Bon Jovi's Page: History
History...

The Beginning...

Of course the beginnings of the band members are different. Jon Bon Jovi is born in Perth Amboy on March 2, 1962, and is grown in Sayreville, New Jersey. His father John, sr. is native of Sciacca, a little town near Agrigento, Italy and he was an hairdresser; his mother was a Playboy bunny. At 13 he began to play piano and guitar, using as trainers Elton John songs, and he founded his first band, called Raze. At 16 Jon met David Bryan (Feb 7, 1962, Edison, NJ) and with him founded a band named Atlantic City Expressway, a ten-piece band with a big horn section, playing clubs, even if they were minor.

At 19 Jon had his first recording experience, singing the song "R2-D2 We wish you a merry Christmas" on a Star Wars Christmas album, "Christmas With the Stars", with musics by John Williams, produced by Jon's cousin Tony Bongiovi at the Power Station in New York, and released on the RSO label. In 1983 Jon had a fluke: a radio station, WAPP, had a contest to search for the best unsigned band. Jon went to the Record Plant, a studio in NYC that his cousin worked at. He used studio musicians to play on the track "Runaway".

After it won the contest, it quickly became the most popular song in NYC in the summer of '83. The studio musicians that helped Jon to record "Runaway" were known as "All Star Review" and they were Tim Pierce (guitar), Roy Bittan (keyboards), Tony Laroca (drums) and Hugh McDonald (bass). Soon, to his surprise, he had a minor hit on his hands. So now he needed a band, but not, he thought, for anything gigantic. "I only thought the group would stay together for a couple of weeks," he says. "A band playing original songs in New Jersey in the '80s." "You could get, max, a hundred bucks a night, maybe two nights a week. So I figured having a song on the radio meant I could maybe get two hundred bucks, three hundred bucks. Maybe I could get an opening slot at a bigger club." David Bryan was a natural recruit. He had quit the band he and Jon founded to go to college, then quit college, figuring he'd go to Julliard, the leading classical music school.

"But when Jon called. I dropped that," he says. "I said, 'oh. fuck it. I'll take a chance." The other guys took bigger chances, because all of them were established musicians, though for Richie Sambora (July 11, 1959, Perth Amboy, NJ). Actually he'd toured with Joe Cocker, been talent-spotted by Led Zeppelin's label playing with a group called Mercy and had just been called up to audition for glam-rock Goliath's Kiss ("but it didn't work, thank God" is what he says about that right now); he also played in the album "Lessons" with the band "Message" , that has been recently rereleased in CD through Long Island Records.

But when he first saw Jon perform in a club in Jersey, Richie knew he'd found the man he wanted to work with. He immediatley introduced himself and gave Jon a piece of his mind: "I said I had a lot of songs and I had a knowledge of making records, and that guitar player (Jon's neighbour and future Skid Row's guitarist Dave Sabo) was very good, but he was very young... The band was kicking and I was the missing piece". Jon, unconvinced, took his number, but had second thoughts and called him to a rehearsal with his band a week later. Then fate took a hand. Jon was unavoidably detained and by the time he got to the rehearsal, Richie had the band grooving. Jon listened at the studio door for about 30 seconds and yelled, "Hired".

Tico Torres (October 7, 1953, NYC) was skeptical. "Jon was raw, definitely unpolished," he says. "He was only 21. I'd jammed with Miles Davis, I played live with the Marvelettes and Chuck Berry. I'd played on about 26 records. I'd just recorded my third album with Franke and the Knockouts" (a Jersey band with hit singles in the early '80s) "But Alec (November 14, 1956) and I had played in bands together since we were kids. and he asked me to check Jon out. What really convinced me was watching Jon perform. The reaction from the kids, especially the girls. was over whelming. They saw this young god, running around the stage, shaking his ass. So I said 'take the gamble and go for it.' The pay was two hundred a week or some shit. I'd bought a house, I figured I'd pay the mortgage with money I put away."

Luckily for everyone, "Runaway" got on national radio, eventually hitting No.39 on the singles chart; Jon (and not the band) quickly got a record deal with Polygram.The band, called BON JOVI, also gained experience on the road together with ZZ Top and they recorded their first album, simply called "Bon Jovi" (1984). The album went gold (50000 copies sold) and was also released in the UK.

After the first album, the band went back on the road. "We played bars coast to coast," Jon remembers. "Thirty shows in 29 days. I got off the bus the second day, it's snowing, we're in Buffalo, and I saw we were playing a place with one of those flashing arrows you see at a used car dealer. It said '50 cent beers."'

Time passed, and by 1985, as Jon says, "bands like Tears For Fears were on the radio. Just like now, we didn't fit the fashion. So we just went out and did what we did." The group recorded its second album, "7800 Fahrenheit" (1985) (the title coming from the temperature inside a volcano during eruption, that is also the temperature at which rock melts), containing songs as 'In And Out Of Love', 'Only lonely' and 'Tokyo Road'. However, this album was not as successful as was expected to be.

The leading British metal magazine Kerrang!, that was positive about the debut record earlier, said "a pale imitation of the Bon Jovi we have got to know and learnt to love".

Also Jon himself later said it could and should have been a better disc. The band toured again, this time as opening act for the Scorpions, Ratt and Kiss. "We learned how to become an arena band." David says, and it wasn't easy. "We weren't heavy metal," Richie remembers. "We're singing "Runaway" when the Scorps are singing kill your mom. So if we got off stage without being pelted, we were happy."

But that taught them how to make the fans pay attention. "During the 50 minutes we were on each night, we never let up", Richie says. One of the first career highlights of the band was to appear at the first Farm Aid charity event in USA, together with such stars as Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson. Jon commented: "It was as if I was finally being accepted by all these amazing musicians as one of them."

Gradually they brought the crowds around, gaining fans and, maybe even more crucially, experience, until they headlined their own arena tours. During the first independent gig in England the band played in the London Dominion. While a, specially invited, incredibly proud mom and dad Bongiovi were waiting in the audience, the sound system broke down. Not once, not twice, but four times! And no matter how hard they tried to fix it, no decibel shower. At that point Jon grabbed a acoustic guitar and started, under great enthusiasm of the crowd, a what they called 'camp-fire session'. "A great historical night" is what Jon says about that now.


The big success...

There were two important events at this point of their career. The first was when Jon heard a tape of Black and Blue (a Los Angeles band) album "Without Love" and was so impressed that he had to find out who the producer was. Turns out that it was none other than Bruce Fairbairn, a then semi-unknown Canadian guy, best known for bands like Loverboy. The second was the encounter with Desmond Child.

He was a semi-successful disco artist back in the 70's. He also did the music for the movie "The Warriors". His songwriting career took a huge leap when he wrote "I Was Made For Loving You" for Kiss. With Bruce Fairbairn as producer, Desmond's help in song-writing and with Bob Rock (he too an unknown guy at that time), the band went to an unknown studio in Vancouver to record its third album "Slippery When Wet" (1986).

There are a lot of stories about the recording of this album; the most known but also the most curious, is the way the band shaped the song content; actually they took demo tapes in a Pizza Palor in NJ and played the new music for reaction of the guys working in the palor, that were called "Pizza Palor Jury". The story about the album title is very curious as well, as David Bryan says: "During the recording of the record we frequently wound up in a striptease club where incredibly good looking girls were putting water and soap on each other. They became so slippery because of that, that you couldn't hold on to them even if you wanted to really bad. "Slippery when wet!" one of us yelled out and the rest of us immediately knew: that had to be the title of the new album! Originally we were going to put a picture of some huge brests, the really big ones, on the cover; but when the PRMC (a moral board under command of Tipper Gore, the wife of the current vice-president of the United States, ed.) found out we were in big trouble. So we made it into a very descent cover.".

Contrary to some press reviews (Rolling Stone described it as "third generation Quiet Riot"), Slippery had a big selling success, with 15 millions copies sold. This album includes some of Bon Jovi's all time greatest hits like "You give love a bad name" (written initially for Loverboy), "Livin'on a prayer", "Wanted dead or alive" and "Never say goodbye".

To promote the album Bon Jovi did a monster tour of 130 shows, called "The tour without end". During 1987 MTV Video Music Awards Jon and Richie played acoustic versions of "Livin'on a prayer" and "Wanted dead or alive", starting the Unplugged craze.

During a short stop of its tour, the band recorded the fourth album, "New Jersey" (1988), and went back on tour, playing even in the Soviet Union at "Moscow Music Peace Festival", staged by their then-manager Doc McGhee as punishment to have brought 40000 pounds of pot into US. "New Jersey" was the first american album to be released in the Soviet Union too. Sales were lower than Slippery ("only" 9 millions), but this record includes big hits as "Bad Medicine", "Lay your hands on me" and "I'll be there for you".

The tour that followed "New Jersey" was even bigger than "The tour without end", it was set out in October '88 and was called the "Jersey Syndicate tour"; Bon Jovi played 232 shows, for a total of over three million people in 23 countries.

During the tour Bon Jovi jammed also with famous musicians, as Elton John, Jimmy Page and Bryan May. The tour ended in Mexico in 1990, not without some trouble, because of the sizeable student riot that occured as a protest towards the gig promoters. Bon Jovi released also a video from this tour called "Access all areas". In this period Jon started to think to a more committed album, especially in the lyrics, because "To the people I have ever been that ' Hey, Jon has another hit in the charts !', and you say, yeah, it's ok, but inside you think that it's not enough". Besides Jon married his high school sweetheart Dorothea Hurley on April 28, 1989, after a flirt with actress Diane Lane.

During these years Jon and Richie helped bands like Cinderella and Skid Row to get signed. And the Skid Row connection might have been the cause of a possible Bon Jovi break up. Actually in 1990 the band took two years off, officially because "We'd done nothing but album-tour-album-tour for eight straight years and at the end we were burned" as Jon says or because "Looking back there was a lot of bad shit that went down. And by the end we were zombies." as Richie remembers. But Sebastian Bach (Skid Row singer) helped perpetuate break up rumours by saying that Jon and Richie had a major blowout over the handling of Skid Row's publishing. Actually Skid Row were signed to The Underground, Jon and Richie's publishing company. Since then, most ties between the two bands has all but deteriorated. Skid Row claimed that Jon and Richie owed them money. Jon and Richie came to blows after Richie gave Skid Row his share of the money. Jon did not and to this day, things have been edgy between Jon and Skid Row. To perpetuate the split rumours there are also the two solo albums that Jon and Richie released during this period. Jon produced with Danny Kortchmar the album "Blaze of Glory" (1990) , that contains songs inspired by the movie "Young Guns 2", a little part of them being also in the soundtrack; Jon was introduced to Emilio Estevez, star of the movie, by Ally Sheedy (former girlfriend of Richie Sambora). In this album Jon received the help of great stars like Kenny Aronoff (John Mellencamp), Randy Jackson (Journey), Elton John, Benmont Tench (The Heartbreakers), Danny Kortchmar, Aldo Nova, Jeff Beck, Lou Diamond Phillips, Robbin Crosby (Ratt) and Waddy Wachtel (Stevie Nicks). Anyway in the interviews Jon stressed that this is not his solo album. He said that he wrote everything from the script of the "Young Guns II" movie.

The song "Blaze of Glory" won a Golden Globe Award. In this period Jon worked as well as producer for the album 'Blood in the bricks" by Aldo Nova. Richie released in 1991 his solo effort "Stranger in this town", a deeply emotional album with blues influences, in which appear Eric Clapton, David Bryan, Tico Torres, Randy Jackson, Tony Levin, Frankie Previte and Dean Fasano; anyway some songs were written before Bon Jovi even got together. Jon purposely didn't work with Richie in this album "because it would wind up sounding like a Bon Jovi record anyhow, this time with Richie's voice. I felt it had to be his record. He also needed to feel what it is like to work on a record alone. And because of it, he's a lot more self-confident now." David Bryan made a solo album too, actually he wrote the soundtrack of the science fiction movie "NetherWorld" (1991), in which great part of the songs are instrumental and Edgar Winters sings in the other ones. But he also got sick, "I got a parasite in South America," he says. "I was in the hospital for a month. I didn't fully recover 'till 1992." Even Alec, the most reticent guy in the band to outsiders, says he had trouble, "I fell off my motorcycle right in front of my house." He damaged a crucial muscle, 'and yeah I worked out (and learned a new way to hold his bass), but it ain't coming back."


The Turn...

After the success of "Blaze of Glory" Jon realized, he needed to make big changes. So with the firing of his manager Doc McGhee and lawyers, he "took back control." as Jon emphatically declares. And then began a process of rebuilding. "I wanted to get back to being five guys in a basement," he says. So that's what they did: they all went down to Jon's basement (and later back to the studio in Vancouver) to make what after 6 months spent in recording eventually became their 1992 album "Keep The Faith", produced by Bob Rock.

This, as Richie says, was "a transition record" or as David puts it, "an experimental record. We didn't want to put out "Slippery 3," "New Jersey 5." This isn't Freddy Krueger. The music is expression, it's growing." So there were new rhythms, especially in the album's title track, along with a new kind of social concern, and, for the first time in the band's career, the fans didn't immediately respond. "I hoped it was going to be wow, look at the chances the band took," Jon says. "But you knew when you played St.Louis and broke into the new songs and nobody moved, that wasn't what you'd been used to. I had to go out there and prove "Keep The Faith" was a good song by performing the **** out of it."

The album contained really big variety of songs and 5 hit singles: 'Keep The Faith', 'I Believe', 'I'll Sleep When I'm Dead', 'In These Arms', and 'Bed Of Roses'. In the end "Keep The Faith" was a victory. The album went on to sell over eight million copies worldwide. If anyone thinks that's not enough because New Jersey and Slippery sold so much more. Well as Tico says, "there's a time in our life when we exploded, but to expect that every time, it's impossible". In 1994 David Bryan released another solo album, "On a full moon", a montage of contemporary instrumentals, directly from the heart, and the band celebrated its 10th Anniversary with the album "Crossroad-The best of Bon Jovi", that contained 13 old classics and 2 new songs - 'Always', worldwide single hit and 'Someday I'll be Saturday Night', the single with MTV-banned video. This album sold more than 12 millions copies and brought to the band a World Music Award 1995 as "best selling rock band".

After this recording Alec John Such left the band; there are a lot of rumours about the cause of this break up, in an interview (afterwards belied by himself) Alec said "I have enough of Jon, he's puffed up, he thinks that I'm a weak bassist, he dislikes each note I play..."; more officially Jon said that Alec wasn't into it anymore and that he needed some time off for family and things, and that "a rock band is not a life sentence for us". In the AOL chat with fans Jon said "It was obvious that we were growing apart, and Alec had different priorities that led to this decision. And it wasn't fair to the band to continue in that manner." Officially noone replaced him in the band, because as Jon says "band is like family and you couldn't replace family", but unofficially Hugh McDonald (former Alice Cooper/Michael Bolton session man) took Alec's place. In this period there were also happy events for the guys; Richie Sambora married actress Heather Locklear in Paris on Dec 15, 1994, Jon became for the second time father, with the birth of Jesse James Louis (Feb 19, 1995) after that Stephanie Rose was born on May 31, 1993, and also David Bryan, after having married April McLean in 1990, became father of two twins, Colton and Gabrielle, born on March 10, 1994. After "Crossroad" the band had to decide which way to go. "These Days" is the answer. "Jon and I have written 40 songs," Richie says. "We've explored new avenues of music, and a lot of the songs, they're not political, but they relate to today's problems" or in other words to things he and Jon find they think more about as they grow older. "I go through that every day." Jon says . "almost like 'Why me?' Why did all these wonderful things happen to me, when you're walking across a homeless man or see some kid that didn't eat last night. If there's supposed to be this God, what the ****, he doesn t work 57th Street?" So maybe the most important thing about this record is as Jon says, that "it's the first "we" record since Slippery. Everything since, as he looks back now, was what he calls a "me" record". In a rush to get New Jersey out, he and Richie wrote the songs, he alone wrote most of Keep The Faith because, as he says, "This was my way of trying to keep things together.".

Richie adds that his own input had to be limited, because he'd been supporting his solo album. But now, he happily says, "We went out and spent two years together on the road again, and all the friendship, the family stuff is back full bore." During the world tour that promoted this album Bon Jovi played for the first time in countries like India and made a lot of busks and free concerts. In 1995 Jon made also his debut in a movie starring role, with the movie "Moonlight and Valentino", featuring Elizabeth Perkins, Whoopy Goldberg and Kathleen Turner. The 1995 World Tour ended in December, with the concerts in South Africa and Australia, and their 6th Christmas show at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, NJ, after they won an Award as "Best rock band" at the MTV Europe Music Awards.

In the first months of 1996, Jon filmed his second movie, "The leading man", a black comedy directed by John Duigan, while Richie began to work on his second solo album and Tico did some art exhibitions. In the spring they did other concerts in Japan and Europe, in which for the first time they played a lot of songs from "These days"; actually this small tour was called "These days tour".


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