mahogany, neck-thru body and came equipped with a Floyd Rose or Kahler tremolo system, and either a Peavey single-coil humbucker, or a double-humbucker combination.
Vandenberg liked his crunch as much as he enjoyed his clean melodies, so he used a modified Marshall 100 watt JCM2240’s and 50 watt Super Leads going through Celestion 4X12’s. The tone he got from this equipment was notable, but his occasional use of the Cry Baby wah is what really filled up and differentiated his sound from the others.
Where Is He Now?
Vandenberg is back in business today after an almost 17-year break, returning to the music scene with his new band, Vandenberg’s MoonKings. Per Vandenberg’s plan, the band is composed of many unknown musicians. Being “sick of super groups” deterred him from returning to music, so when he created the band on his return he wanted it to be something he could call his own.
Their debut album was released in 2014 under the name MoonKings and received well-deserved positive feedback. The album has everything one could hope for from a Vandenberg perspective, which includes melodic instrumentalism and some significant guitar work, but it also leaves room for a surprise from the other members of the band.
Recently, Vandenberg re-joined Whitesnake on stage in 2016 during the band’s headlining tour in the Netherlands. When asked if he would ever collaborate with Whitesnake in the future, Vandenberg responded with, “We're gonna drink some great wine and write some good songs together and do something with it."
Vandenberg has become a timeless musician since his initial start with Teaser. Though he may be seen as only a small part of Whitesnake’s career, Whitesnake could be considered just a small part of Vandenberg’s ever-growing career. We can only hope for a follow-up MoonKings album, keeping in mind that Vandenberg is always reaching for new musical heights.