Inductee Insights: Bon Jovi
2018 Inductees Bon Jovi defined the rock anthem of the 1980s.
In 1984, Bon Jovi’s hit “Runaway” was the in-your-face ticket that gained the group entrance to the top 40 for the first time. But it was their third album, Slippery When Wet, that catapulted the band into international fame. Watch the band's rise to rock arena stardom in our latest PNC Inductee Insights episode.
Bon Jovi defined the rock anthem of the 1980s. The New Jersey band dominated arenas and captivated audiences with hooks that continue to embody the decade throughout pop culture.
A group of teenagers with working class roots, Bon Jovi formed in 1983 in small town New Jersey. Their influences span several genres of rock classics. They share blue-collar sensibilities and a New Jersey loyalty with Bruce Springsteen and the E. Street Band. Lead singer and band namesake Jon Bon Jovi even rubbed shoulders with some of the artists that inspired him while he was just a teenager sweeping floors in New York City’s Power Station recording studio. Van Halen paved the way for Bon Jovi’s hard rock and pop metal sound during the heyday of hair metal. Bands like Journey and Aerosmith inspired Bon Jovi’s arena rock status – both in their over-the-top performances and catchy hooks.
The band’s core members established the band’s powerful sound. Drummer Tico Torres busted out headbang-worthy backbeats interspersed with energetic drum fills. Alec John Such laid down melodic licks on the bass that served as the bridge between Torres and the rest of the band. David Bryan knew when to shine with a keyboard solo and when to lay back in the soundscape of the song. Richie Sambora’s crunchy anthemic riffs are impossible NOT to air guitar along with. And Jon Bon Jovi’s voice soared above this tight rock ensemble to shout out lyrics that related to everyday people’s lives – celebrating love, lust, and the excitement of being young.
In 1984, Bon Jovi’s hit “Runaway” was the in-your-face ticket that gained the group entrance to the top 40 for the first time. But it was their third album, Slippery When Wet, that catapulted the band into international fame. The album spawned three #1 Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora collaborations – “Wanted Dead or Alive,” “You Give Love a Bad Name,” and “Livin’ on a Prayer” – the last two co-written with hitmaker Desmond Child. With all-stars like producer Bruce Fairborn and engineer Bob Rock behind the mixing console, the album has a slick, full production sound—complete with a classic 80s larger-than-life reverb effect on the snare drum. This production sound captured the volume and excitement of the arena concerts Bon Jovi would become known for.
Bon Jovi altered the landscape of rock and roll by helping to popularize metal across the globe because they stood among the first metal bands to receive heavy rotation on MTV. They helped Skid Row get their first record deal and gave them access to huge audiences by having them as an opening act on the New Jersey tour. Bon Jovi always stayed true to the core of their sound, but kept up with the times by responding to sonic trends in the industry – from 90s alternative, to dance club sounds, to country. Bon Jovi inspired pop-rock bands like the Goo Goo Dolls in the 90s. And, through their cowboy anthems, they laid the groundwork for many country musicians like Sugarland, Jason Aldean, and Dierks Bentley to incorporate rock into their country style.
Throughout these changes in sound, their core fans stood out as one of the most dedicated. In concert, they’ve seen well over a million faces, and yes, they rocked them all.