Great Metal Albums of 1988: Bon Jovi- New Jersey

An old friend of mine, his name is Leigh Griffiths and he was the guitarist in the band Torque Show, (he’s second from the left in the photo in the “Curry With Guns N Roses” post), once said that Bon Jovi represented everything that was wrong with heavy metal in the 1980s. He sites their 1988 album, “New Jersey,” as his evidence. Personally, I don’t think there was anything wrong with heavy metal in the 80s but I’m still going to write the post in light of Leigh’s comment.

Stating the obvious, the album named after the state I grew up in demonstrated a shift to a commercial sound for Bon Jovi. However, unlike a lot of metal bands who attempted this back then, it worked for Bon Jovi. The album went number one in several countries and produced five singles which hit the top ten. “Bad Medicine” went to number one. So again, they must have found the right formula. On the flip side, some hardcore metalheads paid little attention to the album, accusing Bon Jovi of selling out and pointed the commercial success to the fact that Jon Bon Jovi and guitarist Ritchie Sambora tingled the hormones of teenage girls. I admit, I kind of distanced myself from Bon Jovi at this time and would later join the chorus of male metalheads who claimed they only listened to Bon Jovi because their girlfriends were so into them. I admit that in my case it’s bullshit.

Most people know the singles from the album, so I won’t spend time going over those. Besides, it’s easy to see why they were so successful. “Lay Your Hands on Me,” “Bad Medicine,” “Born to Be My Baby” “Living in Sin,” and “I’ll Be There for You,” which reminds me a lot of the Beatles song, “Don’t Bring Me Down,” are all well known songs, even if you weren’t heavily into Bon Jovi. What I like about the structure of the album is that four of the singles are the first four tracks on the album. So for me, it was easier to get to and appreciate the lesser known tracks on the album and that starts with the real hidden gem on the album, “Blood on Blood.” I really love the piano harmony on the track backed up by Ritchie’s guitar. The lyrics take me back to my younger days when I was a bit more rebellious. Although I didn’t get ‘turned into a man’ until I went into the service, it does bring back the memories. It’s a great uplifting song and I won’t disagree with anyone who thinks David Bryan is an underrated keyboardist.

“Homebound Train” is another good track. This is most rocking track on the album and it’s reassuring to hear that Bon Jovi haven’t completely sold out. I love it’s swagger and the Ritchie is the hero here. Giving credit where due, the late Alec John Such lays down a groovy bass line. On “Wild is the Wind,” they attempt to build on like sounding song from “Slippery When Wet,” “Wanted Dead of Alive,” using the acoustic intro. While “Wild is the Wind” doesn’t come up to my all time favourite Bon Jovi song, it’s still a cool track. “Stick to Your Guns” is a nice ballad and I wouldn’t have argued against it being released as a single as well.

With all of that said, there are two tracks which I feel don’t really belong. My theory is that they were put there in an attempt to add a bit of humour to the album. “Ride Cowboy Ride,” thankfully it’s only just over a minute long but I can’t help thinking it’s an outtake that was left on the album. Then there’s the closer, “Love for Sale.” I think this was also left in for humour purposes because if it wasn’t there, “99 in the Shade” would have been a brilliant closer. It just has that great album ending swagger where everything just seems to come together.

Track Listing:

  1. Lay Your Hands on Me
  2. Bad Medicine
  3. Born to Be My Baby
  4. Living in Sin
  5. Blood on Blood
  6. Homebound Train
  7. Wild is the Wind
  8. Ride Cowboy Ride
  9. Stick to Your Guns
  10. I’ll Be There For You
  11. 99 in the Shade
  12. Love is For Sale
Bon Jovi

Jon Bon Jovi- lead and backing vocals, harmonica, acoustic guitar

Ritchie Sambora- guitars, mandolin, backing vocals and accompanying lead vocal on “I’ll Be There For You”

David Bryan- keyboards, backing vocals

Alec John Such- bass, backing vocals

Tico ‘The Hit Man’ Torres- drums, percussion, backing vocals

Additional Musicians:

Scott Fairbairn- cello

Audrey Nordwell- cello

Bruce Fairbairn- percussion, horn

Proof I’m maturing in my old age: in the 1980s, I called “New Jersey” a too commercial album and accused Bon Jovi of selling out. However, these days, I appreciate the album much more. While some grumpy metalheads might have called the album a sell out, many metalheads must have bought it because the album was such a huge success for the band. In my old age, I can understand why. If there was anything wrong with heavy metal in the 1980s, it wasn’t on account of Bon Jovi.

Next post: Queensryche- Operation Mindcrime

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21 Responses to “Great Metal Albums of 1988: Bon Jovi- New Jersey”

  1. Ah, yes you have to write about Bon Jovi when you’re from NJ for sure! Ha! I have best friends from there who BREATHED that band so I couldn’t talk down about them if I wanted to! Not around those friends anyway.

    Wanted Dead or Alive is my favorite song from the charismatic boys. And yes, as a girl, I will admit Jon oozes sex appeal! I was more a Steven Tyler fan though so there’s that.

    Great article! I didn’t remember who their keyboard player was and I agree he was underrated.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. To be fair, Bon Jovi were never a heavy metal band! The term “hair metal” doesn’t even make sense because there was nothing heavy about that genre. You wouldn’t call poison a metal band, would you?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great album! I’m looking forward to doing the Bon Jovi series soon just in time for the Richie reunion!! And I can’t wait for the next review, one of my Top 10 albums of all time!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Love this album. Bon Jovi were the first rock band I truly loved, and I always felt that on New Jersey they nailed their blend of pop and rock absolutely perfectly. Generally prefer this to Slippery When Wet in fact.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Their best album, with These Days as a close second. Yeah I said it. Slippery is mediocre. So was Faith.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Always liked this one. I was just a hair too young to worry about what “scene” I was a part of when it came out so I could just enjoy it for what it was.

    Your next one is a big one for me – my favorite album of all time.

    Liked by 1 person

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