Now I am no expert on Bon Jovi and cannot claim to big a big fan. There are some of his albums I could not name you one song but I was surprised how many of their songs I do like. Thinking about it, while I would never call them "innovative" or "original", I would rather see Bon Jovi in concert than, say, Pearl Jam or Green day.
"Have a Nice Day" is the album I liked best by them.
My friend Greg once won a contest and took a couple of us to see them in concert and meet them before the show. I kinda of wish I had saved my signed ticket to sell on Ebay!
I know "Bon Jovi" is a household name, but pre-1986 they were no more famous than their contemporaries like Dokken, Ratt, Honeymoon Suite.
Long before the days where you could record an album on your laptop, John Bongiovi had an advantage. His cousin Tony ran the noted NYC studio "The Power Station" (yup that's where that group got their name...). He got John a job there being a gofer, sweeping up etc. John was able to record demos a night. "Runaway" features great session men like Roy Bittan, Tim Pierce and Frankie La Rocka. It got local airplay and John Bongiovi became "Jon Bon Jovi" and got a deal....
I know Jon now tries to act like his influences are all Bruce and Southside Johnny types, but this is revisionism. He was all hair spray an spandex for a looong time.
I barely remember their 2nd album coming out . I was working at a record store at the time and remember thinking the single "In and Out of Love" was lame crap that dirtbags that reeked of cigarettes made out to.
I'd be surprised if our store even sold 10 copies but Billboard says it went Gold!
Long before Poison was cranking out power ballads Bon Jovi was doing it...
Here's one were the band tries to "act" They must cringe. But musically, it wasn't bad 80's AOR
So what changed in 1986 to shoot them to stardom?
Well Jon Bon Jovi really liked the album "The Big Prize" by Canadian AOR band Honeymoon Suite. The album didn't do much here (if you like 80's AOR, it is very good, probably better that "Slippery").
It was produced by Bruce Fairbairn, who had worked with Loverboy, Prism, and Blue Oyster Cult as well. So Bon Jovi enlisted Fairbairn and engineer Bob Rock (who went on to big success with Motley Crue, Metallica, and the Cult) The record company also brought in an outside writer, a "song doctor" if you will, Desmond Child. Child helped them craft "You Give Love a Bad Name" and "Livin on a Prayer" into the big hits... and the rest is history.
This album probably saved their career.
Again, Jon is a revisionist. Their image was as often stupid and immature as bands like Motley Crue.
Original cover for the album:
The album is a fun representation of 80's hair metal/rock.
You put on "You give love a bad name" in a bar a everyone from the sheet-metal worker, to the housewife, to the yuppie are signing along.
maybe Jon really was kinda the Hair Metal Springsteen. This one had the good "everyman" feel to it..
a spandex "Glory Days"? kinda
"Wild in the Streets"
I wasn't a fan of songs that came next like "Bad Medicine" , but I thought Jon turned a corner when he went solo for "Young Guns Soundtrack". He asked Danny Kortchmar to produce. Danny worked with James Taylor Jackson Browne and Don Henley.
He was no hard rock producer. Jon also brought in Jeff Beck, Aldo Nova, and long before he was on "American Idol" calling everyone "dawg", Randy Jackson, to play on the album
"Bang a Drum"
The band reconvened in 1993.
Jon got the "haircut heard 'round the world"
Still a bit corny and overwrought, they were still a success
"In These Arms"
A funny thing happened, they got better the longer they lasted! I think the chorus to "It's my Life" is great. Might be their best song.
"It's my Life"
they even channeled Bowie, Mott, T-Rex for
"Captain Crash and the Beauty Queen"
I think "Have a Nice Day " is their best album. I give them credit for changing their sound to adapt to the times. You can definitely hear the influence touring with a newer band like SR-71 had on them.
They teamed up with John Shanks who was and is one of the hottest producers in music. Smart move. Shanks is great at getting good tones.
They branched out further into "new country" territory with Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland.
"Who Says You Can't go home"
"Last Man Standing"
this one really has that punky power pop sound. I think it's a good one
more good power pop. I think this is my favorite by them
more in that vein
"Story of My Life"
I haven't heard too much of their stuff since then. The went more in the "new country" direction with "Lost Highway" A lot of it all sounds the same? Not bad, but nothing that brings me back...but they aren't offensive.
The only cringe moments when they try to come off as hip or sincere." Bon Jovi" is a business man, an image , a brand.
That is not a criticism. They are supposed to be "light" fun rock n roll.
Missteps are when they and cover songs like "Rockin in the Free World", "I Don't like Mondays", Little Steven's "I am Patriot", and the ubiquitous "Hallelujah" (although Leonard Cohen said he really likes their version!)
Sincerity doesn't fit ya guys. Leave it to Bruce, Jackson Browne, Neil Young and the like.
I was surprised that Bon Jovi is not in the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame yet. I think their is something to be said for longevity, reinventing yourself and selling a hell of a lot of records!
I do think bands that came before them like Bad Company, Foreigner, Journey, Styx, etc. should get a shot at getting in first...
I recently heard the Director of the Rock Roll Hall of Fame say the number one factor weighed when electing someone to the RRHOF is "influence". Bon Jovi is more of a "product of their influences" rather than being an influence. Time will tell....
Til then don't be ashamed to turn it up sing along with Bon Jovi ......