#658: Wanted Dead or Alive

Happy belated birthday to this single, released March 3 1987!

 

GETTING MORE TALE #658: Wanted Dead or Alive

I didn’t care for Bon Jovi. They seemed like a “girls’ band”. It seemed to be all about the screaming ladies. I did like Europe. “The Final Countdown” was a pretty cool anthemic track, with a sci-fi lyric. The rock press were pitting one band against the other: “Who’s better, Bon Jovi or Europe?” I took Europe every time.

Besides, what the hell was a “Bon Jovi” anyway?*  Bon means “good”.  “Good Jovi to you, sir!”

I continued to ignore Bon Jovi, while receiving Europe’s The Final Countdown as a gift for Easter 1987. The album took a couple listens to get into, but once I did, “Rock the Night”, “Ninja” and especially “Cherokee” blew me away. Europe weren’t a “girls’ band” to me, with songs about Ninjas and Cherokees.

My sister and her friends loved Bon Jovi. One of them had a crush on keyboardist David Bryan. I thought he looked weird, like he had gummy worms in his hair. I remember they were writing “BON JOVI” and “DAVID BRYAN” in the sand at the beach. I erased it and changed it to “BON SCOTT” and “BRIAN JOHNSON”. Take that, eh? No wonder I thought Bon Jovi were a “girl’s band”. Anyone who had a younger sister at the time probably thought so too.

Considering that I own an extensive Bon Jovi collection now (Richie Sambora era only), something must have changed. What was it?

Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora wrote a song together in Richie’s mom’s basement. It was an acoustic song called “Wanted: Dead or Alive”. When I saw the music video in July of 1987, it changed all my impressions.

That 12 string acoustic rang true, on a song that deserves all the awards, video play and accolades. Something about the song was very real. Writing in that New Jersey basement about the road life was about as honest as Bon Jovi get, and you can hear it in the recording. “Wanted: Dead or Alive” turned me around rather quickly. I taped the video, and from there put “Wanted” on a cassette tape. The cassette tape had a lot of new songs from the summer of ’87: Ace Frehley’s “Into the Night”, and Ozzy’s live “Crazy Train” were among those tracks. Eventually I had to get all those albums.

I received the Frehley and the Ozzy for my birthday. I bought Bon Jovi later on in September. By then, I was familiar with all the singles and a track called “Raise Your Hands” from the movie Spaceballs. I just had to digest the album tracks.

Slippery When Wet was…OK, I guess. Not as good as The Final Countdown was.  Not all it was hyped to be, but good enough. “Social Disease” was pretty bad. Slippery struck me as a couple songs short of a great album. Good enough, though, to hang on ‘til the next one.

1988’s New Jersey was the next one. It seems they ditched 80% of the schlock and really tried to get back to their roots. I loved New Jersey and it was my first Bon Jovi CD once I had a player. Whatever authenticity they had on “Wanted: Dead Or Alive” spilled all over New Jersey.

“Wild is the Wind”, “Blood on Blood”, “Ride Cowboy Ride”, “Stick to Your Guns”, and “Homebound Train” had the magic. There is something real and close to perfect about those songs. Bon Jovi put out an album soaked in passion, as opposed to the sterile and clean Slippery When Wet. It didn’t match the 12 million copies sold of Slippery, but New Jersey was so slouch at 7 million.

It’s funny to be using words like “integrity” when speaking of Bon Jovi today. They’ve become an adult contemporary project; no longer a rock band. “Wanted” was their first acoustic hit and it’s often considered one of the landmark ballads of the era. In many respects, the lite-rock Bon Jovi of today was forged by “Wanted”. But that doesn’t tarnish the song itself. “Wanted: Dead or Alive” is still fantastic. Even better is the 1987 acoustic version, only available on cassette single (or Japanese CD single).

You can go ahead and scoff at Bon Jovi, in light of the last 10 or even 20 years. They’re a mere fraction of the group they used to be. Yet “Wanted: Dead or Alive” still stands as a high water mark that any band would be jealous to have.

 

 

*Real name:  Jon Bongiovi

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37 comments

  1. Good on you to stand up for Bon Jovi. I’m a fan. Still waiting on them to deliver a good album. I loved the first, the second was just ok, the third was great and New Jersey used to be my favorite. Keep the faith was interesting and I loved These days. Have a nice day was ok again. Loved, I mean loved Crush. bounce was okey. After that I haven’t really put much effort in listening to new Bon Jovi albums. I usually like the singles but the latest one This house is not for sale I just can’t get into. There’s just something really wrong in that one. What do u think about This house is not for sale?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We have very similar favourites. I loved These Days and I’d argue it’s among their top five easily. I actually like it better than Keep the Faith!

      I didn’t like This House is Not For Sale, but I didn’t buy it and probably didn’t hear the whole album. The last one I truly loved was Bounce and that’s a long time ago now.

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  2. “Wanted Dead or Alive” is a great song, one of my favourite Bon Jovi songs and what you say about “Slippery When Wet” is true too. That album has given me two thoughts about the band over the years. One- Bon Jovi represented everything that was wrong with heavy metal in the 80s, topic for debate. Two- guys like us suffered Bon Jovi because our girlfriends were so into them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey at least I could listen to Bon Jovi with a girlfriend. Couldn’t do that with Priest!

      I don’t think Bon Jovi represented what was wrong, but perhaps they enabled a lot of bands that weren’t as good. With Sambora in the band, Bon Jovi is really above all the wannabe’s. And Tico Torres is no slouch at all.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t know, I dated a lady who was into Priest as was my sister. No, you can’t fault Rick or Tico, they’re great musicians. I put that statement out there because I heard someone say that once and I thought it would be a good topic for debate.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Definitely!

          I watched a recent Bon Jovi live performance of This House is Not For Sale. I felt like the band weren’t a real band, and that Jon’s voice has REALLY gone downhill. No power left at all.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. I actually got into the band starting with Runaway so I beat the rush with the ladies. But I agree on Slippery…some good songs but only an okay album. Wanted Dead or Alive was the best and when they did the acoustic version with Prayer for MTV Video Music Awards, Wow!! They actually went up a notch for me at that point. A really great song.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow you were onto them early! The first Bon Jovi album is incredible.

      Truly a great song. But you know what, to their credit, they have never tried to copy it. Blaze of Glory is a very different kind of song.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Agreed. Back then, even all their ballads were different. Bed of Roses didn’t sound like I’ll Be There For You which didn’t sound like Never Say Goodbye.

          I think they first repeated themselves a little bit with (maybe) This Ain’t a Love Song which I thought was similar to Always. And then for sure with It’s My Life.

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  4. I don’t know enough about their albums to convince me that they’re not the sum of the majority of the singles I’ve heard (decent rock band, but more recently dreadful pop rock act), but there are a handful of tunes I like a lot.

    … and I really like this tune… I would sing along to if it was on during a night out.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Interesting. That must be a personal association. I don’t hear hopeful but I do hear some sadness. “Some times you tell the days by the bottle that you drank…sometimes when you’re alone all you do is think.”

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  5. CIRCUS Mag had an add for the debut back in 84. I took the plunge liked the album. Bought 7800 and did not like it at all. Jovi is lucky man as he dodged a bullet on that second record but stepped up totally for Slippery…How many bands can get away with that?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Totally man. I’m glad you agree with me on 7800. Not everybody does.

      It’s funny, both my sister and I got it for Christmas one year. Probably 1989 or 1990. We were both rocking the tapes separately on our Walkmans. Right from the first listen I said “It’s not very good aside from the hits”. I liked Silent Night at the time, but now I just snooooooooze.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I never thought of that before, but you might be right! The reason I never thought of it before, is AC/DC is not like Dio, where you’d easily see the guitar player is two feet taller than the singer…

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