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An Interview with Jon Bon Jovi - 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Cant Be Wrong


The idea originated with singer Jon Bon Jovi. Jon kept upping the ante with his label and ultimately they consented to a four-CD set of essentially new material. Here, he talks about this 20th anniversery project (100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can't Be Wrong) and the things that make Bon Jovi unique.

100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can't Be Wrong was released November 16, 2004

Steven:
Did it begin as a simple one or two CD box and then just started to grow?

Jon:
I didn't know what it would be, to be honest with ya. It was dependent on what the record company would allow and what kind of package they would want to do. So, being brutally honest with you, it was dependent on what they were willing to pay for. It came down to what they would sell it for and there was this whole discussion [about that]. So they were cool. At first they were like, 'Well, we'll do a 24-song set' and I said, 'Keep it, that's not a box to me, it's a two-record set.' And then they said, 'Well, what do you want to do?' and I said, 'Well, how 'bout 50 songs?' And they said, 'OK, we'll do that.'

Steven:
Was there a lot of re-mixing and re-mastering that had to be undertaken?

Jon:
No; 40 of these songs nobody in the world has ever heard. Forty. And the other ten are rare soundtracks and things that people wanted us to release and we didn't have the vehicle. Like there's a song called 'Edge Of A Broken Heart' that was a fan favorite from the Slippery When Wet era that was on a soundtrack for a little movie called The Disorderlies. And so this was an opportunity to release it finally. So, that was like a no brainer. Things like that.

Steven:
Jon, not having heard the record, can I randomly choose some titles here and have you talk about them?

Jon:
I think it would be better for me to tell you a couple songs because you haven't heard them. You know what I mean? It would be a better story. There's a couple things on the first CD but there's one called 'Why Aren't You Dead?' Certainly would be a fan favorite and it was during the period between '90 and '92; we wrote it, having written songs in the past like 'Bad Medicine' and 'You Give Love A Bad Name' so we knew how to write those kind of tongue in cheek, cute choruses.

When we tried to do it because we knew how when we did it for what was to become Keep the Faith, it didn't ring true anymore. We knew it was time to move on, so this is the classic case of this is the one that got away. So, people who were big fans of that era of the band will hear this one and go, 'Yeah, that's what I love.' So that's a good example of that.

'Miss Fourth of July' is a great one. That one and a song called 'Only In My Dreams' that Tico [Torres] sang, very influenced [when I was] in my Tom Waits era. Tom was such an influence on me in those great ballads that he writes and the great picture lyrics. And I wrote songs like 'Bed of Roses' because of Tom but while I was knocking out songs like this, these didn't make it. But '?Fourth of July' which is really a pretty neat song, something that perhaps I'd love to hear Don Henley sing, really talks about the loss of innocence and youth and how at that point in my career, I was really dis-enfranchised by what the business of music had become.

Steven:
Speaking across the board, when you're trying to determine what songs will eventually make their way onto a CD, you try to determine what really makes the song work, the poignancy of the lyrics and ?

Jon:
What works for a record when you consider that, for me, a record has to say something about who you are at that point in your life and that it's not repetitious and then finally that there's continuity in the record so it has, in fact, a beginning, a middle, and an end. You can't have two songs that are a 6/8 waltz, the Tom Waits-influenced thing. You can have one and then you move on and the other one doesn't get hurt.

Steven:
As you were sequencing the material and re-listening to this music, could you sense a growth in the songwriting and your own profile as a musician?

Jon:
Oh, sure. I think we've gotten better with time but that's subjective, I guess. It depends on who you ask and how the song touched people. You know, you get a song like 'It's My Life' and it moves the masses; you get a song like 'Everyday,' you think it's the end all, be all, and it's not a hit single, it doesn't mean I don't love it just as much. So, am I supposed to judge everything by hit singles? No. It's a hard question to answer. I think we've gotten better; we're certainly diversified, we've grown. We're not still writing 'You Give Love A Bad Name' twenty years later, or trying to. Let's put it that way.

Steven:
What about your relationship with Ritchie as a guitar player? How would you explain that?

Jon:
Ritchie is twenty times the guitar player I'll ever be. I play guitar as good as a songwriter, to be honest with ya. You know what I mean? Jeff Beck's got nuttin' to worry about with me. The truth of the matter is what I wanted to do with the guitar was write songs and the way I learned to play was about that. It wasn't mimicking some guy's hot solos, it was 'What chord progression was that?' and 'What inversion is that?' That stuff actually never ends either; you never stop learning.

In fact I really feel humbled on this new studio record by John Shanks who I think is going to surprise a lot of new people. Because he and Richie went just crazy with guitar stuff like tunings and different instruments and it was really fun to watch. You know when to chime in and when not to but those guys, they're great.

It [new record] sounds like us but it's very contemporary. It's hard to describe what it is but it's pretty rockin,' I can tell you that. And there's only one song that's a slow song on the record. That song is called 'These Open Arms' but that's it, man. This is a rock record.

Steven:
You just mentioned how this new record sounds like you and at the some time has a modern feel. How have you been able to consistently change without ever losing your core integrity?

Jon:
When grunge came along, we didn't pretend we were from Seattle; when rap came along we didn't add a scratcher. And a lot of times, guys are real guilty of that stuff, they jump on the bandwagon. Even the great Stevie Tyler was out there singing with Britney Spears and 'N' Sync [during the halftime ceremonies of a Superbowl game]. I wouldn't have done it. A lot of my peers suddenly in '92 pretended to be from Seattle and got all dark and pretend to be somethin' they weren't. Or, as much as I dig Gwen Stefani, when I heard them puttin' a rapper in the middle of the record, I went, 'Oh, that's a different thing.' That's not for me, I'm not doin' it. We stayed true to who we were, we grew with what we did.

Like it or not and trust me, there's people on both sides of that coin, the one thing I can say is it's honest. It is what it is but at least you know what it is. It's not trying to be something it's not.

Steven:
So you were honestly a bit skeptical about the reception of Crush in the marketplace?

Jon:
Not skeptical, I believed in it, but I didn't know it was gonna find another generation of fans. That was the amazing thing because that record touched six-year olds and sixty-year olds. Everybody felt some reason to say, 'No, it's my life.' And of course everybody wants to be in control of their own life. I didn't realize that when we wrote it. When we wrote it I was selfishly thinking of my movie career. Like Frankie said 'I'll do it my way.' Sinatra. I'm gonna get a president elected, I'm gonna make movies, I'm gonna make records, I'm gonna do everything you tell me you don't want to hear from me. And that was exactly what that song was about and then you see athletes using it, kids chanting to it, and all this amazing stuff happened. Who knew?

Steven:
And that guides us to the final question: You have all the money and cars and prestige anyone could ever want so what is the guiding force?

Jon:
You know, I just really enjoy writin' a song. That gives me greater pleasure than recording it, which is second, and touring it, which is last. I get great pleasure out of it. You know it's gonna be there forever and that to me is the greatest feeling of all of them.

Thanks a lot for your time, you did a great job.

Steven Rosen is a Rock Journalist. Since 1973 he has accumulated over 1000 hours of audio content and 700 articles and interviews...all now available for licensing or purchase.

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