In the 1980s, the members of Bon Jovi were
renowned touring machines, rapidly graduating from clubs to amphitheaters to
stadiums and touring at such a breakneck pace that the group's members will
admit to not remembering much from about 1986 on.
The members of Bon Jovi, (who also recently released a studio album, Crush) may now have solo careers, film roles, and high-profile marriages, but their latest offering, thegreatest-hits-cum- live album One Wild Night -- Live 1985-2001, commemorates the group's forgotten (at least, by them), big-haired selves.
Jon Bon Jovi sat down with CDNOW recently to talk about his increasingly adult role in the world of rock and what the years of touring have taught him about taming the rock-and-roll beast.
CDNOW: Your new live album features songs that were hits before many Britney Spears fans were even born. Faced with that, how does someone who's been around such a comparatively long time stay relevant?
Jon Bon Jovi: Write songs that say something to the folks that are my age. Just because [someone might be] a 38-year-old guy doesn't mean he
doesn't like rock and roll anymore. Look at Springsteen's 10 nights in the Garden, or the Stones in any stadium. People wanna still like rock
and roll. It just has to say something to them.
CDNOW: The Stones aren't exactly relevant anymore. How old is too old to keep knocking it out every night?
JBJ: Well, until they lay down, no one's gonna know what the benchmark is, but I still think they do it really well. Do I still wanna think of myself touring at 55? Not really. But I still will make records, and I'll still do choice dates here and there, but the machine -- the actual stadium machine -- I don't know that I wanna do that at 55.
CDNOW: Do you feel pressure to update your sound, to keep up with the kids? There must be certain things you would never do, just for the sake of keeping up.
JBJ: I wouldn't have a guy on my stage scratching a record. I wouldn't bring a rapper onstage to do a duet. That doesn't mean I don't like that music, but that's not my background; that's not my influences; that's not what I feel comfortable doing. I wouldn't want to see the Rolling Stones, Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, or John Mellencamp doing that either. I wanna see them playing the songs that influenced me lyrically and made me want to pick up a guitar. I wouldn't want to do something just because it's fashionable. It's not my place. I never wanted to be 50, painting my nails black and writing "bitch" on my bellybutton. It's not for me. Works for some folks, just not for me.
CDNOW: It wasn't until you made your third album that your career really took off. In this hit-and-run musical climate, it's unlikely that you would
have been given the chance to develop at that pace.
JBJ: I feel bad for kids now. Lot of different elements now. [Back then] there was a club scene where you had to be 18 to play. You gotta be 21
now. So you could've been 16, sneaking in; you could've been developing your skills instead of worrying about going to college, paying bills. It was a different time when I was a teenager. These days, you're 21; you owe somebody something; and you have to make decisions in your life. By the time I was 21, I had a record deal. It was a different time, so it's too bad.
CDNOW: How are things different for you now, at this level of success, compared to the stadium-playing, "You Give Love a Bad Name" years?
JBJ: It's not as crazy. That kind of success … that was our third album, the third single on a milestone album called Slippery When Wet, where
fame was thrust upon us in such a manner that it was hard to grasp and, for me, hard to really enjoy, because it was too much. Not personally so much as physically, mentally, head- wise, it was the exhaustion of running, of doing the work that went with it. I came to terms with all that stuff and realized how to enjoy it, how to tame the beast, and from then on … it was a very strange time. We went from being a nice bar band or a scary opening act to have on before you to being this phenomenon, and it was a lot. But by New Jersey, Keep the Faith, by the Crossroads, These Days tour, we were playing every stadium in the world, and I was just enjoying the moment. So for now, for it all to be just thrust upon us again, different eyes are looking at it now. I know what that animal is, really well.
CDNOW: How much do you remember from that time? Do all those mid-'80s tours seem like a blur?
JBJ: When [the Slippery When Wet] tour ended, 10 months later we had another album written and recorded, and we were back in Ireland starting the tour. Someone at a press conference in Ireland said to me, "What are you doing here?" And at the time, I thought, What a stupid question -- we're starting a tour; we're playing tonight. It took me a couple years to realize that, that was the most intelligent, deep question the guy could have asked me, and he was right. We should have stopped, just enjoyed the moment. Went home. Instead of being out there like a bunch of young punk prizefighters. Like, "Come on! Anybody else? What do you want, another No. 1 single? You got it. Another one? All right, fine" … We were on fire. When that tour was over, my brain was liquid.
CDNOW: Being in such close quarters with your bandmates for that long couldn't be too healthy, either. How do things work within the band? Is it a democracy?
JBJ: Our band is a benevolent dictatorship. I welcome your opinion, but that doesn't mean it's an equal vote, 'cause it's not. Everybody's opinion is very valued, and everybody knows that their opinions are seriously listened to … but this is a vision I've had, and Richie's opinion is very valued as are Dave's and Tico's, but it's not an equal vote, no.
CDNOW: Have you ever not taken their advice, then wished you had?
JBJ: Sure, a hundred times. But I'd rather fail and know I made a decision than to be wishy-washy, or have someone else make it for me. If it succeeds, it's a team effort, and if it fails, it's my fault, and that's OK.