Bon Jovi – Livin’ on a Prayer

First Hit #1: February 14, 1987

One of the things that isn’t immediately obvious about Slippery When Wet is that the songs are all basically about being Bon Jovi. Take Livin’ On a Prayer, about a couple who set off on their own, not sure what the future is going to bring but at least they have each other. This is a pretty common premise, but one of the people in the pair happens to be a man with a guitar, and you realize it’s about Bon Jovi pre-success. And that’s fine, because it seems to keep the band from taking the song too seriously – it’s about us, or about a situation familiar to us, let’s crank it out. So you get the distinct “wub wub wub” that opens the song, plenty of cowbell, and one of the best choruses to drunkenly sing into Guitar Hero. The band doesn’t take itself too seriously, as evidenced by the outright goofy video, but they do put a lot of effort into making the song something enjoyable, and if the lyrics are autobiographical, that’s perfectly fine. It’s not all sweetness and light, the couple in the center of the song is hard up, but then the chorus cranks out and all the troubles fade into the background.

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One Response to Bon Jovi – Livin’ on a Prayer

  1. RBerman says:

    I didn’t have my iPod for the car ride home yesterday, so I turned on the radio, which I rarely do. Josh Abbott Band’s song “I’ll Sing About Mine” was on country radio. It picks a bone with country stars who got rich singing about rural life without every actually experiencing it. Bon Jovi shares the blue collar aesthetic of country rock like Abbott or Mellencamp, mixed with the aerosol affectations of hair metal. We’ve got “talk box” guitar and loads of keyboards, but also big power chords and stratospheric glam harmonies. It all makes for an interesting combo on songs like this one, which depicts his pre-stardom yearnings as effectively as “Wanted Dead or Alive” depicts his mid-stardom alienation.

    I have a feeling some of Jon Bon Jovi’s New Jersey chums took issue with the way that the lyrics identify the source of Johnny’s financial woes as, “The union went on strike.” In later years, JBJ changed the lyric to, “He went on strike,” which makes no sense. Individuals don’t go “on strike.” But obviously JBJ was sensitive to pro-union elements in his constituency, probably in his personal inner circle, and chose to make the song nonsensical rather than say something negative about trade unions.

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