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Bon Jovi

album band recorded single

Bon Jovi, the band that defined mid-1980s pop-metal. MEMBERSHIP: Jon Bon Jovi (real name, John Francis Bongiovi), gtr., voc. (b. Pert Amboy, N.J., March 2, 1962); Richie Sambora, gtr. (b. Woodbridge, N.J., July 11, 1959); David Bryan, kybd. (b. Feb. 7, 1962); Alec John Such, bs. (b. Yonkers, N.Y., Nov. 14, 1956); Tico Torres (real name, Hector Torres), drm. (b. N.Y.C., Oct. 7, 1953). The son of a hairdresser and former Playboy Bunny-turned-florist, John Bongiovi slept through his SATs, having played a gig the night before. He decided he didn’t need to take the test to become a rock star. In his case, he was right.

Bongiovi started playing the guitar in grade school, but got serious about it early in high school. He had trouble making small talk and used his guitar- playing skills as a means to pick up girls. He started playing in clubs and dances with various bands, several including keyboard player David Bryan Rashbaum. By age 16, he was hanging out with Southside Johnny and jamming with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.

John’s uncle, Tony Bongiovi, owned and operated the Power Station, one of the top studios of the 1970s and 1980s, and hired John to sweep floors in the studio and let him sleep in the top floor apartment. Tony had young John sing a tune on the Star Wars Christmas Album, “Christmas with the Stars” in 1978. During downtime, John recorded demos. One tune, “Runaway” recorded with members of the E Street Band, started getting radio play in the N.Y. area. He was signed to PolyGram worldwide and put together a band of friends from the Jersey shore. These including drummer Tico Torres, bassist Alec John Such, Rashbaum, and guitaist Dave Sabo, who was replaced by Richie Sambora and later joined Skid Row. Rashbaum lost his last name, becoming David Bryan and Bongiovi changed his name to the less ethnic Jon Bon Jovi.

The group recorded their eponymous debut, released in 1984. The first single, a cover of “She Don’t Know Me” recorded at the insistence of the album’s producer, hit #48. The follow-up, “Runaway” actually cracked the Top 40, spending a week at #39. The album sold respectably, hitting #43. The band toured relentlessly behind the album, a habit they maintained through the mid-1990s.

The next album, 1985’s 7800 Fahrenheit, succumbed to the sophomore jinx, peaking at #37 as a result of the band’s constant touring, but producing no chart singles. For their third album, the band took several steps. They brought in professional songwriter Desmond Child to help polish their songs, then tested them for teen audiences, basing what they used on the reaction. They recorded in Vancouver, spending much of their down time in strip clubs. From a shower act at one of these clubs came the title Slippery When Wet . The lead single from the album, “You Give Love a Bad Name” topped the U.S. charts, as did the follow-up, “Livin’ on a Prayer.” “Wanted Dead or Alive” came in at #7. The album topped the charts, sold 11 million copies, and suddenly Bon Jovi was the biggest name in pop music, and pop metal became the sound of young America circa 1986.

The band took to the road for nearly two years. They went into the studio and followed up with the worldwide chart topper N.J. This one sold six million copies on the strength of singles like the #1 hits “I’ll Be There for You” and “Bad Medicine,” the #3 “Born to Be My Baby,” and the Top Ten hits “Lay Your Hands on Me” and “Living in Sin.”

After another grueling world tour, the band announced that they were taking a break. Bon Jovi recorded music for the soundtrack of the movie Young Guns, including the chart topping single “Blaze of Glory,” which became the title track of the album. The album charted at #3, and the follow-up single “Miracle” topped out at #12. He made a cameo appearance in the film, and was so intrigued by acting, he started taking lessons with renowned teacher Harold Guskin.

Sambora also recorded a solo album, the hard rocking Stranger in Town, which charted at #36. Bryan did an album of more textural music during the hiatus, as well. The band also received an MTV Lifetime Achievement Award, an odd thing considering how they usually made very simple performance style clips.

After four years away from each other, they came back together re-energized. Leaning more on the power ballads than the rockers, the single “Keep The Faith” and album of the same name both did better overseas than in the U.S., though the album did sell two million copies and reach #5. “Bed of Roses” hit #10 on the charts and “In These Arms” #27. “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead,” however, barely cracked the Hot 100, and “I Believe” and “Dry County” didn’t.

After another exhausting world tour, the band took another break. During this hiatus, Bon Jovi tested his acting skills in a few independent films, in addition to modeling for Versace.

The #4 single “Always” heralded the greatest hitsplus package Cross Road . The other single “Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night” didn’t chart in the U.S., but went to ten in England. The band’s next album, These Days, had a similar fate. While it clocked in at a respectable #9 in the U.S., it topped the English charts. “This Ain’t a Love Song” hit #14, but the other two singles, which went Top Ten over there didn’t even chart in the U.S.

The band went on two more grueling world tours. In 1984, they played to audiences in 37 countries—45 the next year. Bon Jovi made three more films and then returned to music with Destination Anywhere . Produced by Eurythmie Dave Stewart and Steve Lironi, the album featured hard rock licks and computer loops. Sambora released his Undiscovered Soul a year later. The band expected to regroup for an album due just at the turn of the millenium.

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