Music

What made Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet Explode?

What made Slippery When Wet explode?

A lot of people credit Bruce Fairbairn for it.  Others credit the influence of Desmond Child, while others would credit the sound engineering and mix by Bob Rock.  Others put it down to Jon and Richie finally finding their niche as songwriters and finally others put it down to the Pizza Parlour Jury.   Could it have been the labels release schedule and marketing plan?  Could it have been that the scene needed a shake up and this album was right time, right place?

First let’s put into context where the band was at in 1985.  They had just finished a nine-month world tour for 7800 Degrees Fahrenheit.  The band was in debt to the record label for a couple of million bucks.  The guys where living at their mom and dad’s, and wrote most of the songs for Slippery When Wet in Richie’s mom’s basement. 

There is a common myth that once a band is signed, they are showered with untold riches and that they have money coming out of their arse.  That is so far from the truth.   Bon Jovi where in debt and they were lucky that the label gave them a third chance.

From the 90’s onwards, labels didn’t give bands three chances.  One chance was all they had.  If they failed they will get someone else.   These days the labels are irrelevant.  They need to compete on a playing field where the rules change at the same rate technology changes and to be honest, they are so out of touch, it’s almost laughable watching them trying to hold on to the old way of doing things. 

Let’s start with Bruce Fairbairn.  Before he started doing Slippery he was coming off a multi-platinum run of releases with Loverboy and Honeymoon Suite, plus a Gold release with Krokus.   According to Paul Dean from Loverboy, Bruce is super organized.  He charts everything out and every song is broken into parts. 

Slippery would go on to multi – multi platinum sales and New Jersey (also produced by Bruce would do the same).  From Slippery, Bruce would move on to Aerosmith.  Permanent Vacation, Pump and Get A Grip all went multi – multi platinum.  He resurrected AC/DC’s career with the 5x platinum The Razors Edge after a steady decline in sales after Back In Black.  It is safe to say that Bruce had a certain knack for getting the best out of the artists he produced.  His track record is envious to say the least.

Then you have Desmond Child.  

Jon and Richie wanted to write with another song writer, so that other people can perform the songs.  Jon heard Tina Turner singing a song that Bryan Adams had written and wanted to do the same.  That is how Desmond Child came on the scene.  However the plan got skewed, as the songs that came out of those sessions where that good, that it was decided they will be kept for Jovi instead.

The first song Jon and Richie wrote with Desmond in Richie’s mother’s basement was “The Edge Of A Broken Heart”.  The second song they wrote was “You Give Love A Bad Name” by referencing a song he wrote for Bonnie Tyler called If You Were A Woman (And I Was A Man).  The melodies and chord progressions are very similar.

He used the story of his 70’s girlfriend, Maria Vidal who used to work a diner and was called Gina, for Livin On A Prayer.  In interviews, Richie has stated that Jon didn’t want the song on the album, while Richie was trying to convince him it was the best song they had.

I’d Die For You and Without Love where two other songs penned by Jon, Richie and Desmond.  I’d Die For You even has a cult status as a fan favourite.  Desmond brought the pop side to Bon Jovi’s form of hard rock, glam metal overtones. 

The engineer and mixer Bob Rock 

Jon heard Honeymoon Suite’s The Big Prize (another Bruce and Bob production) and that sealed the deal for Bon Jovi to also seek out Bob Rock.

The Pizza Parlour Jury

When Jon and Riche were making the demos in New Jersey, they would go across the street to the pizza parlour. They would ask a bunch of kids to hear some stuff.   As Richie puts it, “It was like a marketing test .  They came in and said, “Yeah, we like this one. This one gets through and that one doesn’t.”

They sure needed it as they wrote a truck load of songs.  Apart from the 10 songs that ended up on the album, other songs that never made it include;

Never Enough For You, Borderline, Edge Of A Broken Heart, Heat Of The Night, Give My Heart, Lonely Is The Night, Too Much Too Soon, Game Of The Heart, Deep Cuts The Night, Stand Up, Walk Don’t Run, Out of Bounds, There Is No Answer, Promise, Take Me All.

Bouncing songs off different independent ears that are not related to the band, helped Bon Jovi focus on the songs that where stronger.

Polygram Records

Doc McGhee the Bon Jovi manager at the time has stated that putting out a record at the right time is very important.  He further mentioned that the label looked at what other labels where releasing and picked a window where there was nothing really there competing against it.

August was the month that was selected and competing against Slippery When Wet where other August releases from Motorhead – Orgasmatron, Vinnie Vincent – Invasion, Warlock – True As Steel and Great White – Shot In The Dark. 

If it was released in July, it would have been up against DLR’s – Eat Em and Smile for listeners’ attention.   If it was released in June, it would have had to compete against Queen – A Kind of Magic, Genesis – Invisible Touch, Rod Stewart – Every Beat of My Heart, Madonna – True Blue and Cinderella – Night Songs.  If it was released in May as originally intended, it would have been up against AC/DC – Who Made Who, Journey – Raised on Radio and Europe – The Final Countdown. 

The Album

Let It Rock kicks it off Side 1.

The weekend comes to this town
Seven days too soon
For the ones who have to make up
What we break up of their rules

This song is written purely for the concert experience.  That is foresight in itself.  Apart from delivering a good album of songs, Jon and Richie are mindful of how they will go down live.  The song is about rebellion, getting that fist pumping in the air, just to let your hair down on the weekend.  Much like Loverboy’s Working for The Weekend.  But in this case the rock is a fire that is burning out of control.  Another analogy to melting rock temperatures (7800 degrees Fahrenheit).  It’s funny where Let It Rock has that keyboard intro, Lay Your Hands On Me from New Jersey, is almost identical riff wise to Let It Rock and it has that long drum intro.  It must be a Bruce thing, as even Turn Me Loose had a long keyboard intro.  A good start by the Jon and Richie song writing team.

“Shot through the heart and you’re to blame, darling you give love a bad name.”  The iconic a capella chorus.  Then the band kicks in and Richie does his vocal melody lead until they start the strip bar sleazy verse riff.

I remember when I saw the clip, I was glued to my TV screen.  I never got the name of the song and I thought it was called Shot Through The Heart, so I purchased the cassette album that had the song Shot Through The Heart.   Of course that was the wrong song.  Right band, but wrong song.   The clincher for me was the chorus part after the guitar solo, where it’s just the voice and the drums (sort of reminded me of Queen’s We Will Rock You).  You Give Love A Bad Name was the one that got the door opened and once the band unleashed Livin On A Prayer, the band started selling 700,000 records a month.    It also featured the song writing talents of Desmond Child, who borrowed the vocal melody and chords from a song he wrote for Bonnie Tyler, called If You Were a Woman (And I Was a Man).

Livin On A Prayer was the song that Jon wasn’t even sure should be on the album. 

Bob Lefsetz posted that Livin On A Prayer is where Bon Jovi got the girls and that is what has kept the band going.  He aint wrong there and Jon knew that, hence the reason why he rewrote the song over and over again for each album that came after.   New Jersey had Born To Be My Baby (again a co-write with Desmond Child).  Keep The Faith had the title track (the chorus chord progression is identical, except in a different key and again a co-write with Desmond Child).  These Days had Hey God, Crush had Its My Life (Max Martin comes into the fold now), Bounce and Have A Nice Day had the title tracks.  The Circle had We Weren’t Born To Follow and the Greatest Hits had This is Love, This is Life.  For What About Now, the whole album is following the themes from Livin On A Prayer.  If you are on a winning formula, do it right again and you will hit pay dirt.

Tommy used to work on the docks
Union’s been on strike
He’s down on his luck…it’s tough, so tough
Gina works the diner all day
Working for her man, she brings home her pay
For love – for love

It’s a movie in words.  Life is tough but as long as we love each other, we will be okay.  A lot of people were not okay, but Livin On A Prayer made them feel that they were, as Tommy and Gina were also living the same life they were living.    

Social Disease is the pure filler that needed to be written so that Bad Medicine could be written. 

So you telephone your doctor
Just to see what pill to take
You know there’s no prescription
Gonna wipe this one away

In never should have ended up on Slippery.  Edge of A Broken Heart is far superior.  I know that Jon apologised for that omission.  To be honest the song never had a chance with the listeners coming off three winners already.  It was a poor song from the Jon and Richie team.  At least they made up for it in the next song.

Wanted Dead or Alive was the 80’s version of Turn The Page which Jon more or less copied again for the Young Guns soundtrack and had another number one hit in Blaze of Glory with a cool Jeff Beck solo.    Wanted was written by Jon and Richie.  This song didn’t reach number one, but it is a number one song.  A cult classic.  A radio staple.  When the song was released as a single, the multi-million fan base had already digested it.  They didn’t need to buy the single to make it No. 1.  It was already that in their hearts and minds.      

Sometimes I sleep, sometimes it’s not for days
And the people I meet always go their separate ways

Life on the road is just that.  I am just finishing off reading a Randy Rhoads bio, and it’s pretty clear that Randy started to hate the road.  He wanted to quit Ozzy’s band and study classical music.  He worked his whole life to achieve rock stardom and now that he had it, he was going to give it all up to follow his dream of classical music.  Sadly he never got there.  That is another thing that seems to be forgotten, the road also kills. 

Raise Your Hands (Let It Rock part 2) kicks off side 2.  Another Jon and Richie composition.  The motto of this song is simply.  Come to the show, raise your hands and get wild.  It doesn’t repeat what Let It Rock started, it takes it into overdrive. 

Raise your hands
When you want to let it go
Raise your hands
And you want to let a feeling show

Without Love is the second track after Raise Your Hands on side 2.  This was a Jon, Richie and Des composition and is forgettable.  The first side was pretty much spot on, that it was hard to get into Side 2.    

I saw a man down on lonely street
A broken man who looked like me
And no one knows the pain that he’s been living
He lost his love and still hasn’t forgiven

I’d Die for You is another Jon, Richie and Des composition.  It has become a cult classic for Bon Jovi, with fans hoping that it gets played each night, like Runaway. 

I might not be a savior
And I’ll never be a king
I might not send you roses
Or buy you diamond rings

We are not perfect in relationships, however we try our best.  A lot of the times our best is not good enough and it all ends bad.

Never Say Goodbye doesn’t get out of second gear

As I sit in this smokey room
The night about to end
I pass my time with strangers
But this bottle’s my only friend

And Wild in the Street is a song that could have ended up on a Bruce Springsteen B sides album.    

In here we got this code of honor
Nobody’s going down

As Bob Lefsetz puts “if you want to relive 1986, if you want to know what it was like way back then… You play “Slippery When Wet.”

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Music

Motley Crue and Kiss at the Allphones Arena, Sydney 9th March 2013 – Part 1 – Motley Crue’s Set

Motley Crue and Kiss at the Allphones Arena, Sydney 9th March 2013 – Part 1 – Motley Crue’s Set

Tonight, there’s gonna be a fight
So if you need a place to go
Got two room slum, a mattress and a gun
And the cops don’t never show

The mighty Crue kicked off their set with the excellent Saints of Los Angeles.  Artists these days are not prepared to live the life their heroes lived.  We are all comfy in our middle class homes.  Not the Crue. Anyone who has read The Dirt knows that the Crue’s lifestyle determined their musical style.

I took two of my boys to the concert.  Their first ever RNR concert.  The sound for the Crue was muddled and the drums where very difficult to be heard (whereas Kiss had a far superior mix).  Vince as usual was short of breath and off key.  Maybe the five kidney stones that knocked him out on the next night was the cause.  One thing I can say is that the live show is spectacular, with the lights, the pyro, the backup singers/dancers and Tommy Lee’s rollercoaster. 

So come right in ’cause everybody sins
Welcome to the scene of the crime
You want it? Believe it? We got it if you need it
The devil is a friend of mine

The party line was the scene of the crime.  They lived it, they felt it, they sang it and they made every adolescent kid in the eighties want to do it.    

We are, we are the saints, we signed our life away
Doesn’t matter what you think, we’re gonna do it anyway
We are, we are the saints, one day you will confess
And pray to the saints of Los Angeles

Yes, every band that dreams of fame and fortune, sign their lives away to the Record Label.  From Motley’s perspective, they were four headstrong individuals that wanted to drink and fuck the world.  , It didn’t matter to them what the label said or their manager or agent said they are going to do things their own way.  Not a lot of artists trying to make it these days have that attitude.  It is the ones that do not sell out that end up having a lasting and profitable career.    

Red line tripping on a land mine, sipping at the Troubadour
Girls passed out naked in the back lounge, everybody’s gonna score
She’s all jacked up, she’s down on her luck
You want it, you need it, the devils gonna feed it

The decadence.  Getting tanked at the Troubadour.  I have never been to LA, but listening to this song, made me feel like I have been there and experienced what the Crue did.  The power of music.  It is forever and it touches us all in different ways.  The reference to the devil once again in a song with Saint in the song title.  The Yin and the Yang.  Sharing the groupies with each other and whoever else was in the room.  The debauchery. 

Kneel down ye sinners, to streetwise religion
Greed’s been crowned the new king
Hollywood dream teens, yesterday’s trash queens
Save the blessings for the final ring, Amen

I can’t believe that Nikki Sixx wrote those lyrics when he was shooting up twenty four seven back in 86.  Wild Side is the street man’s bible.  In 1987, Greed had been crowned the new king.  The world was changing.  Technology was starting to get traction and the bankers started to get more power.  Everyone and everything was thrown away as soon as they or it stopped making money for the Corporations. 

I carry my crucifix under my death list
Forward my mail to me in hell
Liars and the martyrs lost faith in the Father
Long lost is the wishing well

Who can we believe in these days?  It seems that evil deeds and good deeds go hand in hand and are committed by the same person.  We lose more and more of our innocence as we get older.  We make choices that are heavily influenced by money. 

Shout shout shout
Shout shout shout
Shout at the devil

Could Shout At The Devil be the best Christian song ever.  Even Stryper would be proud.  Nevertheless, the Crue started the show with three winners.  Ah yes, I still remember the criticism that the Crue took in the 80’s for this album because of the pentagram on the cover.  But as Nikki Sixx described in the Dirt, “It just looks cool. It’s meaningless symbols and s–t. I’m just doing it to piss people off.”  A lot of the artists these days, don’t do this.  They all want to be loved.  It upsets them when they see hate or criticism thrown their way. 

She’s got an alligator bag
Top hat to match
Dressed in black on black
She’s got a Philipino girlie
She claims is her friend
I tell you boys, you just gotta laugh
Now I used to call her Cindy
She changed her name to “Sin”
I guess that’s the name of her game
I really used to love her
Then, the kitty she discovered
It’s got to be a sexual thing

The perfect love song, boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, only for girl to leave boy for another girl.  Only the Crue could have pulled a song off like this and with Nikki’s witty street gutter lyrics, it comes off as a treat.  And they gave a new meaning to what SOS stands for.  Same Ol’ Situation

Everybody wants some, what the hell
Everybody needs some, everybody yell
Ohh (Ohh) , No (No)
Don’t need no lovin, no respect
Cos it’s all about the sex (SEX!)
Cos it’s all about the
Ohh (Ohh) Yeah (Yeah)
What gets me off is a little neglect
Cos it’s all about the sex (SEX!)
It’s all about the

Finally a Crue song about what they like doing best.  Sex.  Two of their stars even stared in their own movies.  Could this be the reason why the Crue returned in 2004 bigger and better?  I think those two sex tapes combined with The Dirt re-launched the Crue and made them relevant again.   They where all over the internet. 

Home Sweet Home didn’t go down to well.  As Tommy Lee was playing the piano, either Vince’s mike got cut or he forgot when to come in.  To me it sounded like he forgot when to come in and this put the band off.  Home Sweet Home was the Turn The Page of 85, and by 86 – Wanted Dead Or Alive by Jovi would have replaced it.

That’s alright, that’s okay
We were walkin’ through some youth
Smilin’ through some pain
That’s alright, that’s okay
Let’s turn the page

Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away) was the first song on Dr Feelgood that I repeated constantly.  I loved the title and the way the song starts off as a Rob Stewart Maggie May, before kicking in to a Boston – Don’t Look Back / T Rex style groove.  It was one of those songs that put growing up out there.  It’s okay to be sad, it’s okay to be happy.  It’s okay to love and it’s okay to leave.  Just turn the page and move on. 

The Drum solo and guitar solo parts are the weakest part of the shows.  It would have been way cooler if Tommy Lee actually drummed to Primal Scream while doing the drum coaster.  And it would have been way cooler if Mick Mars did an extended solo break on the Home Sweet Home solo with the band and all as his back up, sort of like how John Petrucci does in Hollow Years.

Broke dick dog
My head slung low
Tail knocked in the dirt
Time and time of being told
Trash is all I’m worth
When I was just a young boy
Had to take a little grief
Now that I’m much older
Don’t put your shit on me

Primal Scream was a 90’s version of We’re Not Gonna Take It.  The kid from 1985 is now six years older.  And I didn’t take shit.  I knocked a kid out because he stepped on my school bag.  It was an accident that he stepped on my bag, but man I was an angry kid.  I was angry at the system.  My home life was good, but teachers just didn’t understand me. 

Plug me in
I’m alive tonight
Out on the streets again
Turn me on
I’m too hot to stop
Something you’ll never forget
Take my fist
Break down walls
I’m on top tonight
No, no
You better turn me loose
You better set me free
Cause I’m hot, young, running free
A little bit better than I use to be 

Cause I’m alive
Live Wire

When I first heard Live Wire, I was just a kid.  As I got older, I got stronger.  As I got stronger, I felt invincible.  I believed that I was invincible.  This is before marriage and before kids.  That is when a person’s life becomes complicated in the sense that it is not about them anymore.  Until that day came to me, I was feeling alive and was trying to break down as many walls as I could. 

He’s the one they call Dr. Feelgood
He’s the one that makes ya feel alright
He’s the one they call Dr. Feelgood

Cops on the corner always ignore
Somebody’s getting paid
Jimmy’s got it wired, law’s for hire
Got it made in the shade
Got a little hideaway, does business all day
But at night he’ll always be found
Selling sugar to the sweet
People on the street
Call this Jimmy’s town

The Dr. Feelgood album has gone into history as Motley Crue’s best album and also the album that Metallica wanted to emulate in its sound.  This in turn led to Metallica working with Bob Rock, and the best-selling album of the Sound Scan era.  How cool did Nikki Sixx sum up corruption?  That is why we can never win the war on drugs.  There is too much money going around, and a person on a shitty wage will always be tempted to look the other way.  This is also why the RIAA and MPAA will never win the war on people sharing.  If people want to share, they will share, regardless of the laws and fines around copyright infringement.  If people want to sell drugs and take drugs, they will, regardless of the rules and jail time around it. 

Friday night and I need a fight
My motorcycle and a switchblade knife
Handful of grease in my hair feels right
But what I need to make me tight are

Girls, Girls, Girls
Long legs and burgundy lips
Girls, Girls, Girls
Dancin’ down on Sunset Strip
Girls, Girls, Girls
Red lips, fingertips

Only the Crue could release a song like this.  Again their lifestyles determined their musical styles.  They talk about LA and the Sunset Strip.  It made you want to go there.  Just to see those girls with the long legs and burgundy lips. 

When I get high
I get high on speed
Top fuel funny car’s
A drug for me
My heart, my heart
Kickstart my heart
Always got the cops
Coming after me
Custom built bike doing 103
My heart, my heart
Kickstart my heart

This is the song where Vince sings the words When I, speed and me from the first four lines.  That’s it, that is all he sang.  I couldn’t stop laughing.  Kickstart My Heart = taking things we do in life and doing then to the extreme.  A lot of people link this song to Nikki Sixx’s overdose and resurrection and the title does make you believe that is so.  However the only reference to that part of his life is the lyric Adrenalin running through my veins.  To me this how we should live our lives.  If we are not doing things out of our comfort zone and pushing ourselves we could end up like the billions around the world, toeing the same line of live, work and die.  

Crue set is over, my two boys are like WOW.  And that in itself is worth the $800 i paid for 4 tickets.  This is my third time seeing the Crue.  This show for me was all about experiencing them with my kids.  Hopefully when they come around again a few years time my one year old will be old enough to come.

Next up KISS.

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