I can’t believe Jon Bon Jovi, lead singer of Bon Jovi, is 51! Not that 51 is old (just older:D), but it is a huge deal, considering he was 34 when I started listening to Bon Jovi. I was 12.
A lot has changed with the band in the past 17 years. Their music turned a bit softer and gained a little country influence, though it never lost the rock ‘n’ roll spirit.
The lyrics became a bit deeper, a bit more grown-up. But they stayed true to their core, always promoting being your own person, following your dreams, friendship and love.
My Bon Jovi album discovery timeline is skewed as the first Bon Jovi album I bought was These Days (1995), the band’s 5th studio album (their most recent at the time). It was a time when I was no longer satisfied with pop. I wanted something different and faster.
It was different and fast, alright and I absolutely loved it. It really was different from everything else I had listened to before. And as I later found out, it was quite different from what Bon Jovi did too.
After all, most people think of romantic ballads (Always, Bed of Roses) or rock anthems (Living on a Prayer, It’s My Life, Bad Medicine) when they think of the band.
Yet These Days couldn’t have been further away from the romantic, we-can-do-it-all attitude of the band.
The songs are more about losing faith than keeping it. There are beautiful “love” songs alright, but they mostly talk about doomed (Damned, where the hero is sleeping with a married woman) or ending relationships (This Ain’t a Love Song) or a couple trying to make ends meet (Lie to Me).
There are songs about drugs (Give Me Something For the Pain), questioning God (Hey God), depression (As My Guitar Lies Bleeding in My Arms) and loss of innocence and dreams (These Days)…
Needless to say, I appreciated (and understood) the album more and more as I grew up. And it remains one of my favorites.
I remember finding it strange at the time that a band of rich, successful and (mostly) healthy rockers would write such gloomy lyrics in 1995. This is the band that wrote Keep the Faith, Living on a Prayer and Lay Your Hands on Me after all. In fact, go ahead take a look at Runaway (1984) and Hey God (1995) for absolute contrast. It’s fun.
(It’s also impressive how much better Jon’s voice got. It’s even better now. You might want to try their Hallelujah cover – it’s my favorite example).
At the time, I had attributed the depressive tones of the songs to their observational skills. Then I grew up, life happened and I found out that depression and hopelessness could happen to anyone, any time- regardless of the shiny happy elements of your personality (or good fortune).
After These Days, I decided to discover my new favorite group’s other albums and this time started from the first album Bon Jovi (dated 1984). I was surprised to realize the firt albums had a certain childish, naive elements to them and at times they were much harder to relate to than These Days. Even though the band members were in early to mid-20s at the time (of recording Runaway), I thought they sounded and acted much younger.
My suspicions were confirmed when I got into my 20s. These Days was was still a lot easier to relate to. I still play their first two albums sometimes or watch their videos, but not for musical quality. For nostalgic (I wasn’t probably not even born yet when they were recording Runaway-I was born in 84, December) and entertainment value. They are adorably young, goofy and badly-dressed. Yeah, Jon was pretty. Cute, but definitely not at his hottest…
In the 16 years I’ve been listening to Bon Jovi, I did quite a bit of growing up myself, mentally and emotionally: I became a lot more tolerant, patient and empathetic in many areas. In some areas, I became ever more determined, passionate, cynical, individualistic and idealistic. In others, I remained exactly the same: A dreamer with a good touch of realism, a romantic with some healthy cynicism.
I still believe in, and look for, true love.
I appreciate life a lot more. I believe in myself more. I believe that 21st century gives us better chances of making our dreams come true, no matter how impossible it might seem to others. I’m following my dreams more actively than ever before. And since I’m a writer with some huge dreams, it’s no wonder their lyrics appeal to me more than any other band’s.
I mentioned that I changed. So did my perception of events. Looking back, I was a bit of a drama queen in the late 90s, concerned about the future of Bon Jovi. Ah, teenagers… For instance, in 1997, I was in a full-blown panic over the fact that Jon was doing a solo album and that he was acting in films. My friends loved teasing me, saying that the band had broken up and there wasn’t much rock left in Jon. In their defense, Destination Anywhere wasn’t the hardest or the fastest of rock albums.
Guess what? I love listening to that album now. As a whole, I find it beautiful, raw and honest. And August 7, 4:15 – a sad (because the story is true), but remarkable rock song.
Then came 2000. The band made a come back with the song It’s My Life, and despite few pop-heavy tracks (I absolutely can’t stand Say It Isn’t So and Thank You For Loving Me – what were they thinking???), it was a rocking album (especially recommended: Just Older, I Could Make a Living Out of Lovin’ You.)
In those 3 years, I had also fallen in love a lot of other rock bands, seen and liked a lot of Jon’s films and come to grip with the fact that members of my favorite band were getting older. But that was OK, because so was I.
In the following years, a lot has happened. I got to see a lot of my favorite bands live (including two marvelous Bon Jovi gigs), travel a lot, meet a lot of great people, live a year abroad, learn about myself, start following my dream career…. And Bon Jovi stayed together.
Bon Jovi released Bounce in 2002, and while still featuring some pop stuff, it had several cool rock anthems: Every Day, Undivided, Hook Me Up, Bounce (my favorites). It also included one of my favorite Bon Jovi romantic songs ever: You Had Me From Hello. Solid lyrics, catchy music, very romantic, very Bon Jovi.
In 2005, Bon Jovi also released another album that rocked. “Have a Nice Day”, proving that just because they were growing up, they weren’t necessarily growing old. I prefer it to its predecessor Bounce. “Have a Nice Day” had less pop, more modern rock and I pretty much adored the entire album. Though if I have to pick favorites, I’d choose Have a Nice Day, Complicated and Story of My Life.
Other albums followed: Lost Highway (2007), The Circle (2009) and What About Now (2013). Interestingly, these albums have songs with country feel but there is this cool harmony in the genres they mix. While none of these three will be my favorite Bon Jovi albums ever (My top 3, with no specific order: Keep the Faith, These Days and Have a Nice Day – with New Jersey and Slippery When Wet closely following), they feature some gems I can’t stop listening to:
Lost Highway, We Got It Going On, I Love This Town
We Weren’t Born to Follow, Work for the Working Man, Brokenpromiseland
What About Now:
Because We Can, I’m With You, Not Running Anymore (Deluxe Addition), Every Road Leads Home To You (Deluxe Addition, vocals by Richie Sambora.
Yeah, there are some songs that I don’t enjoy. But then again, I don’t have to like everything that they make, and I am happy that I don’t see eye to eye on everything with Jon or Richie.
Because let’s face it, their rebelling, hard rock days are now somewhat shadowed by grown-up mentality and family responsibilities (especially Jon, who is still married to the mother of his 4 kids), whereas I’m 29, single, and still have a kick of singing I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead and Blame It on the Love of Rock’n’Roll, and meaning every damn word. Guess what? He and Richie (Sambora, lead guitars) were in their late 20s, early 30s when they wrote these favorites from Keep the Faith. So it’s only natural that I relate more to Keep to Faith and These Days than the others, with the exception of Have a Nice Day.
At the end of the day, if I absolutely had to pick three songs on how I perceive the world, rock ’n’ roll and everything else, I’d pick 3 from Bon Jovi (Complicated, Blame it on the love of Rock ’n’ Roll, I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead or Story of My Life.
Jon is my favorite singer. He and Richie are my two favorite songwriters. The band’s rock shows are pretty kick-ass, even in their 50s. And they have this great chemistry, as a band, that they don’t need theatrics or special effects. It’s also cool that the band line-up only changed once, in 1994.
Mathematically, I’m pretty sure they have the highest number of songs that I love from any one band.
Then there’s the fact that you never forget your first(s), especially if they are good.
Below is the chorus from Story of My Life. Considering my topic, and my occupation, and my love for the song, it’s only appropriate…
“This is the story of my life
And I write it everyday
I know it isn’t black and white
And it’s anything but grey
I know that no I’m not alright, but I feel ok cos
Anything can, everything can happen
That’s the story of my life”
On the name of the band vs. the singer’s
- Naming the band after the leading singer was the producers’ idea, so don’t blame it on the guy. But there’s a very funny stint on SNL about this- where Jon Bon Jovi plays himself and keeps suggesting his name for the band.
- Another fun note: Jon’s full name is John Francis Bongiovi.
Also on Jon Bon Jovi and Bon Jovi