Some of you will scoff at the title of this post. But on this day, two days after Jon Bon Jovi, turned 50, I felt it important to write this piece. VH1 have had a field day this weekend by playing Bon Jovi’s Greatest Hits to commemorate the milestone. Seeing as I’m on a diet, I watched this programme as it’s the only source of indulgence I can get at the moment.
I’ve loved Bon Jovi since I was a young girl. I remember my dad teaching me to headbang to the ‘Slippery When Wet’ album when I was a toddler. My dad is a rock fan, and like many, got bored with the band after the first couple of albums. For me though, Bon Jovi have defined my life.
When I was a child, I was a city swimmer. I competed in galas several times a year and, every time I stood waiting to dive in I’d sing ‘Blaze of Glory’ in my head. It was my anthem, and it never failed me. When under pressure now, I still play that song to gee myself up.
When I was ten years old, Bon Jovi released ‘Always’ to coincide with the release of ‘Crossroads’, their Greatest Hits album. My best friend and I adored ‘Always’ and we had massive crushes on JBJ. Around that time, Bon Jovi announced a worldwide stadium tour for the summer of 1995. My best friend’s parents offered to take me to the gig but my parents were concerned at me, aged 11, being in the mosh pit. So, instead, I agreed to go to a vantage point with my grown-up cousin.
Unfortunately, though, 2 days before the gig, I had my ankle put in plaster. I sat moping about at home until my dad said “Come on then” and drove me to sit in the car and listen to the gig. I may not have seen them but it was such a kind thing of him to do. Sitting in a car, my foot in plaster, while my dad danced in his seat and the sun set in the distance is one of my favourite Bon Jovi memories.
From then on, I became more and more in love with Bon Jovi. Their album ‘These Days’ reminds me of driving up to the Northumberland coast in my parents’ little D reg Nissan Micra on a beautifully sunny day.
After 1995, Bon Jovi disappeared off the scene for a few years: Jon acted and released a solo album, Richie also released an album and the others, well, who knows what they did. I, however, busied myself with listening to Bon Jovi’s back catelogue, discovering classics like ‘Dry County’ and ‘Blood on Blood’. During these years, I remember being in secondary school and, after finishing my homework, playing Super Mario Bros. on my SNES while listening to Bon Jovi albums.
Cometh 2000, cometh ‘Crush’. A few months after my 16th birthday, the Jovi made our dreams come true by not only announcing another stadium tour but releasing ‘Crush’, an album that changed my life forever. Revising for our GCSEs in my best friend’s garden on possibly the hottest day of 2000, ‘It’s My Life’ came on the radio. My friend and I danced around the garden, getting excited for the day we’d get to see the band live. That day, two days before GCSE results day, was one of the most exciting things we’d ever experienced.
In 2001, we threatened to travel to Glasgow as the band weren’t touring in the North-East (and never have done since) but, at seventeen, our parents put the spokes in that! The band did release ‘One Wild Night: 1985-2001’, a live album – and that kept us dancing through that summer, annoying both sets of neighbours with our incessant singing along.
Sadly, that friendship – the most important of my life – ended in 2002 due to our differing attitudes. The thought of it still cuts me up. We never fell out, just grew apart which, considering the closeness we’d experienced since the age of two, made it all the worse. By the time we left sixth form, we were strangers.
In late 2002, ‘Bounce’ was released and in 2003 I got to see the Jovi again. But not with my best friend. Track 4 on ‘Bounce’ was ‘Joey’ which just so happened to be my friend’s name. It reduced me to tears every time I heard it. Whenever I hear ‘Blood on Blood’, about lifelong friends, I think of Joanna.
We bumped into each other throughout the years and thankfully, two years ago we reconnected on Facebook and together we travelled to Edinburgh last summer to see them on their Greatest Hits tour. It was one of the happiest days I’ve ever had. We meet a couple of times a year now and I only wish I could wind the clock back.
After ‘Bounce’, a lot of fans left Bon Jovi. ‘This Left Feels Right’ was certainly a departure from the norm – where the band rearranged previous songs, I wasn’t impressed with much of it. ‘Have A Nice Day’ followed in 2005 featuring songs like ‘Who Says You Can’t Go Home’.
Following a duet with Sugarland on ‘Have A Nice Day’, ‘Lost Highway’ was inspired by country music and recorded in Nashville but that didn’t stop me from loving it. ‘Whole Lotta Leaving’ was inspired by the death of Richie Sambora’s father and it is absolutely beautiful. In 2009, ‘The Circle’ marked a definite return to Bon Jovi’s roots.
What I adore about Bon Jovi, along with the fact that I can chart my life through their songs, is that their lyrics are so full of meaning. They write about love, they write about loss. They write about the strength you didn’t realise you had. The sing about war and they sing about friendship. Barack Obama’s chief adviser David Axelrod had the lyrics to ‘Work For The Working Man’ framed and hung in his office.
Bon Jovi understand the Tommy and Ginas, they sing about being so low you think you’ll never rise up again – but they know you will. In my darkest moments, and believe me there’ve been some hair-raisers, I’ve listened to ‘Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night’ and believed it. Without Bon Jovi, I honestly don’t know how I would have coped with some situations.
Some may think they’re formulaic and boring but if you listen to the lyrics, their songs are full of compassion – and that can never be a bad thing.
So, happy birthday Jon Bon – here’s to 5o more years!