So where do you stand on Bon Jovi?
It’s always pretty cool to be first amongst your friends to be into a new band. Bloggers love new stuff – there are thousands of new music sites out there ensuring no stone is left unturned in our constant quest for something new, something different and original. To be the one to discover a new band – it’s the holy grail of hip.
History can be a harsh judge though. Somehow having reviewed an early copy of Arcade Fire’s demo tapes sounds better than having been an early convert to, say, Bon Jovi.
Because to most people nowadays Bon Jovi really aren’t that cool. In fact they are the antithesis of cool. They couldn’t be cool now if they were locked in a fridge overnight, although that’s no reason not to try it. For many, they are Anti-Freeze.
If you ever want a giggle / feel outraged (depending upon which side of the debate you stand), Google some of the reviews that other writers have written about the band. I couldn’t help but smile at this one from the Guardian:
“A panicked call to NHS Direct reveals you can’t actually die from exposure to their version of Hallelujah, it just feels as if you are while it’s playing”.
Also (on another site) that they are “responsible for the worst music this side of The Wombles. (Except that at least that group had the decency to tidy up their own rubbish afterwards)“. Why do they attract Spinal Tap-esque reviews like no other band…?
Let’s look at the possible reasons why, like Findus Crispy Pancakes and racist comedians, Bon Jovi’s credibility may never really have survived the end of the eighties:
- Poodle hair was out. So he cut his hair. Black Sabbath never cut their hair over anything as trivial as it being unfashionable. (Probably because they were never fashionable in the first place).
- Country-tinged middle of the road albums. That means you, Lost Highway…
- Captain Crash and The Beauty Queen From Mars. We get it. You have great kids. So do I. But you should have played that song on Sesame Street, not your big Rock Comeback album.
- Ripping off his childhood friends from Skid Row by taking them as support band on tour In Return For A Huge Chunk of Their Royalties That They Earned From Their Debut Album. And kept the money. (This was probably my biggest teeth-sucking moment…)
- Punching Bach in the face onstage when he bitched about it. (Actually he gets points for that…)
- Too outwardly eager for commercial success, money etc (corporate / private gigs – not that everyone doesn’t do them).
Looking at that list, there doesn’t seem to be any single reason. Maybe it’s just that they were so successful? Sadly for me, being early to the table of Bon Jovi’s success is pretty much all I have.
Runaway, from Bon Jovi’s first album, appeared on the Kerrang! Kompilation 1985 double album and was a great tune. The accompanying debut album also stood out. A bit of digging revealed the band had released a second, less well received album (7800 Fahrenheit), which I also bought. Guess what? It was also pretty good. If anything, songs like Tokyo Road and In and Out of Love were a bit heavier.
So when I heard their new single, You Give Love A Bad Name on the Friday Rock Show on Radio 1, I knew at last here was a band that was my own – one that everyone else was now getting into but which I Had Known About Before Them.
Why radio in the UK suddenly decided that guitar bands were okay all of a sudden is a mystery, but Bon Jovi were the band that did it. Jon was a good looking dude – and perhaps what set him apart from his predecessors was that he looked like he had more than a passing acquaintance with a bar of soap. He was the Tom Cruise of rock – which is ironic as following the latter’s role in Rock of Ages, Tom Cruise is now the Jon Bon Jovi of Hollywood (only shorter).
They clearly did something right. Everybody liked them. They were the rock band it was okay to like. They showed that rock bands could be commercially successful again. This broke down barriers, helped UK bands (Thunder, Little Angels, Quireboys) sell records and get radio airplay and created a tidal wave of interest for Def Leppard and Whitesnake to ride all the way to unprecedented success.
I was a big fan of Bon Jovi: I last saw the band at Wembley Arena in January 1990 (where these pictures are from) two nights running. They had a great live show, changing the set each night to keep things interesting. I also saw them headline Donington in ’87 and the Milton Keynes Bowl in ’89 in the year that Donington was cancelled.
The latter was a good day out. Skid Row’s first UK appearance opened the show and Sebastian Bach showed why he was Dee Snider‘s natural successor with his between-song raps which
were blatantly sexist and mysogynistic lacked a certain political correctness. At one point he talked about how every girl in the crowd should wear fishnet stockings, to which a mildly offended girl behind me muttered “oh yeah, because I’m a tart…”.
After Vixen and Europe played their support sets, Joe Perry and Steven Tyler joined Bon Jovi onstage for the encore, playing Walk This Way.
However, perhaps it says something about me that my strongest memory of the day is my watching the aftershow fireworks light up a beautifully clear night to the sound of Aerosmith’s Back in the Saddle.
So where do you stand on Bon Jovi? Given the recent revival of ’80s rock through Rock of Ages, it’d be interesting to hear how people feel about them now…
Record #66: Bon Jovi – Tokyo Road
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