Hit song help put group back in groove
Globe Staff, 11/3/2000

or musical comebacks, how can you not put Bon Jovi at or near the top this year? Led by singer-actor Jon Bon Jovi, the band has a monster hit with the energizing ''It's My Life.'' The song has even been adopted by athletes from the Dallas Cowboys to the New York Mets (who changed the chorus to ''Let's go Mets'').

''I'm pleased, I'm flattered, I'm humbled,'' Jon Bon Jovi, 38, says of the comeback of his New Jersey band, which also has been selling out arenas everywhere, including the FleetCenter on Wednesday.''I held my breath when we put tickets on sale, because I didn't know how we would do. So all of this has been very gratifying.''

Like Bruce Springsteen (the New Jersey buddy he has idolized for years), Bon Jovi has come back on his own terms. The new Bon Jovi album ''Crush,'' the group's first in four years, mines a classic arena-rock sound that Bon Jovi unveiled in the '80s, but now often with grown-up lyrics that are a long way from those of early hits like ''Slippery When Wet.''

''I couldn't be 38 pretending to be 13 anymore,'' he says from his New Jersey home. ''Since then, I've been around the world 10 times and have seen so much. I'd rather walk away from music than do something I'm not comfortable with at this point.

''When we made the new record, we were just trying to do something genuine and from the heart,'' he adds. ''We thought, `Hey, if people find the record, then great.' I didn't think about radio airplay.''

Along with the recent hit song, the most talked-about new track is ''Older,'' a mission statement in which Bon Jovi admits his teen-idol days are over: ''Like a favorite pair of torn bluejeans, the skin I'm in is all right with me,'' he sings. ''I like the bed I'm sleeping in. It's just like me, it's broken in. It's not old, just older.''

''There was a risk in doing that song,'' he says. ''That was one of 30 songs I approached the band with, but it was the kind of story I wanted to sing about. There was a risk in doing it in the days of 'N Sync and the Backstreet Boys, but I'm proud of it.''

Bon Jovi has been busy. He just finished a sold-out tour of Europe with veteran bandmates Richie Sambora and Tico Torres, who were with him for 1980s hits ''Living on a Prayer'' and ''You Give Love a Bad Name.''

He also recently hosted a fund-raiser at his 18-acre riverside New Jersey home for Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore.

''It was a quite a thrill,'' he says. ''If you think a rock band has a big entourage, you should see what a presidential candidate has. There were cops and police dogs everywhere, and they had escape routes mapped out.''

Bon Jovi has played for President Clinton at the White House ''about six times.'' He offered his home to the Democrats as a show of thanks.

''I wasn't lobbying for anything. I don't want to be the ambassador to Bali,'' he says. ''But I come from a working-class, Democratic family, and I'm living the American Dream, so I just wanted to give back. But I'm not getting behind a podium and saying, `Vote for Gore.' I'm just saying, `Vote, period.'''

Bon Jovi also recently performed with Springsteen at a Middletown, N.J., gala to benefit SPUR (Special People United to Ride), which provides horseback lessons for special-needs youth. The two jammed on ''Proud Mary,'' and Bon Jovi sang lead on Springsteen's ''Hungry Heart.''

''Bruce and I have been friends for a long time. He is a generation older than me, but he was my hero,'' says Bon Jovi. His other heroes were Boston's J. Geils Band, which he joined onstage during Geils' reunion tour last year. ''That tour blew me away. It was the first time that I had seen them, because when they were big years ago, I couldn't afford a ticket to get in.''

After this tour, which Bon Jovi says contains ''60 percent old songs and 40 percent new ones,'' he plans on making another film, but won't give details yet. So far, his acting credits include the new ''Pay It Forward'' (which stars Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt), and previous flicks ''U-571'' (a submarine thriller for which he attended submarine school in Europe), ''Moonlight and Valentino,'' and ''No Looking Back.''

''It's getting harder to juggle between music and movies,'' he says. ''I love both. So I'll do another movie early next year, then go back and tour next summer.''