Monday, July 11, 2011

Does Bon Jovi Have Any "Forgotten Gems"?

I know it's been a while since I last posted, but I recently stumbled upon two comments that riled me up enough to write. Naturally, both comments involved Bon Jovi.

The first comment was made by my wonderful niece Lucy, who claimed she "hated" Jon Bon Jovi, because "he is old, he is ugly, and he is not a good singer."

The second was an off-handed remark I read on pages 162-163 of Chuck Klosterman's Fargo Rock City: "It seems the only good Bon Jovi songs were the popular ones," Klosterman posits. "The band has no forgotten gems whatsoever (except maybe 'Love is a Social Disease,' and even that is a stretch)."

(Incidentally, I know that FRC came out in 2001, and that my righteous indignation isn't particularly timely, but I just came across that comment this weekend. So my indignation is righteously timely to me.)

The first bundle of comments, about JBJ being old and not a good singer, I can let slide. My niece, after all, twelve; Dakota Fanning seems old to her. And being twelve, she's not really familiar with Bon Jovi's oeuvre. (And yes, I originally typed "body of work" there.) She's probably more familiar with his more recent offerings, the "Have a Nice Days" or the "We Weren't Born To Follows" or the "What Do You Gots," which no one would consider strongest stuff. Not bad, mind you, just a tad derivative. Oh hell, who are we kidding? They're pretty much the same song. But it's a good same song, so we collectively let it go.

But I couldn't easily dismiss the Klosterman comment about Jovi having "no forgotten gems" and felt determined to prove him wrong. After all, we're fast approaching the 25th anniversary of Slippery When Wet (released August 1986), which is when I first called myself a fan. So I felt I needed to speak on Jon's behalf-- because, you know, he really needs my endorsement.

However, while combing through my Jovi treasure trove for "forgotten gems," I realized two things. First, I'm just about the worst Jovi fan in the world, in that I only own two Bon Jovi albums: Slippery When Wet (on cassette, no less!) and Greatest Hits- The Ultimate Collection. Not sure why I don't own more; I think it started when I didn't buy 1988's New Jersey, both because I didn't like the debut single, "Bad Medicine" ("More like 'Bad Music,'" I oh-so-wittily quipped), and because the album came out right when I started college, a time when you're basically required to pooh-pooh everything that got you through high school. Bottom line: combing through my treasure trove didn't take as long as I thought.

Still, reviewing my admittedly sparse collection brought me to my second realization: "Geez, maybe Klosterman has a point. Maybe the only good Bon Jovi songs are the popular ones!" This came after a car ride spent listening to Disc 2 of Ultimate Collection, which such contains such anthems as "These Days" and "When We Were Beautiful." Never heard of them? There's a reason for that: they're lame. Forgettable.

(As an aside: Why do "greatest hits" collections invariably leave out at least one or two of a band's actual "greatest hits"? How can any Bon Jovi "best of" collection not have "Never Say Goodbye" or "She Don't Know Me" or even "Thank You for Loving Me"? Defies explanation. Would you have a John Parr "best of'" without "Naughty Naughty"? What about a T'Pau "greatest hits" without "Heart and Soul"?)

And yet, I refuse to agree with Klosterman's asserton that Jovi has "no forgetten gems whatsoever." In fact, I came up with three great Jovi songs that, to my knowledge, never got significant airplay:

"Shot Through the Heart": And no, I'm not confusing this with "You Give Love a Bad Name." I'm talking about a great "you broke my heart, you soulless meanie" song from their first album. Basically, "You Give Love a Bad Name, v. 1."

"Wild in the Streets": Last song on Slippery When Wet. Awesome tune, any way you look at it. Check and mate, Chuck Kolsterman.

"Silent Night": When I first saw Bon Jovi in December '86, Jon swung out into the audience on a trapeze-type device and sang this song from a platform. When I saw them in July '87, they did the same trapeze bit, only with "Never Say Goodbye"; when I saw them in March '89, they sang "I'll Be There For You." Yeah, they're all remarkably similar (you could probably throw "Bed of Roses" in there, too), but I think "Silent Night" is the best of the bunch. Definitely a forgotten gem.

So, Bon Jovi may not have a ton of forgotten gems, but he does have them. Of course, only after I wrote all this, I realized something: Why does it even matter, anyway? As long as his popular songs remain unforgettable, who cares about the forgotten ones?

1 comment:

Rain Wong said...

Every singer has got forgettable and unforgettable songs, because the public is forgetful. So maybe it is just nature. Need not sad. Keep following their songs for enjoying their attitude of music.