I felt like listening to Jovi, so I called up “New Jersey” on Spotify.
“Slippery When Wet” was written while Jovi and Sambora still lived at home and had a million dollar debt to the record label. The start of the “New Jersey” song writing process began as soon as the band came off a gigantic 18 month world tour with millions to their name. A double album was demoed and rejected. Desmond Child was brought in and a few more songs got written. Other outside songwriters like Dianne Warren and Holly Knight also contributed. The double album then became a single album and months after the conclusion of the “Slippery” tour, Bon Jovi had a new album ready to release and another world tour on the cards.
Jovi once said in an interview (and I am paraphrasing here) “What I didn’t get out of New Jersey was the pure pleasure of it”.
“Slippery” changed everyone around the band before it changed the band. Suddenly people around them started to make money because the band was making money. It was only natural that the band was sent right back into the studio.
Also after working so hard to make it, Jovi and Sambora realised that it’s even harder to stay on top. The success they had post “Slippery” could not be there tomorrow. “Slippery When Wet” moved 9 million copies in the U.S between 1986 and 1988 so the pressure was on to repeat it. Suddenly the band needed to deliver hits, where in the past they delivered songs that became hits. It’s a big difference in the mindset of the writer. Gone was the ignorance problem and in was the fame problem.
The problem that record labels don’t understand is people don’t always care about what the bands care about. And the reason they don’t care is because they don’t believe what the band believes in at certain points in time. In some cases, people just grow up and fall out of love with the soundtrack of their youth. And Bon Jovi’s challenge was to engage with their fan base and communicate in a way that shares the same emotion, values and beliefs. The fan base was also much larger than the fan base they had coming into the “Slippery” sessions.
They did their homework, looking at what Mutt Lange did with “Hysteria”. In addition, Aerosmith used Bruce Fairbairn for their 1987 smash “Permanent Vacation” so they had a fair idea as what kind of production was required.
“Lay Your Hands On Me” was meant to be Bon Jovi expressing the feeling to the fans, that the band is still accessible. The same old dudes with new shoes, but the song was marketed as something totally different. Plus it kept in line with Bruce Fairbairn’s methodology that each opening track needs to have a cool intro for the live show.
“Bad Medicine” was a simple little romp linking making love to bad medicine. It might taste bad but you keep on going back.
“Born To Be My Baby” was a title Sambora came up with while Jon was playing the chord progression. It was more Dylanesque in the demo version with harp and harmonica in the mix than the final amped up version released on the album.
“Living In Sin” is Springsteenesque. It had a pretty cool film clip with a decent amount of skin showing and Jovi is trying to move away from sugar pop into more serious territory lyrical.
“Blood On Blood” drew inspiration from the Stephen King film “Stand By Me” with River Phoenix and Keifer Sutherland. Jon had the draft, Sambora and Desmond Child further developed it. It’s also another song that’s very Springteenesque. “Blood On Blood” and “Wanted Dead Or Alive” are two songs Jon Bon Jovi would like to be remembered by.
“Homebound Train” is a rolling rocking good time song, perfect for the live show. But in an era that was controlled by MTV it would never have been a hit to the record label machine.
“Wild Is The Wind” and “Stick To Your Guns” are good pieces of AOR and occupy a similar place that “Without Love” and “I’d Die For You” occupy on “Slippery”. Both are fan favourites.
“I’ll Be There For You” was the unexpected hit on the album, buried deep at track number 10. “99 In The Shade” and “Love For Sale” close off the album. To be honest “Love For Sale” along with “Ride Cowboy Ride” should have remained off the album.
The foundation of any good record is the SONG. The song is meant to hit you in the heart, bring up some sentimental feeling or some feeling about the now. And the music we like accompanies us throughout our life. Human songs about what we go through in life are what end up sticking with us in the long run.
“Jersey” came out, another 2 year tour happened and in between Jon Bon Jovi got married. Once the tour ended, Jon Bon Jovi went on a road trip, released a solo album for a movie and achieved even more success. Richie Sambora was left in limbo, picked up the pieces and also released a solo album. While “Jersey” didn’t have the same sales success as “Slippery”, it is a solid album and the band earned its keep as one of the best live shows.