Sometimes I cast my mind back over the years since I first met the members of the Rock band Bon Jovi and some of their management team at a show in Los Angeles in 1995. Though my first conscious recollection of the band was already pretty late on in Bon Jovi's history.
I had been on a working visit to the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean one day late 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 a song that was going around in my head. I suppose that any band who had sold over one hundred and thirty million albums to date, might expect that someone, somewhere would be humming their song; but I didn't know who's song it was. Of course I found out later that it was ‘You Give Love A Bad Name' from Bon Jovi's album "Slippery When Wet" - which had been released in 1986. That album sold about fourteen million copies. We now take many things for granted and the great thing about music and videos today; is that the Internet holds a vast treasure trove of musical data; but that sort of information for someone keen to learn wasn't readily available in those days.
As a background I already had a great interest in playing live music and had a home recording studio in England, so was highly interested to learn better techniques and the art of professional multi-track recording. This probably peaked when I had an invitation from the manager at the highly acclaimed 'Record Plant' recording studio in downtown Los Angeles in the latter half of 1983, where completely by chance the UK band 'Queen' were busy recording the initial tracks of 'Radio Ga Ga'. At the time, one could never have imagined that this song would do fantastically well in the years to come; or that Brian May (lead guitarist of Queen) would stand on the rooftop of Buckingham Palace in 2002 at Queen Elizabeth's Golden Jubilee celebrations and play 'God Save The Queen' on his guitar to the assembled crowd !
Not quite realizing what I was getting into with listening to professional live music and six years after Bon Jovi's album "Slippery" had been released, I went out and bought the album together with it's video. The package was magnificent - wild, punchy and vibrant. I was so captivated that I booked to see the Bon Jovi concert at London 's Wembley Arena on the May 16th 1993. This 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, I again heard them play some great material from their compilation album "Cross Road" and the album “These Days”. Of course some early Bon Jovi classics were on the 'set' list too.
One afternoon in 1995 I was one of the pilots landing a Boeing 747 onto runway 24R at Los Angeles International airport (LAX) following a ten hour flight from London. Whilst on the final approach track into Los Angeles and just before touchdown at about 7pm; we passed pretty close to the 'Great Western Forum' stadium.
One hardly needed to have a pilot's eyesight to read on the billboards that Bon Jovi were playing there the following night - on September 29th 1995.
By coincidence a colleague had mentioned to me only a week 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 Bon Jovi since 1992 and became their Tour Manager in 1995. When my colleague heard that I was flying to LA, he suggested that I track him down on arrival. So I did.
Although I had only seen Bon Jovi three months previously at Wembley Stadium, I was about to find out how the pure adrenaline of a rock concert is a totally undiscovered antidote for jet lag.
The Los Angeles Forum certainly rocked that evening; what a great show it was ! From a spectator's viewpoint I thought the sound quality was better than in Wembley, probably because the LA venue was smaller than Wembley. The music was outstanding and the professional performance superb.
The experience of Dave's impromptu guided tour backstage, complete with a ringside view of the show was spellbinding. Although I had played a Hofner Violin Bass guitar in a small band in England back in the 1960's, I had never 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 the task of flying a large aircraft into Los Angeles (LAX) appear to be quite easy by comparison.
I was introduced to Bon Jovi's long-time session bass player Hugh McDonald; whom I discovered is a keen ‘Beatles' fan like me and of the Hofner Violin Bass guitar; so we had an immediate common interest. The bond of music, travel, interests in aviation and nationality caused the after-show drinks with Dave Davis to last well into the evening. 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. This followed 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 and 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 the band played. I remember one time in May 1996, sitting in a Japan TV truck at Yokohama Stadium and watching how the live Bon Jovi show outside was being broadcast to the whole of Japan. A potential audience of over 100 million people !
When I reflect on many conversations that I subsequently had with the Bon Jovi band members and their management personnel as I got to know them in numerous Concert meetings in cities around the world; I believed that somebody should be writing down a summary of their story. The band was so busy making great music, they had little time to write it down. When I put it to Jon during a conversation in his New Jersey studio in 1999, he wasn't keen to follow up and put this information into a tour brochure; because many articles and several books had already been written. The music magazines and their critics had scripted so much about the Bon Jovi songs and shows; and though most of that was archived; not much was then readily on hand about the early years. One had to remember that YouTube and Smartphone Apps had yet to be invented in those days. I believed that a tour brochure summary would have been a tremendous bonus for the fans at the time.
Personally 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'd also had been working on material for a small book that I wrote about the iconic Hofner Violin Bass guitar that Paul McCartney bought in Hamburg in 1962 and made famous during ‘The Beatles' years.
The following is what I found: -
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 if you're not sure, 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 now 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. Jon was given his first guitar by his mother at age seven; but he didn't take to it at all, until he was a few years older.
When Jon was ten, he was beginning to show some interest in music and evidently took lessons on the guitar that his mother had bought him previously. At age fifteen he began to mimic and play songs that he'd heard on the radio and greatly improved under the strict but gentle, no-nonsence guidance of his guitar teacher and neighbour Al Parinello (AP) who died in 1995. To this day Jon remains eternally grateful to his teacher with "AP 95" still etched onto his 1994 Takamine 6-string guittar which he still plays. 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 didn't get the best 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 ‘Lema'. 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 in 1982 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 and a band needed to be formed.
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 who was 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 subtle 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 their fan club.
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 became Jon's best friend. He 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 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 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 do 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 at the time.
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 that 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 remained as their session bass player. Hugh mostly did not appear on the band's publicity material until about 2016, for the simple reason that he effectively played as a session musician.
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 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 had evolved as their operating philosophy.
New Jersey studio recording in 1999
The song writing had taken several months of hard work in preparation for the "Crush" album. 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' that Jon had created from an old building within the grounds of his new house would be ready for use by July.
All the members of Bon Jovi assembled in New Jersey in the middle of July 1999 and soon the preliminary recording got under way. I felt utterly 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.
Broadly speaking, it takes many long hours of putting down the basic demo tracks for a recording; 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 ever going to be. 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 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 1999, 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.
As an example, when a production like the"Crush" stadium concert is planned, each show will usually last for about two and a half hours; but for the members of Bon Jovi that evening would have begun almost year earlier. All large concerts have a similar format. As soon as the gates and turnstiles are opened, many people will pass through during the three hours before the show starts. Inevitably, unofficial ticket and merchandise vendors will be outside the venue; trying to make what they can as the fans made their way towards the entry point. Nevertheless, control of a concert will have been tightly and expertly managed by the concert Promoters in conjunction with Bon Jovi Management (BJM) as soon as the tour has been announced. This is so that all that goes with it, will running liked a well oiled machine within the main auditorium. The atmosphere will be buzzing as the presence of so many like-minded people are gathered under one roof. The cavernous venue will have a cosy and expectant feel to it.
The excitement of the first second of the first minute of the new Millennium had been 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 carried on spinning like a good DVD. New Year's Eve' came and went; and the "Crush" album was in the 'can'.
Bon Jovi and the 21st Century
After much deliberation, the album was called “Crush” and it was released in Europe and Asia at the end of May 2000. Bon Jovi next signed a contract the record company ‘Universal', who in taking over from the Mercury / Polygram group now had Bon Jovi on their books. 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. A young man named Ted Emporellis had understudied the role of tour manager until Dave Davis was free from other contractual arrangements prior to the start of the “Crush” tour. When the "Crush" tour was over and Dave Davis had decided to leave the touring circuit in April 2001, Ted became Bon Jovi's tour manager as the “One Wild Night” tour got under way - he remained the tour manager until February 2003.
At that time, live ‘on line' internet chats with members of the band and the production team were 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 attending street audience was the largest in the history of the breakfast TV show.
On the sidelines and following a break from touring of nearly three years for Bon Jovi; the ‘Fanzine' writers like Shari (who is the author of the ‘Black Velvet Magazine' in Britain) were again becoming enthused at the prospect of yet another Bon Jovi album. As a devoted fan, she would follow the band around the world as often as she was able; so as to see as many shows on any tour as she could manage. From that experience, her ‘Fan Magazine' articles would be written.
In mid-March, Bon Jovi flew to Los Angeles to film a new Rock video for the key track of the album entitled ‘It's My Life' that was released as a single in May 2000; just prior to the main album. In May, from his office in Texas, Bon Jovi manager Paul Korzilius was busy planning for the new tour. This would be the main “Crush” tour starting in Japan during the latter part of July 2000, followed by venues in the the UK, Europe. 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 a “Crush” concert was made in Zurich's Letzigrund stadium (with additional clips added from their Mannheim show as Bon Jovi sang the final song of the show "Thank You For Loving Me"). The DVD 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; so from December 2000 until late March 2001 it was relatively quiet period; and Jon took a break to do some filming.
The “Crush” tour was about to be shortly followed by an extension tour, due to the massive demand for Bon Jovi concerts. It was re-named the “One Wild Night” tour, but still in support of the "Crush" studio album. This tour would start in Australia on 24th March 2001 and next move to Japan, the USA and Canada in April and May, followed by Europe during May and June and then back to the USA and Canada in July. Such was the demand for live shows. A “One Wild Night” compilation ‘live' album was released in May 2001. There was a 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). This was followed by a ‘private' finale in Philadelphia right at the end of July 2001. It capped the phenomenal success of Bon Jovi and further re-affirmed and cemented their place in Rock music history. By the time the year 2001 was at it's midpoint, it was clear that the “Crush” album was on track to sell more than twelve million copies.
September 11th 2001 - 'Nine Eleven'
Along side other well known musicians and performers, Bon Jovi gave tremendous support to those who suffered in the terrible events in the USA that day in September 2001. They performed at ‘The Concert for New York ' in Madison Square Garden on October 20th 2001.
During those 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 rose above all others; the slow version of "It's My Life” which Bon Jovi had already had a massive hit with during the ‘Crush' tour – this revised version is a beautiful song which if it were to have been released as a single; could 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 was comparable with the Lennon-McCartney legend. The Bon Jovi performances are given with such vitality and enthusiasm that never fail to captivate the audiences.
Maybe I've come to take it for granted, but the huge and enduring fanbase who find Bon Jovi 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 consecutive 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 - but the show must go on ! Richie was replaced by a well established and charismatic Canadian guitarist of Greek origin, named Phil Xenedis - or Phil X as he's known on stage.
The early part of 2015 had been a really tough year behind the scenes for Jon, but he fought through it and emerged with a fresh album called "Burning Bridges". Following that Bon Jovi were 'out there' again; this time in Asia and then 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; where the only reason that no more than 25,000 people turned up for the show was the maximum capacity of the 'Du'stadium.
On Saturday 15th April 2018 all eyes were on Cleveland, Ohio on the south shore of Lake Erie, where BON JOVI members past and present were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The evening ceremony was the culmination of all the years of hard work that the Band and their dedicated team had delivered. At the ceremony there was a wonderfully moving speech from Jon Bon Jovi where; not only did he recall some of the Band's history and thanked by name, some of those who have worked tirelessly behind the scenes over the years; but also with love thanked his wife Dorothea and their four children. He personally recognised all the other key players in the Band, "Alec, Richie, Hugh, Tico, David". The on-stage line-up as they played their music after the speeches included the original Bon Jovi bass player Alec Such and guitaist Richie Sambora as well as other current Band members.
The next trademark album was named "This House Is Not For Sale". It was released in the Autumn of 2016 and it's 2017 world tour seemed to slip effortlessly into 2018 and 2019 too; though by now I knew very well just how much effort really goes into keeping Bon Jovi as the world's most successful touring Rock Band.
The "This House" tour was such a tremendous success that subsequently, it was extended into the Autumn of 2019, with this final show taqking place in South America. For me I had another glimpse of Bon Jovi again at Wembley Stadium in London over the Summer Solstice 2019; on Friday 21st June along with 78,000 other rockers. Amongst the crowd were SO MANY long-term fans; that included Shari of 'Black Velvet' fanzine fame who was standing in front of the stage whilst taking some star quality photographs; and me sitting in one of the Stands next to Cathie Horner who must be one of Britain's greatest fans. It was twenty-six years since I had first seen the Bon Jovi at Wembley and it was probably a fitting time for me to hang up my edirorial hat.
What a fantastic achievement to sell well over one hundred and thirty million albums ! An incredible show - an incredible story. The tale of Bon Jovi is told from my side as the world rocks on !
© 2020 Joe Dunn