Sometimes I cast my mind back over the years since I first met the members of Bon Jovi and some of their management team at a show in Los Angeles in 1995.
My first conscious recollection of the band was pretty late on in Bon Jovi's history. I was on the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean one day in September 1992 and was walking along the shoreline of one of those fabulous sandy beaches that one can read about in travel magazines. I found myself subconsciously trying to recall who had played an elusive song that was going around in my head.
Later on I was reminded that the song was called ‘You Give Love A Bad Name' by Bon Jovi; from their album called "Slippery When Wet" which had been released back in 1986. The album sold about fourteen million copies. Not quite realizing what I was getting into and six years after it had been released, I went out and bought the album and video to go with it.
"Slippery When Wet" was magnificent and the video was wild, punchy and vibrant. I was immediately captivated and booked to see the Bon Jovi concert at London 's Wembley Arena on the May 16th 1993. The show was part of the tour that followed the release of their "Keep The Faith" album the previous year.
When the Band returned to Wembley Stadium on June 24th 1995 they played some great material from their compilation album " Cross Road " and from the album “These Days”. Also they played some early Bon Jovi songs which have now become classics.
I suppose that any band who had sold over one hundred million albums to date (in 2004) might expect that someone, somewhere would be singing their song !
Reflecting on many conversations that I subsequently had with the band members and their personnel, as I got to know them in many meetings in numerous cities around the world; I believed that somebody should be writing down their story. The band was so busy making great music, there was little time to write the story down.
When I put it to him, Jon wasn't keen to put this information into a tour brochure because many articles and some books had been written previously. The music magazines and their critics had written so much stuff about the Bon Jovi songs and shows - but much of that is stored away now. Not much was then readily on hand at that time about how it all happened. I believed that a summary would be a bonus for the fans.
I had to a great extent, missed the formative Bon Jovi years because I grew up listening to ‘The Beatles', although my children had helped me ‘keep up' with the pace of change in music throughout the seventies, eighties and nineties and on into the twenty-first century. I have no excuse for my inattention to the Rock scene at that time, except that I had been working in a non-musical career. I had also had been assembling material for a small book which I wrote about the model of Hofner bass guitar that Paul McCartney bought in 1962 and made famous during ‘The Beatles' years.
In the case of the elusive Bon Jovi song that was in my head in 1992 on that Mauritius beach; the great thing about music and video recordings is that once you've found that you like the work of a musician - the internet can nowadays lead you onwards to the treasure trove.
One afternoon almost exactly three years later, I was landing a Boeing 747 onto runway 24R at Los Angeles international airport following a ten hour flight from London; because that's what I did as a day job. As I flew the aircraft down the final approach track a mile or two from touchdown, we passed pretty close to the Great Western Forum stadium beneath. One hardly needed to have good eyesight to read on the billboards that Bon Jovi was playing there that night. It was September 29th 1995. Although I had only seen them three months previously at Wembley Stadium, I was about to find out how a Rock concert is a totally undiscovered antidote for jet lag - who needs medication !
By a coincidence, a colleague of mine had mentioned to me only a week or so previously that he had recently met Bon Jovi's tour manager whose name was Dave Davis; a fellow Englishman living in California. Dave had worked with the band since 1992. When my colleague heard that I was flying to LA, he suggested that I track him down on arrival in Los Angeles ; so I did.
Because of my interest in things technical and things musical, the experience of his impromptu guided tour backstage, complete with a ringside view of the show was spellbinding. Although I had played bass in a completely unheard of band in England back in the 1960's, I had never before had the opportunity to see a close-up of the technicalities involved in putting a music concert together first hand or how hard everybody works to get it right. It made task of flying a large aircraft into LAX appear to be quite easy by comparison.
The Los Angeles Forum rocked that evening; what a great show it was. From a spectator's viewpoint I thought the sound quality was slightly better than in Wembley stadium possibly because the venue was much smaller. The music was really crisp and the professional performance was superb. I was introduced to Hugh McDonald, Bon Jovi's session bass player who is a keen ‘Beatles' man; so there was an immediate common interest.
The bond of music, travel, interests in aviation and nationality caused the after show drink to last well into the evening. Then a few weeks later, I met Dave on the other side of the world in Sydney where Bon Jovi were doing another leg of their tour.
Following the cancellation of a show in Perth , Western Australia because of the temporary sickness of a band member a few days earlier, Bon Jovi didn't need the Australian heavens to open with a huge thunderstorm just before the start of the Sydney show; but the rain came with a vengeance ! The logistics of doing an electrical show in a stadium after a downpour don't bear thinking about, but eventually they played.
Bon Jovi – the early days
It's a rhetorical question to ask a rock fan whether Bon Jovi is a band or a person; but to the less well informed the band is called Bon Jovi and their founder, charasmatic leader and chief executive is John Francis Bongiovi; stage name Jon Bon Jovi.
Like most well known bands Bon Jovi didn't have an easy start; neither did they instantly set sail towards where they are today - it was a struggle. Their phenomenal success as a band could never have even been imagined by his parents back in the early 1960's. John Francis Bongiovi's birth date was at the time when The Beatles were doing their early gigs at The Cavern Club in Liverpool , England and in Hamburg . He was born the year before US President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on Friday November 22nd 1963 in Dallas, Texas - which happened on the same day that Parlophone released the LP “With The Beatles”.
Jon was born in New Jersey , USA in the spring of 1962 to his parents John, a hairdresser of Italian descent and Carol. Known by his stage name as Jon Bon Jovi, he is the elder of his other two brothers Anthony Bongiovi who is nowadays the director of video for the band and Matt Bongiovi who is now the COO of Bon Jovi. The family home was in Sayreville, Middlesex County , New Jersey near an industrial area at the mouth of the Hudson river just to the south of New York .
When Jon was ten, he was already showing interest in music and so took lessons on a guitar which his mother had bought him three years previously. At high school he and some friends started a band called 'Starz', but the name was soon changed to 'Raze' because of a conflict with a TV show with a similar name. The band got a low grading in a school talent contest shortly afterwards, but at least it was a position rather than nothing at all. Jon also played in a band called 'Johnny and The Leeches' at around that time.
Towards the end of the seventies he was instrumental in forming a ten member band named after a local highway called 'The Atlantic City Expressway' (ACE for short). They could be described as a Martini band in that they played ‘any time and any place' in the New Jersey area. Thus they gained invaluable experience and exposure in public.
One of the ACE band members was a keyboard player who had had a classical music training on the piano. Also from New Jersey and the same age as Jon, his name was David Rashbaum, though he later changed his name to David Bryan. He later acquired the lasting nickname ‘Lemma'. ACE did well as a local band and had quite a few followers but David Bryan left them and travelled to New York to join the Juilliard School of Music to study classical music. Next Jon joined a band called 'The Rest' in a bid to move his musical talents forward, but even this band was not going in the right direction for him.
At about the same time he was offered a job by his second cousin Tony, to work as an artist in development at his studio which was called The Power Station in New York city ; where many well-known artists recorded their music. The job was to help in and around the studio, but it gave Jon an invaluable two-year insight into how studios and the music business work. It also enabled him to use the studio equipment to experiment with his own songs whenever the studio was quiet.
Sometimes he made recordings in his spare time with available freelance session musicians. When they had got enough material together, they formed a band called 'The Lechers'. They used to play live performances in the clubs and bars around Manhattan .
The next band that Jon formed was called 'The Wild Ones' in which David Bryan played the keyboards. David had decided that classical music was not for him at that time. This I believe was the foundation stone of Bon Jovi as we know them today.
One of the first songs that Jon wrote in 'The Wild Ones' was ‘Runaway' which was a song that appeared on a four-song demo that they made. Interestingly, session bassist Hugh McDonald played on the demo. It was recorded at The Power Station by 'Johnny B' as he called himself on the recording and it was destined for the top; though not without a struggle. Jon and David soon made a promotional trip to Los Angeles in an endeavour to get a record deal. ‘Runaway' was a good song, but the key to impressing a record company's A & R department was to have a band who could deliver the music live. That was the stumbling block; the right mix of musicians to play in the band was yet to be found.
Following a visit by Jon to a Long Island rock radio station which was owned
by the Doubleday Corporation and called WAPP; something encouraging happened
on the East Coast. The song ‘Runaway' won a radio station ‘Rock to Riches'
competition sponsored by Miller beer. Because of the win, it was released on the WAPP 'home grown' compilation
of local bands album but, even with a change of musicians 'The Wild Ones' line up wasn't
what Jon required; so he started promoting himself as Jon Bongiovi, a solo
artist. Jon was clearly recognized as having great potential and he had a
unique star quality. In July 1983 he was signed by Mercury Records which
was part of the Polygram label. The die was cast.
With the financial backing of a large record company, Jon was able to concentrate on getting his band together. He bought in two members who were around ten years older than he was. They were Alec John Such on bass guitar who was born in 1952 and who played in a band called 'Message' with Richie Sambora; also Alec's friend Hector (Tico) Torres, born in 1953, on drums; they were both experienced musicians. A friend of Jon's played lead guitar for the moment, but that was soon to change.
The final improvement came following a WAPP radio station gig one evening some time later when Richard (Richie) Sambora, who was born in 1959, came to listen to the new band. He was an accomplished guitar player with 'Message' and was immediately impressed by what he heard. He instinctively knew that he was better suited to play lead guitar with Jon's band and convinced him that he could do so at a band rehearsal soon afterwards. After Richie joined the band the line up was complete. The band played their first gig at a local bowling alley.
Between the heads of A & R at Mercury and Polygram, notably Derek Shulman and with Jon's approval, it was decided that the band should be named by making a clever adjustment of Jon's family name Bongiovi. The band would be called "Bon Jovi".
They were now set to go and take on the world. They appointed a management company called McGhee Entertainment headed up by Daniel 'Doc' McGhee to run their business affairs. They practiced and they played and played, so that by the time they first recorded together back at The Power Station studios in New York they were really good. With guidance from Polygram the first album, produced by Tony Bongiovi and Lance Quinn, was soon released and was simply called "Bon Jovi".
Nineteen Eighty Four was the futuristic year that George Orwell had written about; but not even he could have predicted the occurrence or success of Bon Jovi as the album broke into the US and UK charts.
The band relentlessly toured the USA in the mid-eighties as they supported more well known bands like ‘ZZ Top' and a German band called 'The Scorpions' who were touring the US at that time. The Bon Jovi trademark was great music, tremendous vitality, good looks with very long hair; they had "classic finesse and brutal strength" said the British music press. If Jon's school band had come low down in the seventies school talent competition, he had certainly moved Bon Jovi forward now. His mother Carol Bongiovi started a fan club which she still runs today.
Bon Jovi had their vindication when they took Britain by storm in the Autumn/Fall of 1984 following a European tour; knocking the band 'Kiss' that they were supporting from pole position. Following the success of the tour so far, their management company also had them playing in Japan for the first time. Bon Jovi was gathering speed, though the pressure of success meant that another album was required soon.
For the next studio session Jon severed his ties with The Power Station studios and began recording at the Warehouse studio in Philadelphia , which was run by recording specialist William (Obie) O'Brien and Lance Quinn. Obie had previously worked at The Power Station in the early 1980's. Incidentally, Obie had introduced his neighbour Hugh McDonald to producer Lance Quinn and between them they also formed a small band at that time. Lance gave Hugh session work with Bon Jovi on some of their early recordings.
A quick refresher in geology will confirm that the approximate inner core molten temperature of planet Earth, the ‘rock' that we all live on, is about 7800 degrees Fahrenheit. Not a lot of people know that ! The new album was subtly called "7800 Degrees Fahrenheit" and was released in 1985. Although well recorded, it was hard-pushed to compete with other albums on the market at the time. However the band's brilliant live performances and steely determination on stage kept them in the frame; but they would have to fight hard for supremacy.
There is little doubt that some failure in any walk of life can sharpen up the human being for future events. Bon Jovi shared this experience with the rest of humanity. If the third album were to have been called ‘sink or swim' it might have been a more poignant title. Financial pressure was on the record companies to turn out best selling music so as to made profits for their shareholders. The record companies merely passed this pressure on to the bands. Under Jon's leadership, Bon Jovi remained focused, despite being financially stretched with all their accumulated costs to date.
The third album was recorded at the Little Mountain studios in Vancouver , British Columbia and was called "Slippery When Wet". As if to reinforce his purpose, Jon suggested that all the band members had to come up with some good material for the future; not just he and Richie. Jon had met an astute producer called Bruce Fairbairn who synchronized himself with the band during the pre-production of the forthcoming album. The harmony between band and producer was to pay off. At the same time Jon put his trust in a songwriter colleague Desmond Child, whom he had met during his time at The Power Station in New York . Desmond had the remarkable ability to help turn some of the great songs that Jon and Richie had written, into greater ones.
At about this time Music Television (MTV) was also gathering momentum worldwide. It was the combination of these factors that was about to produce a winner. As events show, "Slippery When Wet" was the shot in the arm that Bon Jovi needed. The sun was about to shine on the band.
"Slippery When Wet" was released late in the summer of 1986 on the heels of a single called ‘You Give Love A Bad Name' from the album. A well produced video was filmed to go with it which ensured that some tracks were constantly played on MTV. The album flew upwards in the US and UK music charts.
Even the hungry Japanese at the sushi bars took note of the music; their appetite for the greatest western music phenomena to arrive in Japan since ‘The Beatles' was satiated.
Neither did the Northern Hemisphere have it all. The earth moved ‘down under' in Australia too; as it did in the Far East, South Africa and South America . "Slippery When Wet" was described as the template for a perfect Rock album. It was the right blend of Rock with some Pop added that the eighties demanded and would spend a few weeks short of a year in the listing of Billboard's Top Ten albums. The album's success produced a further hit single called ‘Livin' on a Prayer'.
As the band relaxed following completion of this album, Jon prepared for the sell out tour that was to follow; he was accompanied by his girlfriend Dorothea Hurley. They had met whilst at school and had lived together for the past year. By the end of 1986 and through 1987 Bon Jovi accelerated into top gear; they had fought the odds against success and they had won. The ‘Slippery When Wet' world tour gathered momentum like a meteorite as the band took to the stage like an experienced team of mountaineers making a final assault on the summit of Mount Everest . There was no stopping them.
After playing for around 16 months at nearly 250 venues in front of an estimated four million people, "Slippery When Wet" became the biggest Rock album of all time; selling more than ten million copies. Bon Jovi was now able to afford the use of a private jet with their name shown on the fuselage to whisk them from one venue to the next, when the distance required it.
During 1987 Jon and Richie set up a company to look after royalties received from the publishing of their music as its main function. It was called the New Jersey Underground Music Company. As it later turned out, its operation with regard to another local band called ‘Skid Row' whom Bon Jovi had helped move towards success, caused some unpleasant disputes in the way royalties were divided.
With barely a pause for breath after the ‘Slippery When Wet' tour, the five members of Bon Jovi were back in the studio in Vancouver to cut a fourth album. If they were exhausted from their previous tour, it was not evident to the outside world. With help from songwriter Desmond Child, Jon and Richie had come up with enough new material to fill a double album, although Polygram's A & R department trimmed it back down to a single album.
Jon's philosophy of letting some of the fans assist in choosing which of the many tracks were to be on that album won through, "They're the ones who will be buying it," he said.
1988 until 1989
At the time, it would be fair to say that not many people outside the United States knew exactly where the state of New Jersey is. However the Bon Jovi loyalty to their humble beginnings was demonstrated by simply calling this fourth album “ New Jersey ”. It put the US State well and truly on the musical map when it was released in September 1988.
The " New Jersey " bandwagon rolled into Dublin in the Autumn of 1988. It was close on the heels of the previous tour; maybe a little too close for the band members' physical well being; but their management had put pressure on them to do it. It was only the first of many shows. If the number of performances on the previous tour had seemed impressive, the 237 dates of the “ New Jersey ” tour in front of nearly three and a half million people came a pretty close second. The album sold over five million copies.
The audiences became larger as Bon Jovi filled bigger stadiums and the sales of merchandise matched the revenue from ticket sales; but it was a punishing schedule which physically took its toll on the band and their entourage who had adopted the name ‘The Jersey Syndicate'. The constant road show was burning them all out.
If Jon had any social time off during the years 1988 and 1989, it wasn't much in evidence until he took a flight after a show at the LA Forum up to Nevada with his girlfriend Dorothea Hurley. Whatever other bets they placed that evening, one of them was a sure winner, for by midnight he and Dorothea were married in the Graceland Chapel in Las Vegas . It was April 1989.
The early ‘Nineties'
Recreation time was in such short supply, that by the time 1990 came along, the members of Bon Jovi were physically exhausted; there had hardly been a pause for five years. They had reached a peak but they needed a rest. It would have been unusual for five people in a band to get on with each other all the time within the confines of fame and the touring environment. Bon Jovi was no exception to this; they needed a break from each other too. The last show which they played before they took a gigantic paused for breath was in Guadalajara, Mexico.
In addition there had been some bitter wrangling over internal business in the New Jersey Underground Music Company which only the passage of time was likely to heal. Rumours that they were breaking up started to circulate.
Tico Torres took a complete break from drumming to pursue his interest in art and David Bryan experimented with some New Age instrumental recording which ended up as a movie soundtrack. Richie Sambora wanted to write and record some music with friends who included David Bryan and Tico Torres. Richie's album called “Stranger in this Town” was released in 1991. He also released an album called "Undiscovered Soul" in 1998.
Sadly bass player Alec John Such had a serious motor cycle accident during this period and was a long time recovering from it, though it didn't dampen his enthusiasm for Harley Davidson bikes.
Meanwhile Jon Bon Jovi turned his talent to writing a movie sound track. In so doing he ended up with an excellent solo hit called ‘Blaze of Glory' though he seriously protested that the Bon Jovi songs were his real hits. Jon still loved the touring and it was to remain in his blood. He had now proved that he could survive without the other band members, but the reverse was probably not so. He set up his own record label "Jambco" with his two younger brothers. The label's name was a combination of their first names; Jon, Anthony and Matt.
It was not until the autumn of 1991 that Jon got the other Bon Jovi members back together again for an important meeting in the Carribean to discuss the future. All five of them stayed in a house in St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands where they had key discussions. It re-focused them all and the eventual decision was that they were ready to make more music together; but that they would part company with McGhee Entertainment management.
Just before Christmas in 1991, Jon re-grouped the band for a charity Christmas show at the Count Basie theatre in the town of Red Bank which lies on the Navasink river in New Jersey . This was followed by a short tour in Japan which started just a few days later, on New Year's Eve. They made this trip to take the temperature of the water for Bon Jovi and quickly they discovered that they were still in great demand.
As was planned, Bon Jovi severed the links with their existing management company in an effort to take more personal control of their own operation. It was vital to Bon Jovi's continued success. Jon formed his own management company called Bon Jovi Management (BJM) with Paul Korzilius at the helm.
Paul had been production manager and tour manager of Bon Jovi between 1986 and 1987 for the duration of the “Slippery When Wet” success and the tour manager of 'The Scorpions' for a year from the autumn of 1990; so Jon valued his great experience and expertise. Dave Davis was the road manager for 'The Scorpions' during the early ‘90's and so it was a natural choice that he should assist Paul from the autumn of 1992. Dave became the tour manager of Bon Jovi in 1995, stayed with them until 1998 and then re-joined for the “Crush” tour in 2000 but left again in April 2001. Today, Paul remains as the Band Manager.
The new management company had offices close to Central Park in Manhattan . Later on in 1994 after a BJM re-shuffle, Paul took on Margaret Sterlacci and later Christine Richman as his assistant, whilst Ilene Schreibman looked after things in the office. Bon Jovi Tours (BJT) was also set up to handle the tour operations. Many years later the BJM offices were moved to the West Coast.
When all individual commitments during their year of rest were fulfilled, Bon Jovi was ready to move. The band returned to Vancouver 's Little Mountain Studios in 1992. It was to be the last recording that Bon Jovi made there, because the studios closed soon afterwards. The band's image was also changed with Jon sporting a new short haircut. The resulting album was "Keep The Faith" produced by Bob Rock.
The ever faithful overseas fans did what the “Keep The Faith” album title demanded and defied the cynical critics of the album; but although the album took off like a rocket heading for the Moon in some parts of the world, the USA market was not yet on board. The sales of the “Keep The Faith” album in the USA didn't quite match the sales of the “Slippery When Wet” album. Nevertheless touring began again early in 1993 and the band played at 187 shows.
Simultaneously, like a ray of sunshine and as if to cap the success of Jon's band to date, his wife Dorothea produced a daughter Stephanie for him in 1993 and a son called Jessie in 1995. Dorothea is bright and intelligent and has the ability to keep their private lives in perspective by being pragmatic and focused; above all she is a good mother. Also, in her spare time, she has taught martial arts as a sideline. With such a hectic schedule, Jon describes her as his support system. In those early days the family tended to stay at home in Rumson, Monmouth County, New Jersey during tours so as to retain their normality - though sometimes the family now accompany Jon when the band is on tour overseas. Their third child Jacob was born in May 2002 and fourth child Romeo was born in 2004.
The family moved in the late Nineties within Monmouth County to a large, purpose-built family house overlooking the water. The property has a ‘state of the art' recording studio within the grounds.
Meanwhile, Richie Sambora married Heather Locklear in Paris in December 1995; a marriage which later failed. David Bryan married April whilst Tico Torres went in and out of a marriage with Eva Herzigova.
The following months were not without their surprises, for there was a significant change to come in the months ahead. Alec John Such who had played bass guitar during the band's formative years was to leave for personal and ‘operational reasons' as they say in the airline business. The age difference between him and Jon plus some long-standing differences within the band could not be overcome.
Late in 1994 Bon Jovi issued a compilation album to the world called " Cross Road " and a crossroad it was. It was suggested that Alec John Such would not record on the next album "These Days" but that he might possibly tour again. It was not to be. Apparently the decision was left open. The next album was recorded mainly at Bearsville Studio in upstate New York towards the end of 1994 again using session bassist Hugh McDonald. It was not long afterwards that it became public knowledge that Alec, bass player for all those years, was officially leaving Bon Jovi.
“The show must go on"
The song ‘Always' from the "Cross Road" album was released as a single and became their best ever selling single in Britain and also the Americans endorsed the song with their huge support. " Cross Road " topped the album charts on both sides of the Atlantic as well as in the far corners of Japan and Australia .
1995 and beyond
The album "These Days" was released in 1995. There was a subtle change of style in the music which some of the hardened, long standing fans didn't immediately like too much. The album was not as hard Rock as the previous ones, though what support Bon Jovi lost by making the album in a different style, they gained from new fans elsewhere.
Jon, Richie, David and Tico were officially joined on stage for the next tour which started in May 1995 by Hugh McDonald, born in 1950. He had known the band for many years through the previous session work that he had done with Bon Jovi and he remains their session bass player to this day. He often does not appear on the band's publicity material for the simple reason that he effectively plays as a session musician; for the moment at least.
Bon Jovi long ago learned the lesson of avoiding the stress of playing in too many shows in countless cities without a break. Generally, but not always, they now play in stadiums throughout the world and as each leg of a world tour is completed, so they pause and head for home to recharge their batteries before the next leg of a tour starts. This has evolved as their operating philosophy.
Remember the Millennium ? Let's go on a ‘live' journey back in time !
The excitement of the first second of the first minute of the new Millennium was the focal point of so many people and organizations throughout the world for well over three years. The obsession with trying to do something exceptionally special for the Millennium celebrations had been a human preoccupation. It became seriously monotonous as time marched towards the twenty-first century and was only surpassed by the effort of millions of people trying to ensure that every microchip on the planet didn't lie down and die at the stroke of midnight. However despite everything, the Earth has carried on spinning around like a good digital disc. New Year's Eve' came and went and at the end of May 2000 the latest Bon Jovi album “Crush” was initially released in Europe and Asia .
The Bon Jovi live concert is about to begin
Many people had passed through the gates and turnstiles for the show during the three hours since the gates were opened.
Unofficial ticket and merchandise vendors were outside trying to make what they could as the fans made their way towards the entry gates. Nevertheless, control of the concert had been tightly and expertly managed by Bon Jovi Management (BJM) since the “Crush” tour had been announced in April 2000; so that the show and all that goes with it was running well within the main auditorium where the atmosphere was buzzing as the presence of so many like-minded people under one roof gave the cavernous venue a cosy feel.
The “Crush” tour, immediately followed by the “One Wild Night” tour would travel the world in the months ahead. There were just five minutes to go before the start of this particular show and each show would last for about two and a half hours. For the members of Bon Jovi, the evening had begun in New Jersey back in the early part of 1999 …………
New Jersey, USA . Spring 1999
The song writing had taken several months of hard work. Whilst some songs were written fairly quickly, others took a lot more working out; but by the Spring of 1999 Jon and Richie had around forty new songs for consideration. The new studio called ‘Sanctuary Two', which Jon had created from an old building within the grounds of his new house was ready for use by July.
All the members of Bon Jovi assembled there in the middle of July 1999 and soon the preliminary recording got under way. I felt privileged to be allowed to sit in and listen to some of it. The first task was to put down the new material onto two inch, twenty-four track tape, in the form of ‘demos'. All the songs had to be well recorded but in demonstration form, on the basis that the ‘cream will eventually rise to the top' and the best tracks suitable for an album would become self-evident. After taking opinions from several outsiders and fans, those best tracks would then be recorded properly.
In the sultry New Jersey July heat, the multi-track recorder in the new air-conditioned studio was started for the first time. Recording got under way using a thirty-two channel desk with Obie O'Brien at the controls and ably assisted by Mike Rew. With help on the first song from song writer Richie Supa the music making began again.
It takes many long hours of putting down the basic demo tracks; isolating each player in a different part of the studio, choosing the best microphones and the most suitable amplifiers, routing the cables to the correct outboard equipment and eventually to the mixing desk, finalizing the song arrangements, correcting minute timing errors by ‘dropping in and out' and then double tracking where appropriate. This is standard recording studio technique that requires tremendous concentration.
The ‘demo' recordings were played and replayed and everyone's opinion was taken at every juncture. It was serious stuff, but with Richie Sambora's splendid sense of humour ever present, the atmosphere was relaxed. By mid-September the twelve most suitable album tracks had been chosen and so recording was scheduled to commence later in the month. Personal diaries had to be kept more or less clear for the next three months during the recording process, until Christmas.
The studio electronics also had to be put into top order up by studio engineer Mark Springer who looked after that side of things. Checking and fine-tuning the many channels on numerous bits of outboard recording equipment had to be completed. Preparing and referencing the two multi-track recorders that would be locked together by SMPTE time code for the whole recording period, so as to give forty-eight available tracks of analogue music ready for digital dumping and eventually digital mix down, was one of the many painstaking tasks that had to be completed.
The preparation culminated in a flurry of activity the day before recording began, as twelve microphones dedicated to the drum kit alone were set up with their pre-amps, noise gates, compressors and the like. The vast studio mixing desk acted like a signal box at a main rail terminus, where literally millions of electrical signals would travel down the multitude of cables over the next few weeks.
Eventually everything was as ready as it was going to be and at last, the music began to flow and the recording equipment began to roll for the new album tracks. It was 21st September 1999 and the seventh Bon Jovi studio album that would become "Crush" was about to be conceived. The album had originally been planned as a production using Bruce Fairbairn and Bob Rock who had both done so much work in the past with Bon Jovi. Very sadly, Bruce Fairbairn died at the beginning of the summer of 1999 and the plans had to be remade. Eventually a friend of the band from way back was chosen. His name - Luke Ebbin.
Through the long hours of recording, there were good days when everything went well and there were bad days when the frustrations of technical breakdowns and hold ups had to be overcome. By the Thanksgiving weekend at the end of November, seven tracks had been completed and the foundations of five more had been laid. Nearing the end of January, when the winter snow had arrived and the temperatures were well below freezing, the recording process was all but complete. Mixing was already being carried out in a variety of studio locations between the East and West coast USA .
From 2000 (Y2K) onwards
Live ‘on line' internet chats with members of the band and the production team was popular with fans through the bonjovi.com and backstagejbj.com internet web pages. The band also tried some live internet performances early in February. Next there were a flurry of promotional performances both in Europe and in the USA; the most notable of which was a live TV breakfast show on the streets of Manhattan early one morning for America's ‘Today' program. The attendant street audience was the largest in the history of the breakfast TV show.
Following a break from touring of nearly three years for Bon Jovi, the ‘Fanzine' writers like Shari, author of ‘Black Velvet Magazine' in Britain were becoming enthused at the prospect of another album. As an ardent fan, she will follow the band around the world as often as she is able, so as to see as many shows on any tour as she can manage. From that experience, her ‘Fan Magazine' is written.
After much deliberation, the album was to be called “Crush”. It was on course for release in May 2000 by Bon Jovi's new record company ‘Universal', who in taking over the Mercury / Polygram group now had the Bon Jovi contract. It was decided that David Munns who had worked for Mercury until the takeover and who had known Jon for a long while, would become Jon's new manager. Ted Emporellis held the reins of tour manager until Dave Davis was free from other contractual arrangements prior to the start of the “Crush” tour. When Dave Davis decided to leave the touring circuit, Ted became Bon Jovi's tour manager as the “One Wild Night” tour got under way - he remained the tour manager until February 2003.
In mid-March, the band flew to Los Angeles to film a new Rock video for the key track of the album entitled ‘It's My Life' which was released as a single. Meanwhile from his office in Texas , Bon Jovi manager Paul Korzilius was busy planning a promotional tour to Japan and Europe in May for the single. This would be followed by the main “Crush” tour starting in Japan during the latter part of July 2000 with a move to the UK and Europe in August and September.
The USA and Canada were the next tour venues; but by the end of November the shows for the moment were complete. A DVD of the “Crush” tour was released in most countries in the Autumn/Fall of 2000. Also a CD single was released of some of the album songs. It included a new recording of ‘Runaway', the song that started it all for Bon Jovi.
It had been a hectic and punishing schedule, though from December through until late March 2001 it was relatively quiet; for Jon took a break to do some filming.
One of the tracks on the “Crush” album was called ‘One Wild Night'. As the year 2001 was getting under way and the “Crush” album was destined to sell more than twelve million copies, a “One Wild Night” compilation ‘live' album was released in May and a new “One Wild Night” tour was planned.
This tour would start in Japan late in March 2001 and next move to the USA and Canada in April and May, followed by Europe during June and then back to the USA and Canada in July. Such was the demand for live shows.
The momentous two-show finale of the “One Wild Night” tour at the New York ‘Giants' football stadium in New Jersey (at which the original bass guitarist Alec John Such made a short guest appearance), followed by a ‘private' finale in Philadelphia right at the end of July, capped the phenomenal success of Bon Jovi and further re-affirmed and cemented their place in Rock music history.
Six weeks later it was September 11th 2001. Along with other well known performers, Bon Jovi gave tremendous support to those who suffered in the terrible events in the USA that day by playing at ‘The Concert for New York ' in Madison Square Garden on October 20th 2001.
During the coming winter months more demo song tracks were prepared in preparation for the next Bon Jovi album called ‘Bounce'. By the spring of 2002, the recording process was under way yet again. The single ‘Everyday' was released in September and the “Bounce” album followed in the Autumn/Fall. One of the tracks ‘Misunderstood' was released as a single in December 2002.
The first show dates after “Bounce” was released were in Australia in December 2002. Then the main “Bounce” tour got under way in Japan in January 2003 and later went on to visit the USA and Europe. The tour was completed in the USA in the Summer of 2003.
Back in New Jersey, recording manager Obie O'Brien hadn't accompanied the band to all the concert dates. He had been busy in the studio working on unique tracks for a 4-disc 'boxed set' of Bon Jovi recordings for release in November 2004.
In November 2003 the band released an album with bonus DVD included called "This Left Feels Right" which was an acoustic version of some of the most famous Bon Jovi songs; where each hit was reworked and slowed down to allow the full force of Bon Jovi's versatility in the studio to be felt.
In the early part of 2004, a "Bon Jovi - Full House" show called 'The Concert From The Boardwalk' was made available for viewing on a pay-per-view basis, where the viewer had to contact his or her cable company to arrange this pay-per-view show to be available to their own TV.
In February 2004 a limited edition, two DVD package of the same show directed by Anthony Bongiovi was released - it was entitled 'This Left Feels Right' LIVE. The recording was made at the Borgata Hotel, Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA in mid-November 2003.
In my humble opinion, of all the good songs on the DVD, there is one track in there that rises above all others; the slow version of "It's My Life” which Bon Jovi had already had a hit with during the ‘Crush' tour – this revised version is a beautiful song which if it were to be released as a single; could one day rank as the "Yesterday" (Beatles) of tomorrow !
The Band's statistics by November 2004 were that they had played approximately 2500 concerts in 50 countries before more than 32 million people and they had sold in excess of 100 million records. The commemorative 'boxed set' that Obie O'Brien and others had been working on, plus a bonus DVD was released in November 2004 and celebrated Bon Jovi's first twenty years from 1984 until 2004 in the music business. In November 2004 Bon Jovi were named as the 31st wimnner of the Award of Merit at the American Music Awards.
Bon Jovi completed another studio album called "Have A Nice Day"' in the Summer of 2005 which was released in Autumn 2005 and was followed by a world tour.
The band had a lucky escape when their VIP chartered B707 aircraft slid off runway 12 at Hamilton International Airport near Toronto, Ontario in mid-January 2006 during the Canadian part of the tour - runways can be Slippery When Wet.
Bon Jovi were inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame in a ceremony at Alexandra Palace in London in November 2006 and also won their first Grammy award soon afterwards.
Their album entitled 'Lost Highway' was released in June 2007 and was followed by a tour which ended in the Summer of 2008 and which included their show at Madison Square Garden in New York City; now available on DVD.
Bon Jovi's album "The Circle" album was released just before Christmas in 2009.
On a personal note; it would have been hard not to have become a huge fan of Bon Jovi during the past years of privilege that I enjoyed in being so close to the action on many occasions. In my opinion, the Bonjovi-Sambora song writing is comparable with the Lennon-McCartney legend. The Bon Jovi performances are given with such vitality and enthusiasm that they never fail to captivate the audiences.
Maybe I've come to take it for granted, but the huge and enduring fanbase who find their shows so outstanding on so many occasions, say it all !
I was lucky enough to be able to see their "Lost Highway" show at Twickenham stadium in London on 28th June 2008, though I missed all of "The Circle" performances when they took over London's O2 arena for more than a week during the Summer 2010.
Bon Jovi's flying visit to the Suncorp stadium in Brisbane, Australia on a balmy starlit evening in December 2010 made up for it for me; as did their show in London's Hyde Park on 25th June 2011 - the circle goes round and round.
What a great way to launch the Bon Jovi 'Greatest Hits' albums in the Fall 2010; though CD's don't really come big enough to fit all the Bon Jovi hits into one package !
According to Pollstar Magazine, Bon Jovi continue as the world's top concert attraction. They played around 80 shows in 2010 and sold concert tickets worldwide to a value of just over USD $201 million.
Between January and the end of July 2011, they played extensively in North America, Canada and Europe and were joined on tour by guitarist Bobby Bandiera; a New Jersey friend and collegue of the band.
"What About Now" was the 3rd consequetive album for Bon Jovi and saw in the year 2013 for them. Also created with this album was an Interactive mobile innovation where Augmented Reality was made available for Bon Jovi fans with mobile technology devices. An incredible experience not to be missed !
A fresh world tour commenced in the Spring of 2013 to compliment the new album; though very sadly for his fans, guitarist Richie Sambora withdrew right at the start of the tour in April, for personal reasons. Bon Jovi had to continue onward without him - the show must go on ! Richie was replaced by a well established and charismatic Canadian guitarist, of Greek origin, named Phil Xenedis - or PhiX as he's known on stage.
In 2015 a fresh album "Burning Bridges" emerged and following that Bon Jovi were 'out there' again; this time in Asia and the finally in the Middle East during the late Summer of 2015. Bob Bandiera had been replaced by guitarist Matt O'Ree and although they were deterred by an unexpected Typhoon in Taipei, their famous footprint again marked the Bon Jovi trail. I was lucky enough to catch their show in Abu Dhabi and the only reason that no more than 25,000 people turned up, was because that was the maximum capacity of the stadium.
The next album is planned to release in the Autumn of 2016.
'It's their life' as the song goes !
© 2016 Joe Dunn
Download the BJ font into your 'Windows / fonts' directory or your Apple fontbook HERE !
(reboot computer AFTER download to activate)
Backstage with Jon Bon Jovi