Concluding an in-depth review of the Bon Jovi New Jersey Super Deluxe edition. Previous reading:
BON JOVI – New Jersey (2014 Universal Super Deluxe edition, part 2)
Of all the Bon Jovi albums, New Jersey certainly deserved the Super Deluxe treatment. New Jersey‘s promotional cycle included two VHS releases, both present on this DVD: The old Wayne Isham tour documentary Access All Area, and New Jersey: The Videos. Isham was responsible for virtually every cool larger-than-life video Bon Jovi made. In 1988, trendy grainy black and white footage was all the rage, and so Access All Areas, where we will begin, has an over-abundance of it.
In a piece of incidental pre-show rehearsal footage, Richie Sambora sings “Purple Rain”, proving who the talent in the band always was. It is nice though to see everybody in the band hanging out, having a good time, and seeming like genuine friends. As for the audience, it’s amusing to see the giant hair from the perspective of today.
The sound of “Bang” by Russian metal band Gorky Park indicates we’re off to the Soviet Union. Bon Jovi were pioneering in being one of the only hard rock bands to play behind the Iron Curtain (they were officially sanctioned by the government), and this part of the show is certainly the most interesting. Bon Jovi even have a ten-man blues jam with the Russian band, building bridges at the end of the Cold War. The blues is universal. This visit leads to the massive Moscow Music Peace Festival, which I had on tape from MTV, and wore completely out. (Not shown: the backstage moment when Tommy Lee rips the shirt off Bon Jovi manager Doc McGhee’s back, for allegedly upstaging Motley Crue by using fireworks in Bon Jovi’s show, against prior agreement. It’s a long he-said she-said story involving McGhee who was managing both Motley and Bon Jovi at the time. Motley felt McGhee had prioritized Bon Jovi, and fired him immediately after.)
The boys have a blast in the warmth of Rio de Janeiro, quite a contrast with snowy Moscow. In Tokyo they are chased by a swarm of screaming girls. Through it all, even though they’ve been on the road forever and can’t wait to get home, they maintain themselves with a lot of joking around. Fortunately Isham captured this endearing footage. The live rehearsal stuff is also excellent, up close and in the faces of the band.
In a very cool moment backstage at Wembley, Bon Jovi, Cinderella and the Scorpions work on covers together for a big jam. “Travelling Band”…holy shit, is that Elton John on piano? Sure looks like it. Rick Allen, Brian May, Lita Ford! “I am the happiest kid on Earth!” shouts an excited David Bryan. Another gig features Bon Jovi with the late comedian Sam Kinison on “Wild Thing”. At Tower Records, they are threatened with arrest by the riot squad if they perform, so naturally Jon and Richie break out the acoustics and do “Ride Cowboy Ride”. In swoop the fuzz, who had nothing to worry about. Alec John Such’s birthday is celebrated in West Berlin, where they visit the wall. (In a shivery moment, Jon is eyeballed by an East German soldier on the other side.) Their cover of “The Boys Are Back in Town” is performed, and Jon takes a chip out of the wall.
Jimmy Page is present at a three hour charity gig at Hammersmith, and they jam on “Train Kept a Rolling”. (Best moment: when Jon sings a Steven Tyler “wha-ga-ga-ga” in it near the end, just like Tyler did in Aerosmith’s version.) It’s clear that even then Jon was the boss — he alone makes the setlist, and says if something goes wrong he’ll call the shots. He comments he has “never been so nervous.” Bad Company’s “Shooting Star” is a duet with Richie Sambora, who had been playing it long before Bon Jovi formed. It’s a stunning version and it’s hard to imagine Bon Jovi ever doing anything this big again, both in terms of success and quality.
Australia! “Bon Jovi: We go everywhere, but we live nowhere!” says Sambora. “Love For Sale” is played at HMV for swarms of long-hairs both male and female (but mostly female). Sam Cooke’s “Having a Party” is another incredible cover selection, and you have to give Jon credit for that. The final show is a big multi-gig stand in Guadalajara, Mexico that almost never happened due to “politics” (money) and a riot! The first gig is postponed to the next day forcing Bon Jovi to play a double-header starting at 11 am! “We should go on stage in riot gear,” jokes (?) Jon. (They don’t.)
Access All Areas was a good rock doc for the time. It feels whitewashed and scrubbed clean of blemishes, but that was music in general in the late 80’s. The real pleasure is getting to see the other band members hanging out. Alec John Such seems a funny, talented guy with a great voice. David Bryan is clearly a lot more gifted than he gets to show off in the band.
The music videos (only mixed in stereo, unfortunately) are all you remember them to be: more mixtures of black & white, and colour footage, golly! Both versions of “Bad Medicine” are included. (More Sam Kinison!) There are funny interludes with the band in between the songs, joking around back stage. (Special guest:
Skip Rope Skid Row’s Dave “Snake” Sabo.) “Me, if I wasn’t a musician, I’d be a drummer!” says Jon. Of the music videos, “I’ll Be There For You” and “Lay Your Hands On Me” are the coolest, just no-nonsense stage performance clips. “Blood on Blood”, which I’d never seen before, is a live version.
The DVD portion of this box set is a nice supplement, but you won’t be in a hurry to sit down and watch again. The black & white/colour back and forth is very tiring. Fortunately Bon Jovi seem(ed) like a nice bunch of guys from the neighborhood that have loads of talent, and fun to watch in any setting.
DVD: 3/5 stars
Bonus tracks: 4.5/5 stars
Album: 4.5/5 stars
Overall rating: 4/5 stars
Thanks for joining us for this massive review! Back to something else tomorrow.