“YooHoo! I’ll make you famous!”
1990 was a bloody long time ago. The excitement that whisked around my school class when Jon Bon Jovi released the soundtrack to Young Guns II was palpable. That video promo video of Jon in a disused Drive-In Movie placed on the edge of a cliff top singing Blaze Of Glory raised some questions. Who the hell builds a Drive-In Movie Theater on the top of a cliff? No wonder it’s derelict. Imagine clambering all the way up there only to see some of the crap that came out in the late 80’s. You climb a rock face and get Baby Boom or something starring Steve Gutenberg. Nightmare!
I think it was Wilde who hit upon the theory that the drive in was a sort of wildlife sanctuary for all those stranded Hair Metal Band Guitarists who had gone up there to film their guitar solos for their videos. We knew from TV that making Films, TV shows and Videos was a long drawn out experience. And we had seen footage of Slash, Jon Bon and the guys from Great White, Britney Fox, Cinderella and Warrant blowing in the wind from a cliff-face while they widdle-di-dee. Wilde figured rather than keep airdropping them in, it was probably easier to release a pack of feral Guitarists onto the mountain sides and fly a camera crew in when a solo for a video is required. They’d be lured away from the movie screen by playing a middle eight that sounded like it needed some petatonics and hammer-ons dropping all over it from speakers on the helicopter gunships Apocalypse Now style. I wasn’t convinced this was how rock bands chose a guitarist, but then again Wilde had read the Beert Weedon book all the way to the end. I’d got bored very early on.
“I just seen trouble he’s callin’ out your name tonight, Billy get your guns”
It’s easy to mock Jon Bon and the Jovi’s. They presented a very corporate and airbrushed (hair-brushed) commodification of rock music. Their sound was super produced and their danger almost entirely absent. They were massive, sparkly, over stylised and relied on ghost writers, big budget videos and sappy ballads to fill stadiums and arenas with screaming girlies. In point of fact the image they portrayed and the lifestyle they lived felt more like Judy Garland (clean and wholesome to the outside world, drug addled turmoil behind the scenes) than that of the “real” rock bands of the era. You could only have one most dangerous band in the world and that seat was taken. Jon grew up worshipping Springsteen, Aerosmith and local heroes Da Bruddas Ramone. So how come he couldn’t be cool like them?
After 10 years of trying and two big time albums of really ‘making it’ with Slippery When Wet and New Jersey, a solo album seemed like a way to reframe who Jon Bon was and what Bon Jovi were. It seems weird then that he’d rewrite Wanted Dead Or Alive ten times and strap it to a teen heart throb movie with a movie poster for a record sleeve and an even more absurd video than the ones they’d done in the 80’s. Except… That’s not really how it went.
“The wind whispers something ’bout the devils to blame”
Yes, from a distance Blaze Of Glory the album and it’s excessive posturing and blow dried mock cowboy video are the 80’s in all but date stamp. Jon had no idea how the next decade was going to go. He was so far from The Pizza Parlour jury at this stage he had no idea what the 90’s would mean. Already a millionaire and a Hollywood insider he didn’t know the wind would change. So he went the other route. He used his fame. He scratched the itches a pop star gets to scratch when they leave their massive band to go solo. Big name producers, sessions with legends, all star line up. Me and my famous friends. For all the luvvie chumminess on Blaze of Glory, it works.
“All the folks are hanging out waiting to get paid”
Look at the opening number. After a sampled line of killer film dialogue and a gun blast it kicks off with a screeching riff. There’s one of Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers on hammond organ, “Hi Benmont”, There’s Jeff Beck on guitar, there’s Randy Jackson on bass, there’s Elton John on Piano and they’re all laying down a mean honk. That’s all on the first song. Elsewhere on the album little Richard kicks up a storm on You Really Got Me Now (not a cover of The Kinks), Ratt’s Robbin Crosby shreds on Never Say Die (not a cover of Black Sabbath) and with tracks like Dyin’ Ain’t Much Of A Livin’ and Bang A Drum, Jon really does expand his repertoire into areas his old band were yet to explore.
So it’s not exactly outside outlaw rock and roll, more than it is a corporate theme park ride. It’s a roller coaster though, with ups and downs and thrills for boys and girls of all ages. Just like the movie. Which we all went to see and really enjoyed back in 1990. When great westerns get discussed people raise an eyebrow if you mention Young Guns II, or even Young Guns. You can just about get away with Tombstone. It doesn’t have to be Peckinpah or Ford to make a fun gunslinger of a movie. Does anyone even know who directed the Young Guns films? Yikes! I just looked him up. He went on to direct Mick Jagger in Freejack. “OK. Lets Do It”
I haven’t listened to the soundtrack album to Young Guns II in decades. I still remembered the words when I put it on the turntable this morning though.
Oh yeah. By the way, when I said the next theme week would be on a topic I know inside out?
How about B-Movies?