ROCK'S HOME BOY
He's been a rock n roll animal for 20 years, but off stage Jon Bon Jovi revels in domestic bliss. Deborah Joseph flew to LA to discover how his marriage has survived years of touring - and why's he no fan of plastic pop
Just don't mention the hair. It's still there alright, a thick, honey-blond thatch, but shorter, spikier, more sexy family man than the wild rock n roll mane of it's past glory days. still, I'm advised not to mention it. It's Jon's Achilles heel of interview questions, apparently. After 20 years of writing, recording, touring, sweating blood and performing some of the world's most loved rock anthems, such as You Give Love A Bad Name and Livin' On A Prayer, he can't quite believe anyone still cares about his bloody barnet. I quickly strike off question 10:Do you think you'd still be this successful if you'd gone bald??
Because John Bongiovi (he changed the spelling before his band hit the big time) is ridiculously, out-of -this-stratosphere successful. He's been writing songs for 20 years. He's released nine studio albums - eight with the band and one as a solo star - and he's acted, in such films as Homegrown and Pay It Forward and, more recently, in ally McBeal. When we meet he's putting the final touches to his latest album This Left Feels Right, which is a greatest hits collection with a difference:it consists of bon Jovi's greatest hits, dramatically reworked, plus there are two new songs. He somehow manages to attract fans from every generation. I challenge anyone - R & B lovers, pop fans, clubbing types, your mum - anyone -to listen to Livin' On A Prayer and not moshing and singing into a hairbrush like an idiot. So, to meet the man himself is more than a little scary. He arrives early because he's impatient to leave early so he can get back to the studio to work on the album. He doesn't wear the imfamous dark shades that he usually sports during interviews, but still manages to avoid my gaze for three hours. It's quite unnerving.
What are your new songs about?
Last Man Standing is from an observation I made on tour last month. It's about the state of the music business. I imagined myself as a carnival huckster standing outside a can=rnival tent. I'm bringing people in to see the freak show, which I imagined to be Bob Dylan, because he's the last man standing. I really like the lyrics. When the band heard it they said "This is an instant classic"
Is this a pop at today's chart stars and TV show like Pop Idol?
These days people are more famous for their bellybutton ring than the songs they write. They're more famous for their dance moves and for who they're dating than for playing, touring, singing and inspiring future generations.
Do you worry that's what younger generations want??
I can't make my music appeal to a younger audience. I've tried but I can't. Frist of all I'm not going to hang out with (stops to think) whoever, fill in the blank. And I'm not going to be one of those guys who show sup in the paper because he's gone to meet the newkid. it's not that i don't appreciate younger artisit. Their style of music is what it is. Britney and
NSync have their type of music. But tha's not where I came from. And that's why, 20 years later, I'm still doing it.
But you do attract a young audience
Sometimes magic happens like I'ts My Life, my most indulgent song ever (about my movie career) To come back and write a song than bang, a whole new generation finds the band - that's so rare. if you go to a Stones show you'b be hard pushed to find a 20-year-old. The "old" music they're discovering is from 1990.
Which new musicians do you rate??
I think Ryan Adams is an incredible songwriter. And I hear certain songs by Coldplay and Oasis and think "Yeah, I get it"
John Bongiovi was born in Perth Amboy, New Jersey in March 1962. Instead of following his friends and joining the US Navy, he singel-mindedly decided he was going to be a rock star. After playing in bars for many years, he recorded his first single Runaway in his cousin Tony's studio at the age of 21. With the single doing well, he formed the band with some old pals and in no time they'd landed a record deal with a major label. By 1986 they'd released the multi-million selling Slippery When Wet followed by 1988's hugely successful New Jersey securing their status as one of the biggest acts in the world.
Today there are many incongruities about Jon. His face is youthful for a man of 41 whos surely battered the whole rock star thing. His body is toned, but not too much - a hint of love handles covered by a grey T_shirt, just tight enough around the biceps. I hitch a ride to the studio where Jon only has 23 days to finish This Left Feels Right and on the way he lets me smoke one of his Marlboro Menthols. But as I'm about to throw the stub out of the window he says "Wait until we pass these three officers". After all, this is LA-you can get arrested for that kind of thing. Then he stops and laughs at himself. "God, I'm so rock n roll" he says, shaking his head.
Other un-rock n roll things about Jon include his 14-year marriage. Dorothea Hurley is Jon's childhood sweetheart and the mother of his three kids Stephanie Jesse and Jacob. The family live together in a big house in New Jersey.
What's the secret of your long and happy marriage??
People always ask me that. It's not rare;people make more of it than it is. Bono's been married longer than I have. Steven Tyler has been married as long as I have. The misconception is that everybody is like J.Lo or Madonna. It's not like I've been married for 20 years. But I'm very pleased. I have an independent woman who's very capable of having a life and running our home life. A lot of its success comes because my wife knows who she is, likes her independance and knew what she was getting into. She didn't marry me at the height of my fame;she didn't get into it for that. It's just a job. It's just like being a travelling salesman.
Are you glad you don't have to do a Mick Jagger and go out dating??
(Laughs) You know, the truth is, that's my penance. I can only imagine what it would be like to line up Liz Hurley and Nicole Kidman. it would be fun. But would it mean anything? Or be as cool as it is with my wife? I dn't think so.
You're rock n roll on the road. Are you domesticated at home??
NO! I don't do any of that. I don't cook. I don't clean. I don't mow the lawn. I don't put gas in the car. But I'm a great dish-washer. It's very pompous, but I have a big staff and I don;t feel guilty about it because when I come home I think, while all you guys were finished at five, I was working 16 hours a day. When I'm home I take the kids to school, go to a football game or lay on the couch. But I really am a great dish washer.
Your eldest daughter (Stephanie, ten) will be a teenager in three years. Do you think you'll be much stricter because you've seen so much??
If she's smart and independent like her mother then I don't think so. I used to joke and say she'll be the prettiest girl in the convent. I used to say I'd be the third wheel on her date. But now I half-jokingly say i pity the fool who tries to date my daughter. I'll give him $20 if he makes it back because she'll just chew him up.
Who does Jon Bon Jovi invite round on a lazy Sunday afternoon??
I have a couple of friends - just a couple - who are not musicians who I feel comfortable hanging out with. But they end up talking about the music business the whole freaking time too.
When was your last big night out??
I don't know. I can't remember! It might have been very recently but I can't remember. i got good and pi**ed here the other night in the bar because things were going well and I needed to let off some steam. But the next big night out I go on I'll probably fall in the gutter. I'm pretty good at that.
But you're pretty good at picking yourself up too.....
After Slippery When Wet I thought I was a fake, that it was a fluke. I didn't think I could do it again. I thought "You know, I don't think I can do it again, so I have to prove I can". My insecurity almost killed me and the band. By the time Bounce came out last year I thought "I've more than proved myself. So screw it"
What does the future hold for the man who's done everything?
The plan is to focus on movies for the next two years. I did Ally McBeal because there was a pending actors strike at the time so there weren't many opportunities for me to do a movie. I needed to be in LA to write Bounce so it made more sense for me to come here and film Ally. I acted in the day and wrote in the evening. I haven't kept in touch with Calista. IIt was a case of go to work, do your lines, come back. I don't really keep in touch with anyone I've acted with - but when you see them it feels like yesterday.
And with that, we're through. he doesn't say goodbys, look at me, say nice to meet you or shake my hand. He runs to the bathroom. On the way out, I collar him for one last question. He's probably expecting the one about the hair, but no. "Come on then Jon, who gets your vote, Beyonce or J.Lo?" I say. " I can't believe you've asked me such a stupid question" He shakes his head seriously. "It's Beyonce, of course. She's unbelieveable. Beautiful. No contest."