Great White would have been more appropriately named Very Good White.
There were a lot of ‘white’ bands in those lazy, crazy high school days of the eighties: Great White, White Lion, Whitesnake, White Wolf, White Heat…I want to say White Tiger, but that was a brothel investigated by a badly disguised Kurt Russell in Big Trouble in Little China. White was a probably the most popular band descriptor out there, with ‘king’ being the only possible competition (King Diamond, King’s X, Kingdom Come).
In the annals of the ‘white’ bands, Whitesnake would probably win Best Overall Career, White Lion would take the One-Hit-Wonder category (Though technically White Lion had two hits --’Wait,’ and ‘When the Children Cry’). Great White would place in both categories, but at best as a distant second or third.
That‘s Great White in a nutshell--Always very good. Never very great.
Yet at the same time, until I felt they went a little too far thinking they were blues musicians on ‘Hooked,’ Great White was one of the bands whose albums were no-brainer purchases for me. My two favourite Great White albums (Shot in the Dark from 1986 and 87’s Once Bitten) probably would have placed in my top 10 albums for those two respective years. ‘Psycho City,’ ‘…Twice Shy,’ ’Recovery: Live’ and their self-titled debut were reliable guests in my boom box, and even ‘Hooked’ isn’t so much bad as it is “not really what I wanted to hear.” Over the years, it’s even grown on me a little bit.
Great White was reliable. They delivered good stuff.
And by good stuff, I don‘t mean ‘the same album over and over.’ ‘Great White’ was an aggressive straight ahead metal album. ‘Shot in the Dark’ was poppier and more keyboardy. ‘Once Bitten’ was bluesier, but also heavier--kind of like a shotgun wedding between Led Zeppelin and Dokken. ‘Twice Shy’ turned up the Led Zeppelin influences which peaked on ‘Hooked.’ ‘Psycho City’ was a return to ‘Once Bitten’ territory, only with a nod to all they’d learned along the way. Each album was distinctive though, with it’s own sound. Yes, they were all clearly Great White, but they were also different enough that I never felt the band was repeating itself.
They also did a lot of cover songs, both well-known and obscure, and unlike a lot of their contemporaries, they weren‘t ashamed about it either. They did Led Zeppelin better than Led Zeppelin and their biggest hit was a cover of Ian Hunter’s ‘Once Bitten Twice Shy.‘
Very good. But not great.
They aren’t alone. Thousands of bands fall into this category. Thousands of bands and millions of people.
We worship the great. But what about the very good? There’s lots of them out there. They’re most visible in the entertainment industry where greatness and fame are the only things we have to remember people by--the bands, the stand-up comics, the actors, the writers.
But they’re in our lives too. People who are very good at what they do….whatever it may happen to be…but ultimately, not good enough to be recognized for it. Not charismatic enough to make an impression on enough people or not original enough to break any new ground.
Maybe that’s why I listen to ‘Once Bitten,’ nearly two and a half decades later. Maybe, it’s my way of paying tribute to Very Good-ness, a way of remembering those who will not be remembered. Maybe it’s a way I comfort myself against the fears of the possibility--no, the likelihood--that most of the things I do, even the very good ones, will one day be gone and forgotten.
Or maybe I just like the music.
They aren’t called Very Good White for nothing, you know.