Bon Jovi interview
a transcript of a broadcast on BBC Radio 1 in 1988 during The Classic Album Series
Few people outside the band took Jon Bon Jovi seriously when he said this has to be our Born to Run or Pyromania or it isn't coming out. It was 1986, the album was Slippery When Wet, and it went on to sell in excess of 14 million copies (remember this was 1988, its sold a lot more since then),thats more than Pyromania and Born To Run put together.Looking back with me for the next 60 minutes are Richie Sambora and the man who made that statement,Jon Bon Jovi.
Jon:I meant it, if it wasn`t as good as those albums in my heart there was no use putting it out. I don`t understand why there are time schedules, why you have to put records out every so often. But my attitude was, if they're gonna penalise me, go ahead, I`m gonna wait until the songs are great, until they do as well, and that was a bold statement. My attitude was, chances were we couldn`t sell half of what either of them sold, it would sorta disppear into the sunset. Actually Slippery out sold both of them put together, it was an amazing thing, I couldn`t make up lies like that!!
Bon Jovi's first two albums went Gold, but the band wanted more from their 3rd album, so they hired a new producer, Bruce Fairbairn, and went to Vancouver to record. Changes in work pattern that were going to pay off.
Jon:Switching producers, we considered how much better a live band we were than in the studio, and why? What were we doing wrong? Basically, we weren`t having fun in the studio, going in there to work. With Slippery we went in there to have fun, and we did a lot of demos too, so there was no worry about "Can I play this part?", or "Can I get this feel?", comfortable with everybody and it comes across.
And the move to Vancouver? Richie....
Richie:I think through the first two albums, we didn`t have a lot of control, there was a lot of things coming into it, record people coming down, and that may not have changed anything as far as music goes, but it does change your rhythm, and what you have going, all of a sudden you start second guessing, with all the people around, and since we were so young, people put things in our mind, so we started to second guess ourselves. So we went to Vancouver so nobody would bother us, got away from all our families, friends and business people, just kind of be isolated in a new place. It was a new city for us, we were excited to be there, new things to do and stuff. So it was a good thing for us to get away so noone could come and find us
LET IT ROCK
Jon:Let It Rock started the album off. The Keyboard intro was something that when you make the mistake of leaving the studio for any given amount of time, whoever is in there will take advantage of you, and this time it happened to be Dave. I ran outta the studio, I came back in and he says "You gotta hear this!!". The first thing that went through my mind was "You sonofabitch you just wasted an hour of my time, a roll of tape at $500 to record this keyboard intro". I said "Who Cares???". And it ended up becoming an integral part of the show and the record. The song was written to be a show song, a real crowd rocker, to give you the feeling of the eternal weekend and that was it.
YOU GIVE LOVE A BAD NAME
Richie:Next track off the record was called You Give Love A Bad Name, our first no1 single to date, a milestone in our career, matter of fact it was the first song we had written with Desmond Child, Jon and myself, sat down in my mothers basement, one day in the cellar, we had a converstaion for a couple of hours about the world, the kind of people we were, just to get to know each other. We walked downstairs and started to write and I think that one was done in what an hour and a half? Jon:Yeah! Richie: and the song was finished, it was a magic moment for all of us, it was just a fun song and thats what it was meant to be and luckily it lightened up a lot of peoples hearts and turned them towards us. I remember drinking Champagne that day, we were playing a gig, where was it that night?
Jon:Sioux Falls South Dakota
Richie:There you go that represents it, Sioux Falls South Dakota, and I remember gettin a call Jon:It was a hell of a phonebill that day!! We called everyone we knew, it was a great day that I don`t think you`ll easily forget.
How soon after the release of SWW did the band realise they had a major release on their hands?
Jon:It wasn't long after the album was out, it didn`t get added to radio playlists, Bad Name was the first single, that didn`t jump on the charts, it didn`t get the most ads. Eddie Money came out, or somebody came out the same week as us, Triumph thats who it was, they got more ads, we never got a lot of help from Radio. Bad Name came out and it did real well but it wasn`t anything and what happened was the kids called up and requested it, the requests started to break it, it was a real slow process, nothing came easy, it went down and was recorded easy, but it didn`t go BAAMMM, it was a slow build for the first month or so but it wasn`t because the record company pushed some button they`d never pushed before, or radio took us to their hearts, it was just the fact that the kids requested it.
LIVIN ON A PRAYER
Jon: Prayer was the second single and second no1 song for us, this hit a lot of peoples hearts, I didn`t know why at the time, I didn`t want it to be on the album, but everybody felt like they had been Tommy and Gina,they were the characters in the song, and knowing the struggle of holding on, staying together as a young couple or friends more importantly, it worked, it was something that wasn`t contrived, it was just thought out in a way people say everyday in lyrics, that were just conversation and thats not an easy thingto do. Its only when you start to learn your craft you can start to do that.
Richie:Social Disease, a fun little ditty, a real lyrical workout, I thought Jon, Jon wrote all the lyrics to this one and I thought it was a great lyrical workout, a lot of fun and a lot of great catch phrases in the song. And it was one of the heaviest tracks, as far as that goes. We also did a kind of interesting thing with the Margerita Horn Section, with Bruce Fairbairn, didn`t Dave play horn on that Jon:Yeah he did Richie: Dave our keyboard player played some horn and it was kind of like The Gong Show of the record, its like a fun fun song, some of the lyrical stuff, I just enjoy that
I asked Richie if there was much discussion in the studio about the way individual songs should sound
Richie:When you have an idea, like Jon and I write the songs, we bring it to the band to colour it, give them a sketch and say, now colour it in. Guess what you'd call an arrangement, but we also have a lot of that in our heads, beause the lyrics have to project a certain feel, just as in Wanted. Its almost like a movie, you want to score with sound. Basically I remember us telling Tico "Okay, imagine you`re on a deserted Western street, with Clint Eastwood, what sounds would you hear?". Looking at the lyrical content, these sounds just come out, most of its natural progression and the band knows where we should take it.
WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE
Jon: Wanted is one of two songs we've written so far that when you`re kid looks at you one day and says "So what did you do with your life?", I`ll playhim this and say this is who I am and what I did. And its gotten a lot of recognition from people, its really nice. I sat with Steven Tyler from Aerosmith one night and he said "You know I heard the first single, it was a hit and I said, Oh thats interesting, heard the second single, I said, Yeah thats nice too, then I heard Wanted and then I knew you guys were serious!!". That was a real nice complement from someone I admire. Richie:Yeah thats definetly the favourite song, if theres one we`ve written so far that has to be it.
Slippery When Wet, an ambiguous title is in fact familiar to Americans as a road side hazard sign, had any alternatives been considered?
Richie:Wanted Dead or Alive was the original title, we did a whole photo shoot round that idea, in a mine shaft, but it was all so serious and we were looking at the shots in a strip bar one night, having a few beers, the chicks were dancing, thinking "Man this is too serious".
So who came up with the title Slippery When Wet?
Jon: Well, we were in the strip bar, the girls were dancing round us, and theres this shower, with the girls soaping themselves up, trying to get our attention. They were dancing to In & Out of Love off our second album, and we started watching the girls and someone suggested Slippery When Wet. I wanted it to be Wanted, with a little kid on the cover, but when I heard that, I just knew.It was a lot dirtier in our minds than the road sign. That was it.
RAISE YOUR HANDS
Richie:Raise Your Hands is basically something to have the crowd participate in. When we do a show, everybody is a star, the kids, its a party. We want everybody to join in. Its one of those arena songs, thats what we wanted to accomplish with that one. Jon:We opened with that song every night and it basically dares them to be involved, just let your inhibitions go. Without a crowd it`d be one big soundcheck. Our audience is based on participation.
Jon:Without Love, is probably gonna be covered by someone someday, because it should have and could have been a hit but we had no intention of releasing more than 3 singles off the album, and its rather poppy. So had it been done correctly, it would have been a hit. It was one of the first songs we wrote for the album and after bouncing back and forth, we said lets keep it because I like it.
I'D DIE FOR YOU
Richie: This was a song that evolved, it took a long time. We finished it up at the breakfast table in Vancouver, one morning, two months into the album, everything was recorded, we were working on the 2nd verse and the lyrical content. What its about, its the kind of people we are from New Jersey. Maybe I'm not gonna bring you flowers or do this for you or that for you but when it comes down to the wire, I'd Die For You!!. Its a staement of friendship. We really enjoy playing it live, we interjected into the set about half way through the Slippery tour.
Jon:I love playing that song live, I look forward to it and remember it real well. The 2nd song of the night. I was surprised, because it never was a single or an exposed song,how much the kids reacted to it, they'd really be a part of it, yelling the chorus back to you, or to see it on a banner at a show was a great thing. I like this song, I really look forward to playing it every night.
NEVER SAY GOODBYE
Jon:The Prom song of 1986. Real popular with the kids, but what happened was a lot of people, the teachers, wouldn`t let it happen because of a couple of lines in there, one was "You lost more than that on my back seat", it really is open to imagination, doesn`t say it was anyones virginity, it could have been the keys. I caught a lot of fleck for that.
WILD IN THE STREETS
Richie: This is one I always have fun with, I really enjoy it. Jon writes something on the record without me and I enjoy that because it gives me a chance to be a musician and also be inside the embryo of the idea. So its interesting for me to sit back and play, be a musician and look at things on the open end. I always dug doing that, I always liked to play sessions for other peoples music because I like to interject my freshness into it. Its a kind of thing from New Jersey, people on the street having a real good time, we kind of do that a lot in Jersey.
Jon: I was thinking of my brother, he gets pretty crazy, hes still wild for sure and he isn`t tied down to anything or anyone, he lives his life like that, a Brando, he doesn`t care about nothing, just gets on his horse and rides.
It was a good record and I`m usually pessimistic with predictions, I hoped if it had done 2 million we`d be just the biggest thing. I never imagined it doing more. I figured that, and a real strong support band, maybe we`d headline theatres otherwise we`d be the eternal opening act, get paid real wee and just be someone elses strong opening act and go through hell every night because the headliner wouldn`t let me do my thing. So that was the greatest fear.
If Jon had the chance again, is there anything he would change?
Jon: No you don`t mess with that. I still like the album, I`m the last guy you`ll see listening to our records but that did a lot of smiling for a lot of people, made them feel good about rock n roll. I`m real proud of that, something to take with you forever, you just gotta do it 10 more times, ha ha ha.