No slowing down for Bon Jovi
With a world tour and a greatest hits package, Jon Bon Jovi promises that his band isn’t planning on slowing down.
THERE is no denying that Bon Jovi has had many detractors and critics over the years. Most target the New Jersey-raised band’s emergence during the fanciful glam rock movement in the 1980s, a period in rock history that is not often acclaimed as its finest. Add to that the fact that the band is fronted by a blue-eyed pretty boy and hawking a brand of rock that is best described as being “bubblegum metal”, and you get the gist of why the band has been fighting a “credibility” war since 1983.
But 27 years on, many of the non-believers have been gradually silenced not just by the band’s remarkable staying power but also by how Bon Jovi has managed to still stay relevant. While many of their peers are making the tour rounds doing nostalgia tours, the quartet of Jon Bon Jovi (vocals), 48, Richie Sambora (guitars), 51, David Bryan (keyboards), 48, and Tico Torres (drums), 57, has never stopped making new music.
Their last album, 2009’s The Circle, debuted at a very impressive No.1 spot on Billboard, selling in excess of 160,000 on its first week. This is not a band on the decline, so what has helped the band remain in the headlines all this time?
“You know, fashions and trends come and go but at the end of the day, good music is good music. Look at that Justin Bieber craze going on right now. In six months, there will be six more Justin Biebers because commercialised music sells, or so record labels think,” said Jon Bon Jovi during a recent Asian media phone conference from New York.
“Consumers are getting smarter now, with the advent of social networks and things like YouTube, and they can tell original, creative work from uninspired ones.”
The band will kick off the Australian leg of its world tour in December to coincide with the release of four new tracks as well as a greatest-hits compilation. No concert date has been set aside for the Asian region next month but the rumours are Bon Jovi will be back in this part of the world in the middle of next year.
Out now is Bon Jovi’s Greatest Hits, a 16-song single CD that includes Livin’ On A Prayer, Always, It’s My Life, Wanted Dead Or Alive and Bad Medicine. Two new songs, including lead single What Do You Got?, round out the tracklist. A deluxe edition, featuring two discs, slaps on a further two new tracks ( The More Things Change and This Is Love, This Is Life).
Apart from selling the hits and crowd-pleasing concerts, a big part of Bon Jovi’s amazing longevity is the fact that the band’s line-up has remained relatively intact throughout its history, with the exception of bassist Alec John Such quitting in 1994. On top of this, while many of Bon Jovi’s peers in the 1980s such as Motley Crue, Guns ‘n’ Roses and Poison have had massive fallouts and public scandals, the band has remained clean cut and scandal free, an anomaly when you consider the scene the group was born in.
“It helps that we all like each other a lot and get along very well, which makes this really fun. You have to be sure to keep your ego aside,” shared Bon Jovi before adding: “While compromise between your record label and band mates is an essential part of this business, I would never do anything that goes against my principles. We’ve been lucky so far though; we’re usually on the same wavelength and have the same vision so there aren’t many arguments.”
And at the fulcrum of this hard-earned integrity is Bon Jovi himself, who despite having been thrusted into the limelight at the height of the “sex, drugs and rock & roll” cliché, remains a dedicated husband and father to four children even till this day.
“Those guys who live by that cliché wouldn’t last long enough to be talking to you about their music almost three decades later.”
And while Bon Jovi confesses that his favourite hobby is writing new songs, there comes a time for all bands to take stock on their massive discography. Back in 1994, the compilation Cross Road was a very successful sojourn for the band, spawning the massive hit ballad Always.
The last 16 years have spawned six more Bon Jovi albums and another sizeable batch of hits, hence the release of the new “best of” package simply titled Greatest Hits. But so strong was the hard rock band’s desire to carry on making new music that the idea of another greatest hits outing seemed irrelevant.
“It didn’t make me feel odd as much as old ( laughs). I initially rejected the idea but I had to do it as a compromise and a commitment to my record company,” explained Bon Jovi.
“I was in Nashville a couple of years and I wanted to make a country album. Since we’re such an established band, my producers naturally couldn’t say no, but the CEO said: ‘ While you’re losing millions of my dollars, could you consider making a Greatest Hits album?’ We went on to make Lost Highway and it did very well but a deal is a deal and we sat down and started thinking about the greatest hits compilation.”
And while pulling together a greatest hits set for some bands might just be a sequential exercise (of trying to fill in the blanks), it wasn’t so straightforward for a beloved band with such a hit-making history.
“The songs needed to fit the idea of what the greatest hits were. I guess in a strange way, I think of this album as a party and the songs were guests invited to this party. The old tracks mingled well and the new songs had to fit in naturally and comfortably,” added Bon Jovi who confessed that Bounce and Misunderstood were two tracks he would have liked to include on the new compilation.
But they had to be left out because of running time constraints.
On paper, you can’t argue much with the set that has been put together. Kicking off with arguably the band’s three biggest anthems, Livin’ On A Prayer, You Give Love A Bad Name and It’s My Life, it also stretches on to fan favourites such as Born To Be My Baby (from the New Jersey album) and mainstay ballads such as Always and I’ll Be There For You.
“The new single ( What Do You Got?) was written while we were working on our previous album, The Circle, but we set it aside,” said Bon Jovi.
“I had actually forgotten about it when someone gave it a listen and said it had great lyrical content. We started on a Tuesday, recorded and cleaned it, and by Friday it was on the radio.”
The lead singer also revealed that the songs choices were largely influenced by fan input. There are separate European, American and Asian versions of the Greatest Hits package to appease as many of Bon Jovi fans as possible.
With a nod for the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame in the bag, 11 albums released and possibly quite a few more albums left in Bon Jovi, the future is still a purring pink Cadillac for these veteran rockers.
So can Jon Bon Jovi be considered one of the elder statesmen of rock these days, much like, say, Mick Jagger?
“He’s about 20 years older than me and it’s hard to imagine I’ll be sitting here in 20 years talking about Bon Jovi’s Greatest Hits Volume IV. The beauty of this is that I don’t have any plans – career or retirement-wise. I’m not one of those people who are just hanging in there to complete a job so they can go off to be a gardener or something. I’m doing what I love and I’m going to keep doing it,” he concluded with fresh enthusiasm for the rock ‘n’ roll cause. n Bon Jovi’s Greatest Hits is released by Universal Music Malaysia.
Staying power: ‘You know, fashions and trends come and go but at the end of the day, good music is good music,’ says Jon Bon Jovi.