JB
Jon Bon Jovi

Jon Bon Jovi

The pride of Sayreville, New Jersey, eternal arena-rockers Bon Jovi survived numerous trends, were written off critically more than once, even lost some key members, but always had the last laugh. The band scored a Number One album in 2016, more than three decades after it launched. Jon Bon Jovi (originally Jon Bongiovi) had his sights on rock stardom before he had a band. He cut his teeth playing the Jersey club circuit and singing on demos for his cousin Tony Bongiovi, who ran the famed Power Station studio; this led to his first released track on a Star Wars-themed Christmas album. One of those demos was "Runaway," an original he'd pegged as a possible hit. Recorded with a studio band, the song got airplay in New York and New Jersey, and Bon Jovi formed a live group with keyboardist David Bryan, drummer Tico Torres and bassist Alec John Such. The lead guitarist slot was filled when Richie Sambora, who'd done some touring with Joe Cocker, introduced himself backstage and said he was the man for the job. His and Bon Jovi's friendship and songwriting partnership would last three decades. Signed to Mercury (by ex-Gentle Giant frontman Derek Shulman, no less), the band re-released "Runaway" as a single and did some tough roadwork. It all paid off on the third album, Slippery When Wet, even after the original cover was censored by the label (Originally showing scantily-clad models washing cars, it went out showing a wet trash bag). Employing then-hot producer Bruce Fairbairn and song doctor Desmond Child, the album scored big with the singles "You Give Love a Bad Name," "Livin' On a Prayer" and "Wanted Dead or Alive" (the latter without Child's help). They decided afterward that it was time to get more serious and reach for bigger themes-often a big mistake for an arena-rock band but in Bon Jovi's case it worked a charm, and the followup New Jersey was an even bigger hit. Over the next decades the band would tweak the formula just enough to keep fans engaged-writing weightier songs on the 9/11-inspired Bounce, embracing the modern Nashville sound on the 2006 smash "Who Says You Can't Go Home" (which featured Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland), and adding light electronic touches on 2009's The Circle. Such left in 1994, apparently fired for not working hard enough; his replacement Hugh McDonald was a band associate from the early days. But the only real drama in the group's history came when Richie Sambora left a tour in 2011 to go into rehab. He took another flyer in 2013 and this time didn't return, with Bon Jovi claiming he "didn't show up for work." The band carried on with two hit albums: Designed as a kiss-off to Mercury and featuring unpolished leftover songs, Burning Bridges still went Top 20. The following year's This House is Not For Sale was a fully polished album that introduced Phil X as the new lead guitarist, it entered the Billboard albums chart at Number One and the title song joined the ranks of Bon Jovi arena anthems.
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