The first US dates of the Keep The Faith* tour were poorly attended: people wrote the band oft. But by the time the trek wound up in South America, the album had sold by the million and Bon Jovi were packing out stadium-size gigs again.
Behind the scenes, the hip ran remarkably smoothly, a marked contrast to the chaos the band's show incited. I remember walking around the Velez Sarslield soccer stadium In Buenos Aires and being stunned by the passion and volume ol the 45,000-strong crowd. The extraordinary sense of excitement and joy of the people, despite often abject poverty, was genuinely gob-smacking. The ride back to Miami aboard Bon Jovi s private 737 jet wasn't bad either.
Throughout, the five members of Bon Jovi were uniformly welcoming and easy-going. Jon Bon Jovi himself knows how to deal with the media.
But he remains a generous and honest interviewee. He also stood in the oldest cemetery in Buenos Aires with a Santa hat on his head just 1or our festive cover photo. Bless him...
IN 1993, people will still trample their own mothers to touch Jon Bon Jovi. Not even the man himself can explain this curious phenomenon. He simply terms it the 'it' factor.
"I know it's there, but I don't ever think about it." he ponders. "I remember seeing Bruce Springsteen in 1978 and breaking into a sweat before he'd even played a note, knowing that I wanted to be him. Now I am where I am. and I see people looking al me like that. I can appreciate it - but I never feel like. Ha! I'm a superstar'.
Because I'm still a Ian. I'd still carry (Sex Pistols front man) Johnny Lydon's luggage, cos he's up there near the top of my personal ladder."
Jon. guitarist Richie Sambora, bassist Alec Jon Such, keyboardist David Bryan and drummer Tico Torres are at the end of a 17-month world tour which has seen them come through some of the toughest limes of their career. Having been pronounced dead in their homeland following a string of disastrous attendances during the first US leg of the Keep The Faith' trek. Bon Jovi are now playing the last of their 177 shows in a sold-out football stadium in Buenos Aires.
BUENOS AIRES is both exotic and exciting. The air is warm, the pavement cafes beautiful and the ancient architecture astounding in places. But Bon Jovi will never have the lime to see any of it, because there is never a day off in their schedule. There are show days and press days, and show days always become semi-press days anyway.
So whilst various members of their entourage might be able to relax with a cappuccino on the busy Buenos Aires streets. JBJ and company are stuck in a hotel ballroom answering questions about their haircuts for the umpteenth time at a local press conference. Not that Jon cares.
"I'm not really a sightseer any more." he sighs. "I come into town, do the work, enjoy the show and move on. I did my sight-seeing already on some of the previous tours, t take things in easier now. Although in Berlin, I went with my family to the zoo-which was nice."
The band canít even leave their Buenos Aires hotel in a civilized fashion. They have to utilize fire exits, service lifts and garbage-strewn escape routes.
Bon Jovi also have their own 737 jet waiting to whisk them from city to city. The previous night, they left Cordoba immediately post-show. arriving in Buenos Aires al 4.30am.
THE LAST 17 months have seen Bon Jovi grow up. face facts and enjoy the most professionally fulfilling period of their career Al the Velez Satstield stadium. 45.000 people roar them on. The 'Keep The Faith tour has seen the band reap the benefits of hard work and persistence. When it ends. Jon Bon Jovi knows exactly what he'll do with himself.
After the last lour for New Jersey, for a couple of nights you'd wander around your house and get this surge at nine o'clock - and have to remind yourself. Oh yeah-.normally show-time'. Bui after a few days, that goes completely." he says.
"At the end of that tour, to re-channel that energy, when I was asked to do a song for the Blaze Of Glory album I did a whole album. This time, the energy's been so good that I know I'll be re-channeling it into the next Bon Jovi album.
'Experience tells you what lo do with all that post-tour energy, where to locus it. I'm having fun on tour, but I'm really jazzed about being creative in different mediums. I'm excited about writing the new album, about taking more lessons in piano and guitar - and I'm gonna do a movie! I don't care if it's a bit part. It isn't like I wanna be the next Clint Eastwood. It's all about the challenge: every day we have to go out there and fight."
BON JOVI have spent more than a year fighting out on the road. proving that the less than ecstatic American reaction to the Keep The Faith album matters little on the global scale. Last April. Jon refused to comment on the band's US status. Now. he's more than willing to discuss it.
"Now that this is all drawing to a close. I can say that Keep The Faith was an incredibly successful album worldwide and it'll hit eight million total sales." he says. - New Jersey' did nine million, but with much more of that in the Slates.
"With Keep...' just surviving in America and doing well everywhere else, il kept us all together. We stuck together and fought if out - we are stronger. It feels to me like we did during the '7800 Fahrenheit' album 'the precursor to the watershed Slippery When Wet}. It's like we're on the edge of something about lo happen.
'After the Blaze Of Glory' album. I was so tired of having to prove that it wasn't all a fluke. Blaze... defended New Jersey . New Jersey defended Slippery.... I was done with that and I needed to make a statement, which I tell Keep The Faith' did - the song, the look, the whole album.
"When all is said and done, I can go to sleep at night knowing that our instincts were right. I can go to a bill tomorrow of Pearl Jam. Red Hot Chill Peppers and Melallica and say. 'That's them and we are us Ė and what's more, we survived'. Proudly. We're so unfashionable, we're fashionable!
"It's not about the desire to have t Number One single, because I've had so many: It's not about the desire to sell 10 million records, because all told, we've sold well over 40 million It's the desire to look in the mirror, or at my heroes, and hear back. You done good'."
AT WHAT point on this tour did the band's spirits hit rock bottom? "America was definitely a shock at first.'' he replies. It became so against the odds that we'd survive with the album: not because of the music but because people couldn't judge this book by its cover.
Ticket sales weren't great. Canada was good, we sold out the Meadowlands Arena in New Jersey -and then we started out doing 10000 or 12.000 out of 20.000."
How hard was that, knowing how people lend to relish the first sign at a superstar's fall from grace?
It was a little hard, because everybody was watching. That's what this business is about. Anyone who says they aren't watching other people is lying!
"People are too aware of business now. When you were a kid. you had no idea how anyone else was doing. and now you can pick up a magazine that tells you how many dollars you made! I hated having to wear that hat. But it was survival; I had to put it on because we were the only ones who'd protect ourselves.
"The five of us definitely grew closer together. Because in the past, because. it was me and Doc McGhee. Bon Jovi's ex-manager), and the band separated a bit. Whatever Doc said I would be right with him. When he walked out from us we had to re-think it. take care of our own stuff. So when things didn't start off well, it was certainly hard.
"The real low-point was in Knoxville. Tennessee, where we all thought. 'Wow. keep your head down and do the best show you can". They weren't pretty shows - there were a lot of empty seats out there! But when we went back, we did twice as well. II had to do with persistence.
"I didn't think it was a great reaction when we first stepped out there tonight - was yelling at them to talk to me. That's the mentality that has stuck with me throughout."
THE PRESS have made Bon Jovi out to be all sorts of things; from silver spoon-fed softies to lucky bastards. When responding to such criticisms, Jon has rarely lost his cool.
"People have to learn their own lessons through their own experiences." he says. "And what people have said about us is okay... you know, whatever. I made a lot of those mistakes with the Skids..."
For the uninitiated. Jon was instrumental In getting Skid Row their record deal, to the point of owning a major portion of the band's early publishing. In a series of arguments and feuds - much publicized by Skids' singer Seb Bach - the two parties fell out over just how much of the hand Jon should really have a piece of.
"One of my main regrets is that I got so involved in trying to pass on my experience - with them saying. 'F"k you" until it ruined our friendship," Jon says. "In retrospect. I should've let them fall on their faces a couple of times until they came and asked for the information.
If Eddie Vedder. with all his amazing talent - and to me. he's a major superstar - f"ks up, runs into a wall and crashes. I can't call him up! I can't ring him and say, You know what Eddie? This is your Slippery When Wet' album, where you're gonna run yourself crazy*. He's not gonna listen to me - who am I to tell him? I'm just this big rich rock 'n' roll star, blah blah blah... But I did those things too.
"There are times when you just wish you could say that stuff to people, i think Pearl Jam are amazing. The greatest compliment I can pay is. I wish I wrote that', and that band has got "it". We have it'. It's that desire to be great and that desire to win."'
THIS SEEMS to have been the tour that made Bon Jovi more accessible to the global market than ever before. Jon, however, disagrees.
"We've always been a global band, and that's the greatest credit I can give Doc McGhee. He got us touring Europe in 1984- and Japan and Canada. By 1987. we were in Australia J and New Zealand. He always thought of things on a global basis. We always thought of going all around the world, and still do."
What was the high-point of this lour?
"Those two Milton Keynes Bowl shows in the UK. The first show at the Chicago Horizon was another one. because the promoter - who's a friend of mine -joined the ranks of saying. 'You're in trouble'. I said to him, 'Stick around. f..k-tace!'. and went bananas onstage for three hours, got ridiculous reviews, and then showed them to my pal!
"Or the other night in Cordoba. It's a small Argentinian town and we were the second show ever there. We drew 15,000 people, and you're basically playing to one stand in a football stadium. It was a great show, and after we walked out to our airplane, this huge jet that never in my wildest dreams did I think we'd have. It was lit up, it was night-time, the logo was on the tail - and every single camera available at that point took a picture. I never wanted that moment to go away. We were five guys that only had 10 cents between us a decade ago. and no one in their right mind would've bet on us getting to this."
Bon JOVI all came from solid. traditional industrial towns where the family was tight and people worked hard. Do those basic tenets account for Jon being so down-to-earth?
"No. I think it comes with time." he says. "The Bon Jovis. the Melallicas or the Del Leppards also know what's really left for a band at the end of the day. Maybe that's a tribute to our backgrounds: we were all scared that the next hit wouldn't ever come, so we lived humbly or at home for three albums. We never, ever blew it."
Jon Bon Jovi claims to be hugely self-critical these days.
"It's not pretty to admit this." he says, "but I drink too much. I walk around at night sometimes, pacing the floor saying, 'I f'ked this up. coulda done this better'. All it is, is stupidity."
"Look at Tico or Alec, who have become completely different human beings. The people in our record company used to think At was a junkie, but cos he's been sober (or nearly two years he looks better than ever. Tico s been sober for nearly the same amount of time - he's lost 35ibs. Everyone has a horror story about Tico from the past, yet he's a pleasure to be around now.
"So personally, it's a let-down to me it I let myself go. But at least I'm honest and understand the situation."
Jon was accused of being an alcoholic by one journalist.
"It's all in definitions." he shrugs. "I have four glasses of wine and I call it drinking too much. Any good Italian would say you should drink a bottle of wine a night for your blood! I push to the point where I can relax and also hit the notes the next night."
Then again. Bon Jovi have lived through their hard and last times.
"Last lour, we were playing these stadiums and Alec was falling down onstage. Literally falling down! I'd pick him up and say. 'All my tile I've dreamed of playing a stadium, and here I am picking you up. If I didn't love you so much. I should kill you or fire you'. He realized that it was out of control and got himself in shape."
Did drugs ever become a problem?
"No. I'm a baby when it comes to that kind of stuff. I don't want it lo seem like we were all junkies, cos that wasn't the case. But mentally, stupidity set in and we turned into morons who were on a treadmill,"
THERE IS still a certain amount of pain over the business affairs that led Jon to reorganise Bon Jovis management and financial affairs post-'New Jersey". "The problem was never about the money. he insists. "I didn't care about it when I didn't have It; my lather never had none. So if somebody told me it was all over tomorrow and I had to start again from scratch, that's okay. Because apart from having a wife who loves me and a great kid, I know I can write songs and we have a great band. For the first time, in my heart of hearts, I know we're a great band. And this is the first tour that we've become a great band."
The new Bon Jovi era started off rough. But 177 shows on. it now looks very, very good.