TERRY GROSS, host:
This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. My guest is Jon Bon Jovi, the lead singer and songwriter of the band Bon Jovi. Although the band is most associated with their hits from the '80s like "Livin' on a Prayer," "You Give Love A Bad Name," "Wanted Dead or Alive," "Runaway" and "I'll Be There for You," their new CD debuted at number one. Last year, they were the number one selling tour. The new Bon Jovi CD is called "The Circle," and it comes with a companion DVD documentary about the band. There's also a new book of band member interviews and photographs called "When We Were Beautiful."
Let's start with a hit single from the new album. This is "We Weren't Born to Follow." Bon Jovi performed the song last November at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate as part of the 20th-anniversary celebration of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
(Soundbite of song, "We Weren't Born to Follow"")
Mr. JON BON JOVI (Musician): (Singing) This one goes out to man who mines for miracles. This one goes out to the ones in need. This one goes out to the sinner and the cynical. This ain't about no apology.
This road was paved by the hopeless and the hungry. This road was paved by the winds of change. Walking beside the guilty and the innocent. How will you raise your hand when they call your name?
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
We weren't born to follow. Come on and get up off your knees. When life is a bitter pill to swallow, you gotta hold on to what you believe. Believe that the sun will shine tomorrow and that your saints and sinners bleed. We weren't born to follow. You gotta stand up for what you believe. Let me here you say yeah, yeah, yeah, oh, yeah.
This is one goes out to anyone...
GROSS: That's Bon Jovi from their new CD, "The Circle." Jon Bon Jovi, welcome to FRESH AIR. It's a pleasure to have you here.
Mr. BON JOVI: Thank you. It's nice to be here.
GROSS: I think of this as kind of like your hard times album, like kind of songs for hard times.
Mr. BON JOVI: Well, it's a social commentary. And if we are, in fact, as a nation going through hard times, then I think you've hit it on the bulls-eye. But it was an opportune time when you just look out the window, read the newspaper or watched the news, every day was another opportunity to write a song about what people are going through today.
GROSS: You've done a lot of stadium concerts over the years, and I think you have a lot of them ahead of you. Are there times that you have to convince yourself before going out on stage that you have the energy that day and the - just the kind of energy and belief to go on stage in front of 70,000 people?
Mr. BON JOVI: You know, I think that there's a little misconception there for those who aren't behind the microphone to understand, and that's simply that whenever I perform, be it for 50 or 50,000, you want to be the very best that you can be. And sure, there are going to be those days that you're a little more physically tired, and that could just be jet lag or monotony.
You know, you have to condition yourself mentally, physically. The preparedness is half the battle, and leaving home for a year or so at a time, every time for a quarter-century now, you have to get yourself ready for it. And I'm the guy that has his fingernails embedded in the driveway as they're dragging me up it to leave.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. BON JOVI: But On that very first night, when I get to the hotel room for that first time, and, you know, you close the door with that suitcase, you go oh, right. This is what I do for a living. And then it all just comes right back, and it's riding a bicycle again.
GROSS: How do you prevent your voice from having been shredded after so many years of concerts? Particularly the stadium concerts, where I imagine it's very tempting to over-sing, because even though you know you're amplified, the room is so big.
Mr. BON JOVI: Yeah, it's true. It's like anything else. You know how to work the muscles properly. And like I said, there's a great physical commitment, and there are sacrifices that are made. And the cute, soundbite version is that no matter what the adage is, the last sentence of it is: And then the singer went home.
So everyone else can go out and do what it is that they want to do. They can always just stand there and beat on the drums and beat on the guitars, and it's a lot more physically demanding when your vocal chords are the size of a thumbnail, and that's what supports 150 crewmembers, as well as the band and, of course, the two-or-so million people every year that want to come out and see it. So you have to make sure that that instrument is well-tuned at all times.
GROSS: You know, in the interviews for the book and the DVD, you talk about how you travel with steroids for your throat, and then you always convince yourself not to use them.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. BON JOVI: Mm-hmm. It's like that glass case. You know, it says break here in case of emergency.
GROSS: Exactly, right.
Mr. BON JOVI: Yeah. There was a time when that was like M&Ms. You know, you were just chewing on them to get through the night. And when I look back at the "Slippery When Wet" era, which is the point you bring up in the book, I wasn't ready for it. You know, physically the demands were high, and there were a lot of folks around you who are really just trying to do their job. So another show, another television program, another airplane to go somewhere.
But they didn't realize how physically demanding it is on the individual. And so you would just do what you had to do to get through. But with time and experience, I've really learned how to pace it.
GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is Jon Bon Jovi, and Bon Jovi has a new CD called "The Circle," which comes with a companion DVD called "When We Were Beautiful." And there's also a new Bon Jovi book of photographs and interviews called "When We Were Beautiful."
I'd like to play another track from the new CD. And this is "Work for the Working Man," and it gets back to what we were talking about before, about this being a very kind of timely, topical set of songs for hard times.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. BON JOVI: Mm-hmm.
GROSS: Would you talk about this song, and also about your songwriting process?
Mr. BON JOVI: Sure. Well, this song in particular, I was watching a news report on "60 Minutes" on Wilmington, Ohio and the DHL airfreight company who was pulling out of Ohio. And if not for the workers directly affected, the interdependency of the businesses around and surrounding that airport and that business devastated this city.
And so now there's an over 15 percent unemployment rate, and the story focused on the one lady whose job it was to walk her fellow workers to the gate and take their ID badge. Their pensions were lost. Their badge of honor, which were these ID badges, the way they identified themselves in and around the community proudly was that they worked for the company.
I was floored by this set of circumstances, and I thought who's going to work for the working man? Who's going to be the one to say, you know, I'm here for you. What can I do to lend that hand?
I couldn't have written those lyrics, I lost my pension, they took my ID, from the first person because I've never worked in those situations. Like I said before, I was a very young man when I got a record deal. And now as the narrator in this story, the one who was able to tell it for them and for those who care to listen, I wanted to make sure that I told it from a true and honest standpoint.
GROSS: Yeah, that prevents the song from being disingenuous. Like, oh, yeah, he's not a working man.
Mr. BON JOVI: Well, I certainly am, and I come from that.
GROSS: I mean, not that you don't work, but I mean a working-class man now. Yeah.
Mr. BON JOVI: Well, the pay scale has changed, that's for sure, but I come from, as do my band mates, a very blue-collar background. And, you know, where I - in and when I grew up in the city I grew up in, there was really two choices. You joined the service, or you went to work in the factories. I didn't know anybody who even went to college. You went right out from high school and went to work.
Fortunately for me, I was a dreamer and chose a different path that worked out, but we were surrounded by that. Our parents were that. Our neighbors were that. Our friends back home are still that. And so it comes from a very genuine place, though it is once-removed. We understand that plight.
GROSS: OK, so here it is, "Work for the Working Man" from the new Bon Jovi CD, which is called "The Circle."
(Soundbite of song, "Work for the Working Man")
Mr. BON JOVI: (Singing) I'm here trying to make a living. I ain't living just to die. Never getting back what I'm giving. Won't someone help me, someone justify why these strong hands are on the unemployment line? And there's nothing left, what's on my mind.
Who's gonna work for the working man, work for the working man? Get the hands in the dirt. Who's gonna work of the curse? Brother, I'll be damned if I don't raise a hand. Who's gonna work, work, work for the working man? Working man.
Empty pockets full of worries...
GROSS: That's "Work for the Working Man" from the new Bon Jovi CD "The Circle." My guest is Jon Bon Jovi. And in addition to the new CD, there's a new book, which is called "When We Were Beautiful," which is a collection of photographs and interviews with members of the band.
Tell us a little bit about the neighborhood in New Jersey that you grew up in.
Mr. BON JOVI: It was a wonderful place. It was very working class, but middle class. These were families where typically both parents went to work. They were able to provide their kids all with shoes on their feet and food on the table, but they knew what it was like to go out and work.
They were typically one generation removed from the immigrants who came over, and a lot of them were just now second-generation Americans, and we were born into that, then subsequently third. But there wasn't a lot of turmoil in the latter '70s and the early '80s in suburban New Jersey.
GROSS: Now correct me if I'm wrong about this. Your mother was a Playboy bunny?
Mr. BON JOVI: Correct.
GROSS: For how long?
Mr. BON JOVI: Yeah, amongst other things.
GROSS: Like, when you were growing up, or before you were born?
Mr. BON JOVI: No, I was born - yeah, I was born. I was a baby. I was probably one or so. But my folks met in the Marine Corps. My mother and father were both in the service, and they met in the Marines, and my dad brought my mom back to New Jersey. She was from northwestern Pennsylvania, Eerie, Pennsylvania - again, from a very blue-collar, working-class background, and amongst other things, buying into that whole Kennedy Camelot kind of New York and America, and, you know, you can go and do things. My mom was a waitress at the original Playboy nightclub on 5th Avenue and I guess it's about, what, 60th Street when it was there.
So there are old pictures and stories of, you know, my folks hanging around the hipsters, but that's where it ended. She was just a waitress there.
GROSS: And your father, after leaving the Marines, became a hairdresser.
Mr. BON JOVI: That's correct. His father before him was a plumber, and he intended to follow in his father's footsteps. And like I said before, you know, during Camelot, my folks came home and said, you know, I'm seeing this thing going on with hairdressing and hip and New York and things like, you know, Playboy. Why don't you try this? And my dad, you know, with all of his thumbs, learned how to become a hairdresser, and my memories of...
GROSS: For men, or for women?
Mr. BON JOVI: Primarily women. And then in the - what was it? Let's see, sometime in the '70s, when they became more unisex hair salons, and movies like "Shampoo" came out, those are my memories of my dad, with the leather jacket and the goatee and driving in a, you know, in a cool car going to his beauty parlor.
GROSS: Not seducing all of his, all of his clientele like Warren Beatty did.
Mr. BON JOVI: Well, one never know, but, you know, you'll have to ask him. That would be another interview.
GROSS: So, of course, everybody's going to be wondering now, is there a connection between your father being a hairdresser and your hair in the early Bon Jovi days?
Mr. BON JOVI: Well, I guess the connection would be that he's either to credit or to blame for the '80s, you know, because he certainly cut my hair. And it's funny because when I grew up, see, the way you got punished after - you know, you can get the belt, you can get a backhand here and there, but the worst punishment in my house, the worst, was you're getting a haircut.
And it was, you know, when you wanted to be in a rock-'n'-roll band and you're emulating all those guys in the '70s before, you think about, you know, Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith and those bands in the latter '70s, those - whose posters adorned my walls, you know, the idea of getting a crew cut was just, like, the worst, you know. And there were a few of those in my house. But yeah, that, to me, was, you know, that was the worst.
GROSS: So did he ever do your hair when you started performing?
Mr. BON JOVI: He cut it probably until his retiring in '86ish. Yeah, so yeah, some of those hairstyles that you saw at the height of "Slippery When Wet" he would have been responsible for, most definitely.
GROSS: My guest is Jon Bon Jovi. The new Bon Jovi CD is called "The Circle," and there's a new book of interviews and photos called "Bon Jovi: When We Were Beautiful." We'll talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
GROSS: My guest is Jon Bon Jovi, leader of the band Bon Jovi. Their new CD is called "The Circle," and there's a new book of photos and interviews called "Bon Jovi: When We Were Beautiful."
So what was the first record that you bought?
Mr. BON JOVI: The first record that I bought, I don't know. Some of the early records that I remember having an impact on me were rather diverse. They could be everything from those K-Tel compilations, if you remember those...
GROSS: Uh-huh. Yeah, I sure do.
Mr. BON JOVI: ...when, you know, they would put together basically a cover band to cover what was very successful on AM radio at the time. Or some of the bigger brothers of the guys that I was hanging out with introduced us to everything from punk to Bob Dylan.
So it was very diverse, and then you couldn't help but gravitate towards what was popular, hard-rock stuff in the latter '70s, if it was Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith and that kind of stuff, because it was the most popular. And then I was drawn to what was happening in Asbury Park, just moments away from where I was born and raised with guys like South Side Johnny and the Asbury Jukes.
GROSS: How well did you get to know them before you started recording?
Mr. BON JOVI: Oh, South Side recorded maybe my second demo ever, would come back to my parents' house for pasta, you know. So I was played - oh, the first time that Bruce jumped on stage with me, I was probably 17, 16, 17, 18.
GROSS: Wow, really? Wow.
Mr. BON JOVI: I was a kid, yeah. I was a kid, and they used to come and see the kid play because, you know, I had a band with horns, and we were emulating the Jukes even when I was 16, 17, 18 years old, until I realized at a very early age, unless you wrote your own stuff, the future stopped there, and you're always going to be in a cover band.
So Asbury, though, its heyday had passed, and, you know, the stories of the record companies hanging out in the alleyways signing bands. What was real is that there was an original music scene there, and the opportunities were there to perform original music.
GROSS: Now, a few years ago, a CD was released of demos that you'd recorded at a recording studio that was co-owned by your cousin, and before we get to that story, I want to play one of those demos because I think this one is just particularly, like, influenced by the Springsteen kind of sound.
Mr. BON JOVI: Wow.
GROSS: And I don't know if you'll agree, but I'm thinking of "More Than We Bargained For."
Mr. BON JOVI: I vaguely remember that.
GROSS: Only vaguely? You want to hear it?
Mr. BON JOVI: No.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. BON JOVI: No.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. BON JOVI: You know, I remember that bootleg demos that they released from there. Those were demos, yeah. They were pretty darn good demos for a 17, 18-year-old kid. They weren't good enough to get me a record deal, but you couldn't help but be influenced, like I said, from what was around you.
I remember vividly, I was opening for a band who - let's see how I can say this nicely - were really a carbon copy of what had come before them and were much more successful. Is that a nice, political way to put that?
Mr. BON JOVI: And we were sort of like, you know, the Baby Muppets version of South Side Johnny and the Asbury Jukes because, you know, I was 18 years old and wanting to be South Side Johnny. I had a four and five-piece horn section, and we were playing Motown and R&B and juke covers and this and that.
And we're opening for that other band, and that band guy came back, and the singer, he says, you know, you're pretty good, Jon (unintelligible). You know, you should be playing your own stuff. And I thought to myself: If this is the end of the road and I'm a carbon copy of someone else who, you know, who's already doing this and you're a carbon copy of something and it's going nowhere fast, it's time for me to quit my own band.
And I did, and I went and I joined someone else's band just as the guy's singer. And the musical style was much more new wave, if you remember that movement.
GROSS: Of course.
Mr. BON JOVI: You know, Capezios and tight blue jeans and that kind of thing - just the idea that okay, it's time to get out of this quick and start writing and move on because, you know, without it, I'd still be down there playing four sets a night.
GROSS: Well, let's hear that demo that I was referring to.
Mr. BON JOVI: Sure.
GROSS: So this is "More Than We Bargained For," and this is the one I said sounds very Springsteen-influenced. So here it is.
(Soundbite of song, "More Than We Bargained For")
Mr. BON JOVI: (Singing) I've always wanted what I couldn't have. I hope and dream that maybe someday that I'd find out what love was all about. I sure grew up tonight the hard way.
Now the candy store's closed, the movie's sold out, "High Plains Drifter" isn't what it's all about, and now were parting ways. I won't say a word, let our broken hearts cry in their graves where they'll never be heard.
It's more than we bargained for. Our love is the price we've paid, and just like a fading dream, it's slippin' away.
Last night, I saw you out with my best friend...
GROSS: That's an early Jon Bon Jovi demo. He'll be back in the second half of the show. The new Bon Jovi CD is called "The Circle," and there's a new book called "Bon Jovi: When We Were Beautiful." I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross, back with Jon Bon Jovi, leader of the band, Bon Jovi. They're best known for their hits from the ï¿½80s like ï¿½Runaway,ï¿½ ï¿½I'll Be There For You,ï¿½ ï¿½Living on a Prayerï¿½ and ï¿½You Give Love a Bad Name.ï¿½ Their new CD, ï¿½The Circle,ï¿½ debut at number one and there's a new Bon Jovi book featuring interviews with and photographs of the band. When we left off, we heard a demo Jon Bon Jovi recorded when he was still in high school. He made it at the Power Station, a recording studio that was co-owned by his cousin, Tony Bon Jovi.
When you were still in the high school, I believe, or after you left high school, you worked there as a janitor - you correct me whenever I make a mistake here.
(Soundbite of laughter)
GROSS: And also got to record demos in the studio, yes? Is that...
Mr. BON JOVI: Right. I met a man who was my second cousin, I didn't know him before.
Mr. BON JOVI: So, for a short window he was...
GROSS: How did you meet him?
Mr. BON JOVI: My dad, he was his cousin, again, much older than me, so there was no contact there. He came to see my band play. And he said, the band stinks but the kid is pretty good. And he had a recording studio. And he said, you know, if I could ever help you sometime, give me a shout. And I got out of high school and I was playing the bars and I was recording demos and doing what I was doing, you know, out of high school now and doing this full time. And I called him up and I says, you know, can I come and hang out?
And he says, yeah, sure, we'll let you be a gopher and for $50 a week came there and ran errands. And while that still happens in recording studios where guys go there to, you know, fetch coffee and clean up afterwards and run errands, you eventually learn to become an assistant engineer, maybe someday a recording engineer. And recording engineers have to record somebody. So, while that next generation of kid engineer assistants were coming up, the kid went in and recorded some demos in the middle of the night or on weekends or whenever studio time became available. And, you know, everybody learned how to do what they did.
GROSS: Now, what do you do with the demos?
Mr. BON JOVI: Shopped them. You know, it was very hard to keep an original band together in the early ï¿½80s because cover bands in New Jersey and New York and Long Island were making money. But playing your own stuff you'd be lucky if you could split $100 if you were really lucky. And the idea of keeping a band together wasn't very easy. So, you'd record these demos and either ship them off to guys who were willing to play original music or sometimes you'd send them to college radio stations.
And - with the hope that if you got it on the radio, even on a local level, perhaps it would lead to a frat party or a dance or something like that. And then ultimately the goal was to get it to a record company with the hope that you could get yourself a record deal. And so I shipped a bunch of those around to a bunch of labels and did like a million other guys before me, just waited for some kind of response.
GROSS: And what happened was that a small local station played your demo of ï¿½Runaway,ï¿½ and that caught on?
Mr. BON JOVI: Yeah, actually, there was a brand new station just outside of Manhattan called WAPP and they were a Double Day station. They were actually quite a big station, they were competing in the marketplace with the number one AOR station in New York, which was called WNEW at the time. And they were so new and I was such a forward thinker that I thought, I'm having no luck getting responses from record companies, who is the man who loves music the most and probably the loneliest man in the music business, and that is the deejay.
And at the time deejays could be rather influential, if you remember, as well. So, a deejay had some pull. He could go on the radio and talk up a song. I went to this station and fortunately for me they were so new that they didn't have a receptionist.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. BON JOVI: This is probably one of the keys to my luck and my success is that they were so new that I was able to not only walk in to the station but knock on the deejay's booth. And it's like a scene...
Mr. BON JOVI: ...out of a movie.
GROSS: That's amazing, I can't believe that.
Mr. BON JOVI: He looked over his shoulder and he saw a kid holding a cassette tape. And on a break he came out and he said, you know, who are you, what do you want? And I told him who I was and what I had. And he said, well, stick around. When I get off the air, we'll yap. And I did and I played him the stuff and he says, boy, that sounds like a hit song to me. Would you consider being on a homegrown record that we're going to put together to try to create some kind of buzz for our little radio station here? And I thought, well, that sounds nice but it's not really my goal. My goal is to make my own records.
But subsequently I did it. And not only me but a couple of other acts that he picked for that record went on to get national recording contracts. But in the case of ï¿½Runaway,ï¿½ it was that one in a million and it started to break nationally without a record deal, without a band, without a manager, without anything. And subsequently I put together a - the band, which really became this band for what was I thought to be, I don't know, three-four-week period of getting the name out there, trying to build upon the success of the one track and maybe I'd get to play a couple more clubs as an original act. And 27 years later I can't get rid of those guys.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. BON JOVI: They're still following me around.
GROSS: So, is the deejay famous, would we recognize his name?
Mr. BON JOVI: His name is Chip Hobart. I don't think he's broadcasting anymore. I stay in touch with him, you know, whenever we're in and around the Midwest. He lives out there and he'll come with his family now and he's still a proud part of what's happened to us because he was, you know, the one that heard that first song that first time. And all those A and R guys went, you know, looking around their desk for that same cassette that had been sitting there for the better part of a year and the rest was history.
GROSS: My guest is Jon Bon Jovi. The new Bon Jovi CD is called ï¿½The Circleï¿½ and there is a new book of interviews with and photos of the band called ï¿½Bon Jovi: When We Were Beautiful.ï¿½ We'll talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is Jon Bon Jovi and there's a new Bon Jovi book of photographs of the band and interviews with the band members and it's called ï¿½When We Were Beautiful.ï¿½ There's also a new Bon Jovi CD, which debuted at number one, it's called ï¿½The Circleï¿½ and it comes with a companion DVD also called ï¿½When We Were Beautiful.ï¿½
Now, you say in the interviews for the DVD and the book, you say - you were talking about opening for other bands like for KISS and Judas Priest and you say, you didn't want me opening for you because I'd do anything to upstage you - anything. I'd come flying off the ceilings. What would you do to upstage bands you were opening for?
Mr. BON JOVI: Oh, it's a term that some - Southside told me once it's called head hunting. And John used to tell me stories of he and the Jukes doing the same kinds of things. The truth was is you had very limited time, space, sound, lights, and, you know, in that 30 minutes you had to make yourself and your presence known.
Notoriously, I could make a lot out of 30 minutes. When you're playing your own stuff in a bar for 50 people or 500 people and they want to hear something that's on the jukebox because they've been out at work or at school all week, and they come to that nightclub and they want to dance or they want to meet girls and boys and they want to, you know, have a drink. The last thing they want to do is pay attention to what you're doing. So, you got to find way to get them to pay attention.
GROSS: Can you give me an example of what you did?
Mr. BON JOVI: I'll give you an example that happened a few years into our success. We were in what was then the Soviet Union, in Moscow, at Lenin Stadium. We were quite successful at this time. This was during the album called ï¿½New Jersey.ï¿½ And so it was even after ï¿½Slippery When Wet.ï¿½ But we were on this bill with a band called The Scorpions, out of Germany, and a band called Motley Crue out of Los Angeles, and Skid Row and Cinderella and Ozzy Osbourne and all these bands.
And every band had been reduced to basically becoming a bar band again simply because in the Soviet Union, none of our records had ever been officially released. And so the idea of going out there and resting on hit songs or whatever banter you had with an English-speaking audience was now out the window. And we played the first night and I had been relying on, hey, here's a song called ï¿½Living on a Prayer.ï¿½ I think this will work.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. BON JOVI: Here's a song called, you know, ï¿½Wanted Dead of Alive.ï¿½ I think that's going to work. Well, guess what, it didn't work. So, we got our booties kicked the first night because I had learned to rely on these hit songs. And so, I said, okay, guys, I got a great idea. We got our butts kicked by the German band, The Scorpions, and I give them credit for this 20 years later. But the second night, I said, here's what we're going to do. I said, you guys are going to start this song. Don't worry about when I get to the stage, I'll get there. And I went to the back of the stadium and I suggested to a Russian soldier that for a pair of Levi's and couple of T-shirts, he give me his uniform.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. BON JOVI: And I wore it from top to bottom: hat, coat, gloves, pants, the whole ten yards. And I walked down the center aisle of the stadium with a microphone in my pocket. And I took it out and I more or less did a striptease the whole way to the stage. One glove, one hat, one coat, one shirt. And then I had a T-shirt and jeans on underneath it. By the time I hopped on that stage, the entire stadium was going absolutely nuts. And accidentally - I should lie and say, somebody had a pyrotechnics button on the downbeat of the song.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. BON JOVI: And boom, the pyro went off. They weren't meant to go off. And a guy in another big band turned around to the promoter of the show and punched him right in the nose. And he says, you planned this. And he says, I didn't know a darn thing about it. And I just looked at my band mates and, you know, we won the night, we won the headlines, we won the whole deal. And it was, you know, the story was told.
GROSS: Let's hear another song and we'll hear one of those hits that didn't go over...
(Soundbite of laughter)
GROSS: ...initially in the Soviet Union.
(Soundbite of laughter)
GROSS: This is ï¿½You Give Love a Bad Name,ï¿½ which is so catchy. This was your first number one single.
Mr. BON JOVI: It is.
GROSS: I don't know if it was a big surprise to you to be number one?
Mr. BON JOVI: Oh sure, I mean - look, being a kid getting a record deal was as big as you ever dreamt. You know, like I said, I always reference John and the Jukes. Playing regionally at that time when that was about as big as you imagined ever being, being at a tour bus was as big as you ever imagined being, you didn't think about number one records and flying in jet airplanes and seeing the world the way, you know, we ultimately did. So, the idea of number one records, forget about it, you know. The idea that I could talk to you now about the hundred-plus million albums, I've never in my wildest dreams. So, this was the first of many pleasant surprises.
GROSS: Okay, this is Bon Jovi, ï¿½You Give Love a Bad Name.ï¿½
(Soundbite of song, ï¿½You Give Love a Bad Nameï¿½)
BON JOVI (Group): (Singing) Shot through the heart and you're to blame. Darling, you give love a bad name. An angel's smile is what you sell. You promise me heaven then put me through hell. Chains of love got a hold on me. When passion's a prison you can't break free. Oh, you're a loaded gun, yeah. Oh, there's nowhere to run. No one can save me. The damage is done. Shot through the heart and you're to blame. You give love a bad name, bad name. I play my part and you play your game. You give love a bad name, bad name. Yeah, you give love a bad name.
GROSS: Bon Jovi's first number one hit and my guest is Jon Bon Jovi. And there's a new CD, a new Bon Jovi CD called ï¿½The Circle,ï¿½ which comes with a companion DVD and there's also a new Bon Jovi book called, ï¿½When We Were Beautiful.ï¿½
It's amazing, you know, when you first went on tour, you were still living with your parents, as were a couple of the other guys in Bon Jovi. Bon Jovi - was it odd being a kind of like rock rebel on stage and going home to the room you grew up in afterwards?
Mr. BON JOVI: No, you know, the truth of the matter is, is like I said before, the dream of ever getting a record deal to begin with is an incredible feat, but then the idea of ever making a dollar doing it...
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. BON JOVI: That was even fewer and far between. So, there's a lot more people than you'd ever believe that made records that never made enough money to move out. And we were the norm, you know. The first two albums I lived at home and it wasn't until the success of the third one that I was able to even afford an apartment, let alone buy a house.
GROSS: Were you getting along with your parents then or were they trying to like...
Mr. BON JOVI: That wasn't too hard to have, you know, your kid coming home and, you know, he makes records and, you know. So, by that time it was pretty easy, you know, and it came and went. Yeah, I really - I was fortunate enough in my house that, though they didn't come from a musical background, the great blessing I had was that if - at least if I was going to be in a bar until three in the morning, they used to say, at least they knew where I was. And so, they supported everything that I wanted to do with this. And so, it wasn't too hard. No, it was okay.
GROSS: Now, Bon Jovi hit it big during the video era - the rock video era when videos on MTV were really selling records. And you did your share of big videos. Did you enjoy doing those? I mean, having that kind of - I mean, it's clear like, from what you're saying, that you had already known how to upstage the headliner and - but videos are different. Did you appreciate the opportunity to make those little films or did you see them as an inconvenience that had to be tolerated?
Mr. BON JOVI: I hated them with a passion, still do. I have to do in this week and it's just the worst - worst portion of what it is that I have to do. You know, when you write a song and you have a mind's eye view of what it is about, i.e., "Runaway," it was - if you think about it, it really was, you know, a pop song but it had a social consciousness. When I was taking the bus or the train into Manhattan, working in the recording studio, I was following a dream but I had a place to go at night and go back to sleep in New Jersey.
A lot of kids, you know, got off that bus at that bus station - the Greyhound bus station at the mouth of the Lincoln Tunnel - and didn't have a another place to go. And they came here looking for a dream, too. I don't think they, you know, dreamt of - to be sleeping outside the Greyhound station working the streets. But that's what I looked at out that bus window and thought of the song. So, now when you have your first video on your first album and some guy just saw a film called, ï¿½Firestarterï¿½ and says I got a great idea.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. BON JOVI: Like I was going to shoot flame that of their eyes and their ears and their nose and you go, okay, you know, and you're going to wear this silly clothes, okay. You don't know any better, suddenly, you know, you're thrust into something you know nothing about. And it was - we were embarrassed, to say the least. It's a shame that the pressures put upon you, as a young kid, to satisfy the machine, if you will; or at least, believe that those who are guiding you are doing it well. You know, sometimes you fall short.
GROSS: My guest in Jon Bon Jovi. The new Bon Jovi CD is called, ï¿½The Circle,ï¿½ and there is a new book of interviews and photos called, ï¿½Bon Jovi: When We Were Beautiful.ï¿½ We will talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of song, "Runaway")
GROSS: My guest is Jon Bon Jovi, leader of the band Bon Jovi. Their new CD is called, ï¿½The Circle,ï¿½ and there's a new book of photos and interviews called, called ï¿½Bon Jovi: When We Were Beautiful.ï¿½ Let's get in another song. And this is another one your early hits, ï¿½Living On A Prayer.ï¿½ Can you say something about writing this one?
Mr. BON JOVI: Yeah, I wanted to introduce story telling. That was, I think, an important part of the growth was to start to tell stories about people and specific people. And because the song is a collaboration, it wasn't my story or Richie's story, it became our story. And so, the names were changed to protect the innocent, as we say.
But I was looking to tell stories of people that I knew growing up who were doing certain things and making certain sacrifices. And you could tell it from your point of view or Richie could tell us from his point of view - and what happened was this that it becomes a collaboration and it becomes our point of view. And in turn, that's sort of, part of the magic potion in why the songs have remained timeless and have crossed generations, is that it's not just specific to one day and date, but our story becomes other peoples stories.
GROSS: Okay, so, this is Bon Jovi, ï¿½Living on a Prayer.ï¿½
(Soundbite of song, ï¿½Living on a Prayerï¿½)
Mr. BON JOVI: (Singing) 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.
She says, we've got to hold on to what we've got, cause it doesn't make a difference If we make it or not. We've got each other and that's a lot - for love.
We'll give it a shot. Oh, oh, half way there, oh, oh, living on a prayer. Take my hand and we'll make it I swear. Oh, oh, living on a prayer.
Tommy got his six string in hockï¿½
GROSS: That's one of Bon Jovi's early hits, ï¿½Living On a Prayer.ï¿½ There's a new Bon Jovi CD called ï¿½The Circle.ï¿½ There's also a Bon Jovi book called, ï¿½When We Were Beautiful,ï¿½ and my guess is Jon Bon Jovi. There was a period when it was a kind of rocky time for the band. The band split off for a while. And somewheres, I think in that period, you basically asked a psychologist to intervene, and what helped the band to talk to each other. Is that...?
Mr. BON JOVI: Well, let me, let meï¿½
GROSS: Correct me. Go ahead.
Mr. BON JOVI: Just correct you, slightly. The band never broke up, nor had it ever threatened to really break up. But after our first four albums, which were really back-to-back-to-back-to-back, and subsequent tours - goodness gracious, in excess of 200 plus shows a tour, we're physically and mentally exhausted. And each of us said we have to go and find something else in our lives, because this has been great, but if this is all it is, I don't think I can keep this pace anymore. I needed a break, as did the guys, because we had nothing left to talk about.
We had spent from 1983 to 1990 in each others faces. I mean, on stage-off stage, on tour-off tour. There was nothing left to say or do. So, we needed to find ourselves individually. I went off and did the "Young Guns" soundtrack, Ritchie did a solo record, Dave started dabbling in soundtracks, which now led to his writing scores for Broadway. Everybody had to go and do things. And one of the things that I did when I came out of the fog was started talking to some of my peers and their support systems.
And Tim Collins,, who was at that time, the manager of Aerosmith, told me that what he did with Aerosmith - but they were doing more with the addiction problems - was he brought this friend of his in, who was a - I don't want to call him a shrink, because that's really not the right word. He is not a psychiatrist, but he's more of a mediator. And when you had somebody in the room who you could fully trust, who wasn't being paid to be there, you know, i.e. a commission or, you know, he didn't work for the record company or he wasn't a manager or anything else -you found that, you know, he was the voice of reason. That was a saving grace for the band because we finally had a place where we could be honest and talk to each other about what was good, what was bad, and what was indifferent. And when you cleared the air and you realized wow, that was nothing, let's just go and make the next record - everybody came back with a clear head and we went in two years later and made ï¿½Keep The Faith.ï¿½
The genre of music that we were a part of was now going away and, you know, here was this sign of faith, which is all we really had to go forward with. So, we wrote that and there was a big hit on that record called ï¿½Bed Of Roses,ï¿½ and that was a big hit song. But we went into the 90's with a clear objective, and that was to believe in each other and have in what it was that we were all about.
GROSS: It sounds like that was a frightening moment and, by the way you said that our kind of music was going away.
Mr. BON JOVI: It wasn't actually. I found it reassuring and that as - I don't know, as an artist it's been around as long as I have and has been that successful for as long as we've been, genres of music come and go. I've seen two groups of the boy bands come and go. Two of the young girls groups come and go. I've seen, you know, when it was Debbie Gibson and then it was Britney Spears. You saw Boyz II Men and New Kids on the Block and then you saw Backstreet Boys and 'N Sync, you know, these things are cyclical, they come in, and they go.
And what happens is, record companies, they find one that's incredibly successful, and then they all scurry around their desks looking for tapes of ten others to capitalize on the success of that one. And then they all sign carbon copies of them until the real ones stands up and goes on and goes forward and the rest of them fall by the wayside and they can say that they made a record once. I was always confident in who were and what we did that I wasn't worried about that. We were just changing with our growing up.
I didn't jump on the fads and the fashions, both in the boy band crazes or the grunge faze or the rap faze - we just stayed true to who we were. And like I said, growing up, you change the parameters of the song writing, but it doesn't mean that it's any less true.
GROSS: Well, Jon Bon Jovi thank you so much for talking with us. It's been great to talk with you.
Mr. BON JOVI: Thank you, appreciated.
GROSS: The new Bon Jovi CD is called the ï¿½Circle,ï¿½ and the new book is called the ï¿½Bon Jovi When We Were Beautiful.ï¿½ I'm Terry Gross. And here's another track from the ï¿½Circle.ï¿½
(Soundbite of song, ï¿½Bulletï¿½)
Mr. JOVI (Singer): (Singing) Dateline, early Sunday morning. Shots ring out without a warning. No one seems to even blink in this town. Two dead and a baby missing. Sirens screaming in the distance. A mother pleading bring my baby home now. For the pink slip of an SUV. A night cut down with tragedy. His defense another generation breakdown.
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