Slippery When Wet

#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

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.

 

Part 269: CD Singles (of every variety) featuring T-Rev

Welcome back to the WEEK OF SINGLES 2! Each day this week we’re look at rare singles. Today, we’re looking at lots and lots of them!  WARNING:  Image heavy!

Monday: Dream Theater – “Lie” (CD single)
Tuesday: Jimi Hendrix – “Valleys of Neptune” (7″ single)
Wednesday: Them Crooked Vultures – “Mind Eraser, No Chaser” (10″ single)
Thursday: Megadeth – “Creepy Baby Head” (“Crown of Worms” CD single)

IMG_20140205_130852

RECORD STORE TALES Part 269:  CD Singles (of every variety)

Featuring T-Rev

I’m going to take the blame for this.  It was I who got T-Rev into collecting singles in 1994-1995.  Oasis kicked his addiction into gear big time, but it was I that sparked his interest in singles.  According to Trevor today, “I suppose it was Oasis that started that ball rolling…then Blur taught me the tricks…Metallica helped mix the sauce…and then I was almost a pro, like you!”

T-Rev was already familiar with the dominance of singles in Europe.  “They’re so much cheaper in England!” he told me then.  “They have entire walls of them, like we do here with albums, but with them it’s singles.”

He had seen me go crazy for some of the singles that came into the store in the early days.  He saw me plunk down my hard earned pay for CD singles by Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, and many more.  He didn’t get why I was spending so much money on so few songs.  CD singles are much rarer here and commanded (new) prices similar to full albums.

IMG_20140205_130708“Why do you buy singles?” he asked me one day.  “I don’t get it.  The song is on the album, they come in those little cases, and they’re expensive.”

“I buy them for the unreleased tracks,” I explained.  “I don’t buy a single if it has nothing unreleased on it, but I want all the different songs.”

“But the unreleased songs aren’t usually any good, are they?” he continued.

“Sometimes,” I answered.  “But check out this Bon Jovi single here.”  I handed him a CD single that I had bought recently at an HMV store. “This one has ‘Edge of a Broken Heart’.  It’s a song that was recorded for Slippery When Wet, but it didn’t make the album.  Sometimes you find these amazing songs that are totally worth having.  Sometimes you only get live songs or remixes, but I still collect those because I try to get everything.”

When Oasis came out with (What’s The Story) Morning Glory, there were ample new singles out there to collect with bonus tracks galore.  T-Rev got me into the band very quickly.  Oasis were known not just for their mouths, but also for their B-sides.  Noel Gallagher was passionate about giving fans good songs as B-sides; he wanted them to be as good as the album.  Oasis had a lot of singles from the prior album Definitely Maybe as well, and one non-album single called “Whatever” that was absolutely marvelous.

Once T-Rev got onto the singles train, he had his own rules about what he wanted to collect and what he didn’t.  Packaging was important to him.  He hated CD singles that came inside little cardboard sleeves.  He couldn’t see them once filed on his CD tower, because there was no thickness to it; no spine to read from the side.  It didn’t matter what was on those CD singles; if the packaging sucked T-Rev was not usually interested.  This applied when we both started collecting old Metallica singles.  I found an Australian copy of “Sad But True” with the rare B-side “So What” at Encore Records for $20. This came in a cardboard sleeve; T-Rev didn’t want it.  (He also already had a live version via the Live Shit: Bing & Purge box set.)  Oasis started releasing their old singles in complete box sets, but T-Rev was only really interested in collecting the UK pressings.  There were a lot of variables to consider.  If you can’t or don’t want to buy everything, you have to set rules and pick and choose.

Once we understood each others’ needs, we were able to keep an eye open for each other.  T-Rev knew if it said Bon Jovi, Faith No More, or Def Leppard on it, that I’d be interested.  If it was a Brit-pop band like Blur or Supergrass, he’d want it (as long as it didn’t come in a paper sleeve).  Foo Fighters too, or virtually anything with Dave Grohl.  Our collections grew prodigiously with rare tracks, EPs we never heard of before, and loads of Metallica.  I believe at one point, T-Rev and I had nearly identical Metallica collections, duplicated between us.  More than half was singles and rarities.  We used to joke that there were probably only two copies of some of these things in town, and we had both of them in one apartment.

IMG_00000064T-Rev sold a lot of his singles but not all.  He still has some treasures.  Highlights include a Steve Earle tin can “Copperhead Road” promo (that he got from local legend Al “the King”).    There’s also Megadeth’s uber-rare “Sweating Bullets” featuring the in-demand “Gristle Mix” by Trent Reznor  Then there was a Blur thing, some kind of “special collectors edition” signed by Damon Albarn, in a Japanese pressing.  Trevor’s seen one sell for upwards of $100.  Then there was another band called “A”.  As Trevor said, “Remember these guys? It was like ‘Britpop punk’. I liked it anyway.”

Also still residing in his collection:  a Japanese print of Oasis’ “Some Might Say” that has two bonus tracks over the domestic version, and two versions of Foo Fighters’ “Big Me”.  One is from Canada, the other from the UK.  Both have different tracks.  I’d forgotten about these until I saw the pictures.

Those were the glory days of collecting.  I miss collecting CD singles.  I preferred hunting the stores downtown to get all the extra tracks to the way it is now.  Now, often you need to buy an iTunes download and several “deluxe editions” to get all the songs.  CD singles were just better, period.  Even just for the cover art of those Oasis singles, singles were much more fun to collect.  I miss those days!
T-Rev’s pics:
LeBrain’s pics:

REVIEW: Bon Jovi – Slippery When Wet (2010 special edition)

BON JOVI – Slippery When Wet (1986, 2010 Universal special edition)

I’m not blown away by the new series on Bon Jovi reissues. For the running time of a CD, they could give you a heck of a lot more content. I mean, I’ve bought this album 3 times. I bought it on cassette back in ’87, then I bought the first round of remastered CD issues of the entire Bon Jovi catalogue. Now, begrudgingly, I’m starting to pick these up, because I’m a completist. How many times have you bought Slippery When Wet already? At least once, I’m guessing.

Slippery When Wet is one of those oddball albums: It’s considered the classic landmark by a very successful band, but it is by no means their best.  I’ll tell you what it is though:  It’s a concept album.  When I listen to Slippery When Wet, all I can hear is a concept album about growing up in Sayreville, New Jersey.  Think about it!  “Wanted: Dead or Alive”?  That’s not about touring, man.  That’s a song about dreaming, while writing songs in Richie Sambora’s mom’s laundry room.  Lyrically, Slippery When Wet captures a more innocent era and presents it in the form of different characters from all walks of life.

She says we’ve got to hold on to what we’ve got
Cause it doesn’t make a difference if we’re naked or not

Slippery is the album that made people like Desmond Child and Bruce Fairbairn into household names.  It’s notable for the presence of three smash hit classics: “Wanted: Dead or Alive”, “Livin’ On A Prayer”, and “You Give Love A Bad Name”. All three are obviously available on various Bon Jovi hits compilations. There are a couple deep cut classics, but Slippery is mostly padded out with filler. Surely, “Social Disease” with its juvenile lyrics and terrible synth-horns is one that Jon would like to disown?  Also cheesy are “Wild In The Streets”, “I’d Die For You”, and the sappy “Without Love”.  What helps save these songs are earnest performances from Jon, but especially Richie Sambora.

Two of the best songs are the deep cuts.  “Let It Rock” is a cool song, a bit muddy in the mix, but with some really cool sounding keyboards.  The atmospherics of it were unique for the time.  It still stands as one of Jon’s better moments.  Then there is “Raise Your Hands” which opened side 2.  This one rocks, and has some blazing guitars.  I have always been a fan of “Raise Your Hands”. Remember when it was used in that one scene in Spaceballs? Sweet!

John freakin’ Candy

The production, by the late Bruce Fairbairn, is muddy at times and too glossy at others. Fairbairn’s work on the 80’s Aerosmith albums was more innovative and interesting. I’ve always liked talk-box on guitar solos though, so I’ll give him and Richie Sambora credit for the catchiest talk-box solo in history.  Regardless this album set new standards.  Suddenly, everybody wanted to work with Desmond Child and Bruce Fairbairn.  Aerosmith were next, then Poison, then AC/DC.  As for Desmond Child, his old pal Paul Stanley came-a-knockin’ when it was time to write for the next Kiss album.  Slippery When Wet was undeniably one of the biggest influences on the second half of the 1980’s.  Rock bands were adding keyboardists, and trying to find ways to get played on radio and MTV the way Bon Jovi had.  Jon also used his newfound influence by helping friends like Cinderella and Skid Row get signed.   Cinderella certainly benefited from having Jon and Richie appear as rivals in their “Somebody Save Me” music video.

As influential as it is, albums such as New Jersey, Keep the Faith, and These Days are superior in my ears.  When I was swept up in the Bon Jovi tide in ’87, I finally picked up Slippery on cassette.  I was surprised, because I expected it to be a lot better.  Considering all the hits, all the hype, and all the sales, I was hoping for more than half an album of good songs.

Nope, not on this CD.

As far as the reissue goes, the reason I picked this particular one up was that I saw there was a “live acoustic” version of “Wanted” on here. I hoped and prayed that it was the acoustic version from the original 1987 “Wanted” cassette single. (If you haven’t heard it, man, you absolutely need to.) I only have that on cassette.  However, it’s not the same version. It’s a good live acoustic version, with just Richie and Jon.  It’s purportedly from the Slippery tour, and made stronger by Richie’s powerful vocals. “Prayer” and “Bad Name” are the other two live songs included, sounding pretty standard.   These three bonus tracks are all there is; no era B-sides such as “Edge of a Broken Heart” or “Borderline” are included.  Songs like these would have gone a long way to strengthen an album that’s a little weak in the knees.

I was pleased to see a retro looking backstage pass included within the slipcase. That made me a bit happier with my purchase. Nice touch, this is the kind of thing that rewards people for buying the CD rather than downloading.

3/5 stars

Part 238: Lightning Strikes

RECORD STORE TALES Part 238:  Lightning Strikes

September, 1994

What a rotten week. I had just started my last year of school.  Fresh with the sting of rejection from that summer’s crush, with shoulders hunched, I cut a lonely figure in the hallways.  All my old school friends were gone. I had taken a bunch of classes that I didn’t like. I had nobody to talk to at school, but thankfully I now had the record store. The store gave me something to look forward to when I didn’t have much else.

I still have lyrics that I wrote from that period, and they’re…well, they reflect my age and some of my emotions at the time:

Evil man,
With demon smell,
Down on your knees,
Back into hell.

I came home from class one morning to discover that a lighting storm had fried my stereo, among many other home appliances. It was a Panasonic deck with CD and cassette. It was just toasted. My sister’s Sony stereo had also burned out in the storm. I was essentially without a good way to listen to music. I still had my lousy Walkman with its crummy earphones, but I didn’t have any way of playing a CD.

While insurance companies sorted out the damages, I waited to replace the stereo. In the meantime, Bon Jovi had just released their new single, “Always”, from their forthcoming greatest hits set called Cross Road. I loved Jon’s heartbroken lyrics, but the really good track was a B-side called “Edge of a Broken Heart”. It was a catchy commercial Pop Jovi song, an outtake from Slippery When Wet, and one of their better tunes. Certainly one of their best B-sides. But I had no equipment to play it on.

Luckily I was going to work on the Sunday, and I was working alone for the whole day. I could therefore listen to whatever I wanted, and I brought a couple discs to work to play. One of them was “Always”, and I looked forward to listening to it. I really enjoyed the slow Sunday shift, as it was only four hours long, and I always worked alone on Sundays.

JOVI

I walked to work as I always did.  I already had a key.  I unlocked and unpacked the pack of CDs that I brought with me.  Bon Jovi was my first selection.   I inserted the disc into the player, and turned up the volume so I could hear the music as I vacuumed.

I was startled by two figures at the door.  My boss, the store owner, was one, and the other was Trevor who was our new hire. What the hell were they doing there? Meanwhile, they had that exact same question for me!

“I’m opening the store…what are you doing here?” I responded.

“I’m here to train Trevor,” my boss answered. “and Trevor’s scheduled to work today.”

“No…I’m scheduled. Aren’t I?”

A quick look at the calendar had revealed that Trevor was scheduled in, and I had the day off!

“Shit…to be honest I was really looking forward to working, my stereo is blown at home and I have these new CDs!” We had a laugh at my expense, and I left feeling a little like an idiot.  I was mostly disappointed that I didn’t get to play my new Bon Jovi.

It was another week before I finally got my new stereo. Having the ability to play CDs again was a salve, to soothe my aching soul. I could not believe how much I missed it. That brief period without the ability to play my discs was a dark start to the school year. Gratefully, it got better after that!