Number Ones: The year Jon Bon Jovi was a cowboy



Our weekly series highlighting unusual singles that hit #1 in Australia.

In 1990, Jon Bon Jovi couldn’t quite decide who he wanted to be. There were a few options which had proven successful before: the Jersey-bred working-class highway-trawler; the coiffed ’80s rocker with edges just soft enough for teenage girls to rub up against – but edges nonetheless; and, more recently, the chiselled frontman of an anthemic stadium band: all confetti canons, hired minions and key-changes*.

But deep down, Jon Bon knew he had to shed this steel city image, heave the Hollywood lifestyle and head back to his wild, wild roots as a gun-slinger of the windswept west. He’d ridden as a cowboy on a steel horse before, of course, as documented in the culturally-confused ‘Wanted Dead Or Alive’, but now he’d fully committed to the lifestyle, ditching the workaday band that loyally named themselves after him, dropping off the grid, and spending solemn days scoring the soundtrack to Young Guns II.

In 1990, the former singer of million-selling rock group Bon Jovi was completely reborn, as the reckless, feckless, lawless solo visionary… Jon Bon Jovi.** He is risen.

Of course in 2014, as Sambora-less rock entity Bon Jovi still sells out Australian football stadiums faster than you can say ‘holy Telstra deal’, Jon’s solo debut hitting #1 in 1990 might seem less than an achievement – this was, after all, when both his career and hair were at their absolute zenith. And although Bon Jovi had sold close to ten million records in the US by that point, the band’s track record when going it alone was less than stellar. Close to ten million records less than stellar, in fact.

Bon Jovi’s first two records were relative bombs, despite one of them being named 7800° Fahrenheit and having a ballad called ‘Silent Night’ as its single. It was only when big-hitting songwriter Desmond Child*** was brought in by their label to co-write the band’s third album Slippery When Wet (ewww) that they saw any real radio love or sales success. You know your Uncle Ken? Think of the three Bon Jovi songs he put on the video jukebox at that pub near his place you all went on that 41 degree Boxing Day a few years back. ‘Living On A Prayer’ (obviously), ‘You Give Love A Bad Name’ (jokingly/seriously dedicated to your Aunt Janet), and ‘Bad Medicine’ (classic). They were all songs co-written by Desmond Child, as were 1992 hits ‘Keep The Faith’, and ‘I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead’.**** So a solo single from Jon Bon, written solely by Jon Bon for the sequel of a moderately successful cowboy film starring Christian Slater wasn’t exactly a sure thing in 1990 – in fact it sounds like it should have be the opposite.

Funnily enough, we have Emilio Estevez  (Gordon Bombay, for those in a certain age pocket) to thank for ‘Blaze Of Glory’ existing as a song and a #1 single – he lobbied for the similarly cowboy’ed ‘Wanted Dead Or Alive’ to be used as the theme for Young Guns II, but as Jon rightly pointed out, the verse lyrics, which involve cold faces, rocking millions of faces, and loaded six strings (possibly pointed at faces) ***** didn’t really suit the cowboy motif of the film, so he wrote ‘Blaze Of Glory’ for Emilio (and America).  It remains Jon Bon Jovi’s only solo #1 single, and his final showdown as a cowboy.******

Buy 5:35 worth of ‘Blaze of Glory’ on iTunes

*Livin’ On A Prayer’s post-solo skip-beat/key-change/stupidly-high-Sambora-harmony combo (listen from 3:20: strap in) ranks up there with Roxette’s ‘Fading Like A Flower’ and Warrant’s ‘Cherry Pie’ as the most thrillingly gratuitous key-changes committed to tape between 1986-91)

**As if the slight deviation from the band name to indicate solo work wasn’t confusing enough, this song appears on both of the band’s (Bon Jovi) greatest hits collections. Was Jon a solo slinger, or part of a gang?

*** A praise chorus of some of the awesome songs Desmond Child wrote: ‘Dude Looks Like A Lady’, ‘Crazy’ (secretly a top three Aerosmith track), ‘Livin’ la Vida Loca’, ‘I Was Made For Lovin’ You’, Alice Cooper’s ‘Poison’, Sisqo’s ‘Thong Song’, and Michael Bolton’s ‘How Can We Be Lovers’ – which actually belongs in the above list of classic key-changes between ’86-’91.

****Which seem to have conflicting spiritual ideals.

****** ‘For further ‘Wanted Dead Or Alive’ comedy read this excellent McSweeneys piece.

******Estevez wouldn’t be involved in another hit this impressive until he set Fulton Reed on Adams Banks in the scrappy Hawks v. Ducks District 5 game of ’92 – or a shoot-out this intense until Charlie’s triple-deke to win the state Pee Wee Championship. Again, those in a certain age pocket…

One thought on “Number Ones: The year Jon Bon Jovi was a cowboy

  1. Bon Jovi is a Legend!! You failed to mention that besides being frontman for Bon Jovi Jon Bon Jovi went on to act also in alot of movies. Also Blaze of Glory went on to win a Goldeb Globe and nominated for a Oscar


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