Broken like a marrow: when Judas Priest and Bon Jovi targeted the dance market

Rob Halford and Jon Bon Jovi standing in front of a wall of disco balls
(Image credit: Background: Iryna Veklich | Rob Halford: Aaron Rapoport | Jon Bon Jovi: L. Busacca )

“Pop music should be clear, simple and accessible. I’m not interested in anything else, though that doesn’t mean that we won’t work with other types of groups. Judas Priest have just been on the phone and we’re planning to produce them next year. We’re writing three or four songs for their album.” 

When Mike Stock, of conveyor-belt pop pap merchants Stock, Aitken and Waterman, uttered these words to Record Mirror back in 1987, you can imagine the shudder that went down Judas Priest’s collective spine – let alone that of their fanbase, albeit for different reasons. 

“It doesn’t matter who it is, as long as we have a strong degree of control over the sound,” Stock went on. “Whitesnake have recently been doing well with a clean heavy metal sound. Judas Priest want the same.” 

Judas Priest released the patchy Ram It Down in 1988, a risibly lightweight affair and possibly one of their worst albums, but the fruits of any labour with SAW failed to materialise. Rumour has it the band did indeed record three tracks with the men better known for working with Kylie Minogue, Jason Donovan and Rick Astley – including a cover of The Supremes’ You Keep Me Hanging On – but the fruits of their labour allegedly remain under lock and key at Priest HQ, although snippets purporting to be from the sessions have since appeared on YouTube. Little wonder the band followed Ram It Down with the powerhouse Painkiller in 1990. 

In 1992 US stadium rock sensations Bon Jovi followed a similar path, asking singer Mike Edwards and keyboard-player Iain Baker of Jesus Jones to remix Keep The Faith in the hope that their new image – shorn of the poodle hair – might help attract the younger, dance-rock orientated crowd. 

“It’s got that shuffly, baggy, Jesus Jones/EMF beat to it,” recalls Baker. “I remember we got five grand to do it. Their management phoned ours and they sent a tape over. Then we got the master tape and the five grand. It ended up being very poppy hardcore dance, I think. Lots of breakbeats, a bit like that U2 remix of Even Better Than The Real Thing.” 

Needless to say, the fruits of Edwards and Baker’s labour – like SAW’s and Priest’s before them – proved too much for Jon’s gang, although the remix has subsequently appeared online.

“What made them say no? I think we altered the song structure too much for them,” laughs Baker. “It was full of bloated rock clichés like the line: ‘Everybody needs somebody to hate/Everybody’s bitching s’cause they can’t get enough’ and us both falling about laughing. That went straight away. 

“They probably didn’t like us altering their songwriting. And we chopped up one of Richie Sambora’s precious guitar solos into 18 parts and replayed it on a keyboard! The vocal tracks, when we broke them down and listened to them were just ludicrous. 

"There’s a line in the song that goes ‘I am broken like an arrow’ and we just sat there and looked at each other going ‘What?’. To this day I can’t listen to that song without hearing the line ‘I am broken like a marrow’!”

Jerry Ewing

Writer and broadcaster Jerry Ewing is the Editor of Prog Magazine which he founded for Future Publishing in 2009. He grew up in Sydney and began his writing career in London for Metal Forces magazine in 1989. He has since written for Metal Hammer, Maxim, Vox, Stuff and Bizarre magazines, among others. He created and edited Classic Rock Magazine for Dennis Publishing in 1998 and is the author of a variety of books on both music and sport, including Wonderous Stories; A Journey Through The Landscape Of Progressive Rock.