REVIEW: Bon Jovi – Livin’ On A Prayer (double 12″ single)

Welcome back to the Week of the Singles 3! Each day this week we’ll be looking at rare singles and EPs.

MONDAY: OZZY OSBOURNE – Ultimate Live Ozzy (1986 CBS picture 12″ record)

BON JOVI – Livin’ On A Prayer (1987 Polygram double 12″ single)

For the second time this week comes a record that I acquired via T-Rev.  This time, some friends of his were selling off some old vinyl, and he knew I’d be interested in this one.  Indeed!  From the juggernaut mid-80’s smash hit Slippery When Wet comes “Livin’ On A Prayer”, possibly the best known Bon Jovi hit.  Previously, I owned this single on cassette, but we all know how permanent the music on a cassette can be.  I was seeking what I call a “hard copy” — something more permanent like vinyl.  T-Rev delivered!

There are six tracks total, with two on the first record.  What a pair!  “Livin’ On A Prayer” is a song I have nothing bad to say about.  It’s hard to talk about a song such as this, which I probably hear daily, via the radio.  Trying to look past the intense familiarity, I hear some great dark keyboards and a still-great talk box guitar part.  It’s a still a great song, achieving musical heights that Bon Jovi would seldom scale.

Even better though is “Borderline”. This song is so hard to find, that I don’t even own it on a CD. It’s not on the (domestic) version of Bon Jovi’s 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can’t Be Wrong box set (though it is on the Japanese). This is an undiscovered Bon Jovi gem, deep into that Slippery sound and keyboard-heavy. It easily could have been on the album; hell it could be a single in its own right. Songs like this are long-time favourites of Bon Jovi fans in the know.

The second record commences with a Bon Jovi semi-hit, “In and Out of Love” from 7800° Fahrenheit.  I used to like this song when I was young.  Even though it’s one of Jon and Richie’s hardest rockers, it doesn’t really appeal to me anymore.  The words are laughably bad:  “You wanted me to meet your what? Your daddy is who?  Hey, just how old are you anyway?  Oh, no…”  Thankfully you can’t keep Sambora down, and Richie nails a cool, memorable guitar solo.

The coup de grâce is the final side, all rare live tracks recorded in Japan on the 7800° tour. These are some of my favourite Bon Jovi live recordings, and once again, I’ve never seen them on any kind of CD. All three tracks are from Bon Jovi’s first album: the single “Runaway”, “Breakout”, and “Shot Through the Heart”.

“Runaway” sounds amazing, and I think this song is underrated. It’s played a bit faster than the album version, and the vocal harmonies of Jon and Richie are young and fresh. “Breakout” is not especially notable, though hearing first-album Bon Jovi played live is a rare treat. Then, a surprise, as the band break into Cher’s “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” as a segue into “Shot Through the Heart”. The “Bang Bang” segment is an absolute treat, once again showing off those young voices, accompanied only by some David Bryan keyboards.  This intro overshadows the song itself, though it is still one of those great Bon Jovi deep cuts.  It’s a dark broken-hearted hard rocker with some smokin’ Sambora axe.

At roughly 32 minutes, I don’t know whether this is a single or an EP.*  All I know is, it’s longer than Diver Down.

5/5 stars.  An absolute must for any Bon Jovi fan with a turntable.

IMG_20140517_062656* It’s an EP, according to the spine, which I only noticed while taking these photos.

 

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26 comments

  1. Livin’ on a Prayer has become a bit of a theme song around the cave-got to be the best thing they did-mixture of trash and poignancy-like a quality meal at a roadside diner.

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  2. So I guess Diver Down is officially a EP eh Mike?
    hahahaha …32 yrs later and I get the truth about Diver Down!
    Good job investigating and great comment about Diver Down as well!
    Never knew this Jovi thingy existed so for that thanks for the read and lesson!
    I have heard the live Japan tracks but never the Borderline track so kinda crazy they kept that one down for so long,who knows maybe it will end up on the Slippery reissue?

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    1. Diver Down review is coming in a couple weeks :) (Definitely the hardest Van Halen review to do.)

      Good call on the Slippery reissue. WHY did they start with New Jersey?

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  3. I really like the look of this one, it’s been on my Discogs wishlist for a wee while now. Now that the New Jersey reissue is due out I’m thinking I might just wait for the inevitable Slippery reissue and hope that these tracks end up on that!

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    1. I can all but guarantee the live tracks won’t be on it. Through my years of collecting, I’ve found that live Bon Jovi tracks tend to get issued once, and then not reissued. But we’ll see.

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      1. To be honest, I think the “Slippery When Wet” and “New Jersey” albums are over-rated. They have better albums / songs.

        Once I heard a country music style parody of “Livin’ On A Prayer” by a band calling themselves “Banjo-vi”….their parody song was titled “Living On A Prairie“.
        ;)

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        1. >That is hilarious! Were they any good?

          As good as you’d expect a comedy group doing a parody to be.
          It was humorous. (I liked it better than the “real” song!)

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  4. What’s great about living on a prayer – my students weren’t even close to being born when it was released and yet it’s still a high-school singalong. Good to see the 5/5 review follow the Monday 0!

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