As many of you know BON JOVI is one of my favorite bands, which begets the question, “Why haven’t you yet featured them in this segment?” The answer is simple. I have wanted to over and over, but the flood of emotions that comes over me every time I try is sometimes too much to bear. But I have promised myself, and you guys, that this is the week it happens, tears and smiles be damned! So here we go with their breakthrough record Slippery When Wet.
The year was 1986 and I was in Junior High, Eighth Grade, taking the bus to school every day. All I knew was hard rock and heavy metal at that point. My parents hated the fact that my walls were covered in IRON MAIDEN, JUDAS PRIEST, CINDERELLA, STRYPER, and others. It drove them nuts seeing these long hairs in my room, but I didn’t care. This was my music and I’d die before I let someone take it from me. So, one of the nerdy kids on the bus one day slips me a tape and says, “Listen to BON JOVI, I think you’ll like it…” I was basically all, “Yeah, OK geek, whatever!” Little did I know this record wouldn’t leave my tape deck for a loooong time!
As soon as David Bryan’s keyboard intro to “Let It Rock” started I knew I was in for something special. Three albums into their career I along with many others was getting a taste of what BON JOVI was really about: good time rock and roll, the kind you hang out with friends to, the kind you kiss a girl to, and just enjoy life to. Lead singer Jon Bon Jovi was a Rock God in the making. First single and also the first of several worldwide smashes “You Give Love a Bad Name” was next and I was hooked immediately. That chorus is infectious, and will stay with you for weeks/months. Next up was Dial MTV SMASH “Livin’ On a Prayer”, the story of Tommy and Gina that all of us felt in our hearts back then and still do now.
I actually had that loveable geek over my house after he loaned me this tape, to thank him, and to let him hang for a while. Anyway, a very juvenile song pops up next in “Social Disease”. As silly as it is, the guitar, courtesy of Richie Sambora kicks ass on it! This gives way to one of my all-time favorite BON JOVI songs, “Wanted Dead Or Alive”, featuring the most unbelievable vocal harmonies between Jon and Richie. There was GOLD in them thar hills, and I think they knew this was just the beginning of the rush.
Side Two opens with another of my favorites, and arguably one of the rockingest songs the band has ever done in “Raise Your Hands”. It is an anthem of monumental proportions, and the rhythm section of Tico Torres and bassist Alec John Such propels this bitch forward like crazy! But lyrically, you can’t beat “From New Jersey to Tokyo!!”, right? “Without Love” is one designed for making out in the front seat of a cool car. I was too young to have one, so I did my kissing up against a tree. “I’d Die For You” is a song I dedicated to several girlfriends during my teenage years, which was OK since they didn’t know about each other.
The minute I heard “Never Say Goodbye” I knew…I just knew. THIS is how you write a timeless song; a song that generation after generation will slow dance to, and maybe just maybe guys would overcome their social awkwardness enough to ask that pretty girl to take a spin on the dance floor. I have cried many times over the years to this one. All I wanted was for this to be my prom song, but alas it wasn’t. To me, it should be the prom song for every school EVERYWHERE. Album closer “Wild In the Streets” is to this day one of my go-to mix CD songs because when I heard it I just pounded my chest and knew I would be there for my crew forever and ever, Amen. This song is about being from the neighborhood, respecting that, hangin’ with your boys, and maybe finding a pretty girl who likes you back.
BON JOVI is one of THE most important bands that helped shape me as a writer and a singer. They have made me laugh and cry to the moon and back. Some of my greatest memories will always involve them. And while 1988’s New Jersey might be “more sophisticated,” the wide-eyed innocence combined with the “We’re gonna take over the world” attitude of Slippery When Wet is something that STILL gets me goin’ almost 30 years later. THAT’S why this is a Classic Album. ~dc