BON JOVI: past, present & future
In 1983, John Bongiovi was being paid $50 a week to work as a "gofer" at New York City's legendary Power Station recording studios. He was running errands, fetching coffee and sweeping floors (the very same ones upon which he often found himself sleeping,) all the while watching the Who's Who of the rock 'n' roll world pass through the front doors. When Jon wasn't working as a gofer, he was working on his own music. At all odd hours of the night, using the empty studios and any lingering musicians he could recruit, John recorded his own original songs.
Armed with a demo tape, John shopped his music to lawyers, managers, record labels and radio stations in New York and LA with little luck. That is until he was approached by Chip Hobart, a DJ at the (now defunct) Long Island/NYC radio station WAPP. WAPP was putting together a compilation album of local unsigned artists and Hobart wanted to include John's song "RUNAWAY" on the LP. John was reluctant. He wanted to sign with a label and record an album, not donate one song to a radio station sampler of homegrown talent. But, with a little convincing, John agreed to let "RUNAWAY" be a part of the album. After that decision, John's life would never be the same.
"RUNAWAY" by John Bongiovi got airplay... lots of airplay (not just on WAPP in New York, but in major markets all over the country that were affiliated with WAPP.) Without John being signed to a label, his song was becoming a hit, breaking nationwide. WAPP booked a handful of live shows to promote the album and wanted John to perform. The problem? John didn't have a band! "RUNAWAY" was one of the tracks John had recorded at the Power Station with a combination of musicians he had wrangled in to help him - they weren't really a band! So, John recruited his long-time friend, Julliard-bound keyboardist DAVID BRYAN, Franke & The Knockouts drummer TICO TORRES and Jersey bassist ALEC JOHN SUCH. On guitar, John asked a neighborhood friend to help him out. John now had the band he needed to play the promotional concerts. Backstage after one of these shows, John was approached by guitarist RICHIE SAMBORA. Sambora declared that HE should be the guitarist for this band. Though initially leery, John was impressed by Sambora's attitude and after hearing him play, was impressed by his talent too.
So, when John Bongiovi finally signed to Mercury Records (several record companies had suddenly come around and tried to sign the young musician,) the band's line-up was as it would remain for more than ten years: JOHN BONGIOVI, DAVE BRYAN, TICO TORRES, ALEC JOHN SUCH and RICHIE SAMBORA. Following label advice, John shed the "h" from his first name and de-ethnicized his last name. He re-emerged as JON BON JOVI and the band BON JOVI was born.
Jon had been approached by a manager who promised to make BON JOVI the biggest band in the world so now DOC McGHEE was overseeing the band's career. They opened for ZZ TOP at Madison Square Garden before the label had released the band's self-titled debut album, BON JOVI, in FEBRUARY of 1984. The record included the proven hit "RUNAWAY" which was released as a single, as well as what would be the second single "SHE DON'T KNOW ME" (a song Mercury requested Jon record and include on the album as part of his deal - to this date, that song remains the only track that has ever been included on a Bon Jovi album for which Jon does not have any writing credit.) "RUNAWAY" broke into the Top 40. MTV played the video and BON JOVI made their debut on American Bandstand.
As was the fashion at the time, the band's look was as much a part of their image as was their music. Tight leather pants and colorful scarves, ripped shirts and elaborate jewelry, big hair and eyeliner... this was the norm. But live performance was how the band would build a following and earn their reputation. After BON JOVI was released, the band hit the road, opening for heavy metal acts SCORPIONS in the United States and KISS in Europe. Solo dates in JAPAN caused mayhem, selling out in three days and certifying the album gold. The band was determined to play anywhere and everywhere in an attempt to reach new audiences and learn from the headliners they were supporting.
In December of 1984, BON JOVI came home from the road and immediately headed in a Philadelphia studio to work on their next album. In APRIL of 1985, BON JOVI released their sophomore effort, 7800o FAHRENHEIT (the album's title was a reference to the supposed melting point of rock.) The band released three singles (with accompanying videos): "ONLY LONELY," "IN & OUT OF LOVE" and the ballad "SILENT NIGHT, all of which received widespread airplay on MTV. While the album did not do as well as they'd hoped in terms of sales, it allowed BON JOVI to get out on the road touring again, exposing them to a vast new audience and fine-tuning their live show.
In April and May of 1985, BON JOVI headlined 3,000 seat venues in Europe and Japan. In May, the band began a 6-month run of U.S. tourdates supporting RATT (in the midst of that tour they managed to make appearances at the Texas Jam andd Castle Donnington's Monsters of Rock concerts in England, plus Jon did a solo appearance at the very first FARM AID.) Self-proclaimed workaholics, by the end of 1985, JON and RICHIE were anxious to get to work on the new material they'd begun to write for album #3.
In April of 1986, BON JOVI packed up and moved to Vancouver, British Columbia to record their third album. Six months of decadent living and non-stop studio work resulted in SLIPPERY WHEN WET. The album, produced by Bruce Fairbairn and recorded and mixed by Bob Rock, was released in JUNE of 1986 and was destined to represent what would become the trademark BON JOVI sound. The first single, "YOU GIVE LOVE A BAD NAME" became the band's first Number One single on the Billboard charts. The follow-up single, "LIVIN' ON A PRAYER," hit Number One as well, spending four weeks at the top position. MTV wholeheartedly embraced BON JOVI, whose camera-friendly good looks and larger-than-life live concert videos helped catapult the band into superstardom.
The album's third single, "WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE," peaked at #7 on the Billboard charts but emerged, and still remains to this day, the BON JOVI "National Anthem" - the band's most recognizable hit. But while all this was happening at home in The States, BON JOVI was out touring, earning their superstar status by proving they were the real deal on stage, night after night after night. This time, when BON JOVI made the trip to Castle Donnington, they were the headliners.
When SLIPPERY WHEN WET was released in April of 1986, BON JOVI was the support act for .38 SPECIAL. By the end of 1986, BON JOVI were well into six months of headline dates in arenas across America (including a sold-out New Year's Eve concert at their hometown venue, New Jersey's Brendan Byrne Arena.) With the overwhelming success of SLIPPERY WHEN WET (it spent 94 weeks on the Billboard charts and eight of those weeks at #1,) BON JOVI were bona fide superstars. While they were determined to succeed based upon musical merits alone, the appeal of the band, especially Jon's cover-boy good looks, made them MTV staples and the chosen wall decoration for many teenagers' walls.
While the band adamantly denounced any labels that tried to define the band as anything other than rock 'n' roll, BON JOVI's melodic hard rock style can be credited with expanding the audience for the late '80s style of "pop metal" to include females. BON JOVI is also largely responsible for opening the floodgates to a slew of hard rock / melodic pop bands that made it big in the latter half of the decade (in the wake of BON JOVI's massive success, A&R departments scrambled to sign copycat bands and touted every up & coming group to be the next BON JOVI.)
Perhaps, JON BON JOVI and RICHIE SAMBORA's most influential performance was on the 1989 MTV VIDEO MUSIC AWARDS. Armed only with acoustic guitars, JON and RICHIE performed "WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE" and "LIVIN' ON A PRAYER." To Jon and Richie, it wasn't much of a big deal; the songs were written on two acoustic guitars and, therefore, stripping them down to their basic form was a natural thing to do. However, the response from those who witnessed the performance, both live at the awards and at home on television, was instantaneous and enthusiastic. This performance has generally been acknowledged (even among MTV staffers) as the inspirational spark that led to the MTV UnPlugged series and the catalyst for the subsequent popularity of the unplugged movement in popular music.
By this point, BON JOVI was bigger than ever. JON appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone. Tickets to BON JOVI concerts were impossible to get your hands on - every show was sold out. Everywhere the band was met with media frenzy and hysterical fans. BON JOVI was a household name. Could it last?
Though exhausted and burnt out from excessive touring, BON JOVI was ecstatic with their newfound success and rushed right back into the same Vancouver recording studios (again with Bruce Fairbairn and Bob Rock at the helm) to work on their next album. Determined to prove that the success of SLIPPERY WHEN WET was not a fluke, the band released their fourth album, NEW JERSEY in OCTOBER of 1998. And prove it they did.
NEW JERSEY was a more mature album, both in terms of musical styles and lyrical content but, the end result was undeniable: massive hits. "BAD MEDICINE" was the first single and it spent two weeks at #1. The follow up singles "BORN TO BE MY BABY," "I'LL BE THERE FOR YOU" (which also hit #1) and "LIVING IN SIN" all charted in the top 10 and were huge hits on MTV. BON JOVI even made the news when the video for "LIVING IN SIN" was banned by MTV for being too risqué (it was re-edited and MTV aired put it in heavy rotation.)
BON JOVI mounted another huge worldwide tour that continued throughout 1989 and 1990. They visited more than 20 countries and performed more than 150 shows before it was all over. The personal highpoint for the band was their June 11, 1989 sell-out HOMECOMING at GIANTS STADIUM in New Jersey. In August of 1989, the band headed to RUSSIA for the MOSCOW MUSIC PEACE FESTIVAL, a 2-day rock concert staged at the Lenin Olympic Stadium to promote two goals: 1) raise awareness about and provide treatment for drug and alcohol abuse among Russian teens and 2) introduce Russia to rock 'n' roll American style. BON JOVI were the first band officially sanctioned by the Russian government to perform in Russia and NEW JERSEY was released on the state-owned record label, Melodiya, a privilege no Western artist had ever been granted before (not the Beatles, not the Rolling Stones... just BON JOVI.) But the non-stop touring was taking its toll on the band. By the end of the New Jersey tour, BON JOVI had 16 months of concerts under their belt and the band members were exhausted -- physically, mentally and emotionally. Finally, after the last tourdate, and without any clear plans for their future, the band members just went home.
Having been originally approached by his friend Emilio Estevez to lend "WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE" as the theme song for his upcoming Billy The Kid sequel, JON BON JOVI ended up composing an all new theme song for the film's soundtrack and delivering his first solo album. In 1990, BLAZE OF GLORY (Songs Written and Performed by Jon Bon Jovi; Inspired by the film YOUNG GUNS II) was released. The song "BLAZE OF GLORY" was a #1 hit. Jon won a GOLDEN GLOBE AWARD for Best Song From a Motion Picture. He also received GRAMMY and the OSCAR nominations for the song and, although he didn't take home either of those statuettes, JON had the honor of performing the song at The Academy Award Ceremonies. Now JON had a Number One hit without the band... and RICHIE SAMBORA had released his own solo album (1990's STRANGER IN THIS TOWN.) The future of the band was terribly unclear.
Disillusioned with the music business, despite all his success, and unhappy with the status quo, in 1991 JON BON JOVI cleaned house. He fired the band's management, business advisors and agents. Starting with a clean slate, JON decided that, yes, there would be a future for BON JOVI. But unable to find someone willing to eat, sleep and breathe BON JOVI like he did, Jon took on the quarterbacking responsibilities himself by closing ranks and creating BON JOVI MANAGEMENT. Now self-managing the band's career, Jon regrouped the members of BON JOVI and headed back into the Vancouver studios with Bob Rock to work on BON JOVI's fifth album.
KEEP THE FAITH was released in November of 1992 to the most critical acclaim the band had ever received. Much more complex, lyrically and musically, the album proved BON JOVI could still be a viable (and very successful) band in 1992, despite the decline of the late '80s pop metal genre into which the band had been lumped and despite the industry's (and audience's) growing affinity for grunge rock. As BON JOVI's sound morphed itself to work in the 90's music scene, their image changed as well. Gone were the excessive rock 'n' roll trappings of spandex and hairspray and hair... CNN carried the news when JON cut his trademark long locks. And, though the media focused far too much attention on Jon's hair (as it always had,) the new look represented what had always been the mission of the band: no frills, just rock.
The album's title track was it's first release, followed by the ballad "BED OF ROSES" which was a huge Top Ten hit. Amidst a landscape filled with flannel-clad Seattle bands, BON JOVI was proving it could emerge from the '80s and not just survive in the '90s, but excel - both on the charts and on the stage. BON JOVI headed out on the road and visited countries the band had never seen before (headlining stadiums in Europe, South America, Asia and Australia.) The second chapter in BON JOVI's career had begun.
To mark the beginning of the band's next phase, in 1994 BON JOVI released a greatest hits compilation entitled CROSS ROAD. The album was expected to do well but no one could have anticipated just how well... Included among the band's biggest hits were two completely new tracks, "SOMEDAY I'LL BE SATURDAY NIGHT" and "ALWAYS," a monster ballad that spent thirty-two weeks on the charts and became one of BON JOVI's all-time hugest hits. The "ALWAYS" single sold more than 3 million copies worldwide. Album sales soared all over the world and BON JOVI's popularity grew and grew exponentially on an international level. But while the album was flourishing on the charts and tallying up sales, the band saw the departure of original bass player Alec John Such. Faced with the first change in their line-up since the band's inception and CROSS ROAD lingering on the charts as a massive hit, BON JOVI had to decide what to do about their next album, which was finished and just about ready to be released....
With Hugh McDonald called in to handle bass duties, BON JOVI opted to tour heavily in support of CROSS ROAD and, while out on tour, THESE DAYS was released in JUNE of 1995. "THIS AIN'T A LOVE SONG" was the first single off the album and with an exotic video filmed in Malaysia, the ballad emerged as another worldwide hit for the band. Critics responded to THESE DAYS much as they had to KEEP THE FAITH, noting that the band had continued to mature lyrically and explore different styles of music, while keeping the music undeniably BON JOVI. The band's popularity continued to grow by leaps and bounds internationally and the summer of 1995 saw BON JOVI merging their CROSS ROAD tour into the THESE DAYS tour. The tour that kicked off in India took the band though Asia, Europe and the Americas before the band's first-ever shows in South Africa. A career highpoint came in JUNE 1995 when BON JOVI sold out three-nights at London's historical WEMBLEY STADIUM in LONDON, ENGLAND. With film crews in tow, the concerts were documented for BON JOVI: LIVE FROM LONDON, a Grammy-nominated video of their record-breaking appearance.
Following the overwhelming success of the THESE DAYS album and tour, the members of BON JOVI went their separate ways. But unlike the period following the NEW JERSEY tour, tainted with uncertainty, this hiatus was a conscious group decision. The members of BON JOVI agreed to a self-imposed two-year sabbatical from the band. Each member pursued outside interests. In 1997, JON released a second solo album, DESTINATION ANYWHERE, and focused more time and attention on the acting career he'd begun in 1994. RICHIE released his second solo album, UNDISCOVERED SOUL. TICO matched his success as a musician when he was recognized as a respected painter and sculptor in the art community. DAVE released a solo album of piano compositions, UNDER A FULL MOON, and began work on movie soundtracks and musical theater projects. The idea was that each band member would explore interests other than the band thus, bringing to the table more experiences upon which to draw once they next regrouped. This time, there was no doubt as to the future of the band. It was merely a question of timing.
Movement towards a new album began in January of 1999 when JON, RICHIE and TICO (no Dave, due only to a hand injury from which he was recovering) convened in, of all places, the former Power Station recording studios to work on the song "REAL LIFE" for the movie soundtrack of EDTV. One year later, the members of BON JOVI stepped into the studio with sixty songs from which would emerge the tracklisting of the seventh BON JOVI studio album.
The question at hand was whether five years between the release of BON JOVI albums would be too big an obstacle for the band to overcome. Signs that the band's following was as devoted as ever were proven when a server-crashing number of Bon Jovi fans logged into www.bonjovi.com to watch a live webcast performance from Sanctuary Sound II studio in February 2000. By the time CRUSH was released (May 2000 internationally and June 2000 domestically,) the first single, "IT'S MY LIFE," was a bona fide smash hit around the globe and was well on its way to becoming a huge hit in America. CRUSH went double platinum in the United States. The band that had become international superstars was reminding the folks back in America just what was so special about one of their best rock exports.
CRUSH debuted on the U.S. Billboard charts at #9. Worldwide it sold more than 7.5 million albums and spawned three singles: "IT'S MY LIFE", "SAY IT ISN'T SO" and "THANK YOU FOR LOVING ME." BON JOVI received two GRAMMY nominations: Best Rock Album for "CRUSH" and Best Rock Performance by Duo/Group for "IT'S MY LIFE." The video for "IT'S MY LIFE" won the MY VH-1 AWARD for "My Favorite Video." BON JOVI played stadiums in Japan and Europe over the summer of 2001 (including two sold-out concerts at London's historic WEMBLEY STADIUM, becoming the last ever concerts held at the legendary venue before it's demolition) - and in just that short span, BON JOVI played to more than one million fans in less than 30 shows.
Upon their return to the U.S. the band did a sold-out arena tour in the Fall of 2000, followed in the Spring of 2001 with a sold-out arena/amphitheatre run of dates in America. They revisited stadiums in Japan and Europe before one more victory lap of shed dates in America, all of which led up to the most triumphant declaration that BON JOVI was bigger than ever: In July 2001, BON JOVI sold-out two homecoming concerts at New Jersey's GIANTS STADIUM. The Friday and Saturday concerts, filmed for VH-1 and aired on Sunday night, were not only fulfilling career and personal highlights for the band but the broadcast broke ratings records for the VH-1 network.
While the band was out touring in 2001, they released ONE WILD NIGHT: LIVE 1985-2001. This was BON JOVI's first-ever live album. The songs were culled from archives of recorded material the band had been collecting from their earliest days on the road right through the current tour. Considered by the band to be a "snapshot" of Bon Jovi in concert over the years, to date the live album has sold more than 2 million copies. And, to solidify what concertgoers and Bon Jovi fans had known all along, BON JOVI received the 2002 MY VH-1 AWARD for "HOTTEST LIVE SHOW." (It was at this same awards show that Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora surprised a live theatre full of attendees and a live television audience with a beautiful rendition of "Here Comes The Sun" as a tribute to the recently-deceased George Harrison.)
When the CRUSH and ONE WILD NIGHT tours were complete, the members of BON JOVI had anticipated a brief vacation before work would begin on the band's 8th studio album. But on September 11th, the world changed. Within days of the terrorist attacks, JON and RICHIE had filmed Public Service Announcements for the Red Cross, recorded AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL for the NFL and performed as part of the historic A TRIBUTE TO HEROES live telethon. One month later, the band participated at two Monmouth County Alliance of Neighbors concerts in Red Bank, NJ to raise funds for the families close the band's hometowns, which were affected by the World Trade Center disaster. And on October 21st, BON JOVI performed at the monumental CONCERT FOR NEW YORK at Madison Square Garden, raising relief funds and honoring those who worked to save lives during the terror.
JON and RICHIE had already begun songwriting together in New Jersey when the terrorist attacks took place. Greatly moved by what they witnessed, they continued the writing process and emerged with a fresh new batch of songs inspired by the tragedy. Despite the horrific events that may have served as inspirations for aspects of the new songs, JON and RICHIE promise the songs themselves are optimistic and uplifting. The songs are not about the horror, but about the human condition and spirit in the wake of that day.
In March 2002, BON JOVI entered the recording studio to begin recording their 8th studio album, BOUNCE. The title is a subtle reference not only to New York City's and the United States' ability to bounce back from the World Trade Center attacks as a nation but, it also refers to BON JOVI and the band's ability to bounce back again and again, over the years. BON JOVI has proven they are a formidable force. Music trends come and go but good songs stand the test of time... and so do BON JOVI, who have more good songs they're looking forward to sharing with the world in the Fall of 2002. One can only imagine what the future will bring for BON JOVI and their fans... but one thing's for sure: BON JOVI keeps going.
--- from the official Bon Jovi website