“Tommy used to work in the docks”. So did Ron who lived next door to my family when I was growing up. Ron was down on his luck too. It was tough, so tough. Poor guy had a hell of a time. His wife’s name was Marie though. So…
“Gina works the Diner all day”. So did Sharon’s mum. She was a Gina too. Her old man really was a Tommy. He drove a cab though. But still. We recognised the people in the song.
It wasn’t the kitchen sink drama that hooked us in though (and when I say us, I mean everybody. Planet Earth, those guys). It was (to begin with) the layers of synth followed by that bass line and then those iconic squawk box “Woah woaha woahs”. Hooked is one thing. And everybody was. When you get to that chorus, Boy Howdy! All bets are off. You’ll see cool kids, middle managers, hard core punks and your own frikkin’ Mutha lose it on the dance floor for “Ohhhhhh We’re halfway there Woah Ho! Livin’ On A Prayer!” Wedding disco, on the radio, Saturday Night TV talent shows. Anywhere you like. To see the actual original band play it live in a stadium? Fuggedahbahit!
It may have taken an army of hired guns and the cynical dismantling of Bruce Springsteen, Boston, Aerosmith and all the pop hits that went before it to unpick the DNA of what makes an enduring rock anthem and reconfigure them strand by strand into this genetically modified perfect pop rock killing machine.
However none of that matters when you see a guy on a park bench having a little sing to himself.
Jon Bon and The Jovi’s became humonculously famous between Slippery When Wet and Keep The Faith. They blew the doors of the 80’s hair metal boom clean off with Wanted (Dead Or Alive), Bad Medicine, Bed Of Roses and all the other streamlined don’t touch the sides megapoprock hits they toured the 80’s and 90’s with. They burst the pipes with the Crossroads greatest hits set and the too damned much uber ballad Always.
It was never the same after that. They’d shown their hand. That one disc killed the need for them to ever record again. It wasn’t all cynical cash machine chart fodder. For every Never Say Goodbye there was a Save A Prayer. For every Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night a Dry County.
This is on an eternal shiny and chrome play list alongside Teenage Dirtbag, Mr Brightside, My Sharona, Be My Baby, What’s My Age Again?, Sweet Child O’ Mine, Total Eclipse Of The Heart, More Than A Feeling, Highway To Hell and Black Velvet. Irrefutable irresistible perfection in Pop.
Honestly though. Do as was advised on the Boomtown Rats post. Wipe all memory of this song if you can. Press play and try not to smile. For all the Tommy’s, The Gina’s. For the Jack And Diane’s. For the days before Captain Crash and The Beauty Queen From Mars when it was still worth giving it a shot… Give. It. A. Shot.
Bon Jovi, Livin’ On A Prayer. Perfect