Released in 1986, the third album from New Jersey rockers Bon Jovi Slippery When Wet delivered the kind of success rock bands today can only dream of. Now certified 12 times platinum, let’s have a look at how the 10 tracks have stood the test of time…
10) Social Disease
A tune that really hasn’t worn well. Terrible hair metal guitar squealing at the end of many of the licks. Cheesy – and unauthentic-sounding – brass stabs. This is as throwaway as things get on an album that never made any pretension to be built to last – even if that’s exactly what it did. Frankly, this is poor stuff.
9) I’d Die For You
Ah, the old stabby electric piano lines so beloved of AOR-ers are all present and correct here. This does one of two things. It either gives you a warm feeling for a style of music no one appears to deal in any more. Or it makes you think how incredibly dated this song sounds. Sadly for fans of this ‘die for you/cry for you/lie for you’ anthem it has to be the latter.
8) Without Love
The tune that sounds most like JBJ’s hero Bruce Springsteen on the album offers a mid-tempo standard rocker with a bridge that lifts an otherwise ordinary song up a notch or two. The arrangement is cleverly organised to make the most of what are, if we’re honest, fairly flimsy component parts. Not entirely disagreeable, but far from memorable all the same.
7) Never Say Goodbye
Lighters – or should that be mobile phones? – ahoy! Macho rockers used to be able to display their sensitive side, and this was exactly the type of song with which to do so. For better or worse, the lyrics about a lady losing more than keys in the backseat of Jonny’s motor are clearly designed to help a young rocker move swiftly to second base.
6) Let It Rock
Starts out like Deep Purple with its OTT organ intro, but soon settles into a slow-paced cheerleading kind of anthem. The song’s not going to win any prizes for originality, but JBJ delivers his ‘lighters in the air’ vocal encouragement to join rock’s weekend warriors with such deep-seated conviction that you’d be a hard-hearted soul to deny this stadium stomper’s charm. And any rock song featuring the word ‘broomstick’ is OK by us!
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5) Wild In The Streets
Springsteeny keys get this valedictory album closer underway, and Jon picks up the mantle to deliver another lyrical tale of young Noo Joisey life. I don’t know exactly what a “sacred part of town” is, but Joey sure as hell comes from there. And he’s going to jump around like something not right to this anthemic good time rocker. Good old-fashioned throwaway fun…
4) Raise Your Hands
David Bryan’s intriguing keyboard patterns add a layer of sophistication to another big party rocking anthem. The tune sounds like it was written specifically to get bums out of seats “from New York to Chicago, from New Jersey to Tokyo.” And if that was the intention then surely it’s ‘job done’ for the Bon Jovi boys.
3) Wanted Dead Or Alive
If you can stop smirking at the image of JBJ’s terrible metaphor and poor word ordering of “I’m a cowboy on a steel horse I ride”, then you’ll find that this is actually a great lighter-waving ballad. Sambora provides a killer acoustic riff, adds the odd excellent high-pitched “wanted” from time to time and pulls out a really tasteful solo. Again, Bon Jovi drags you through a ton of terrible lyrical clichés through the sheer unshakeable conviction of his vocal delivery.
2) You Give Love A Bad Name
Richie Sambora rifles through his big bag of riffs on a song that’s one of the most recognisable pop rockers ever written. It wasn’t just Bon Jovi and Sambora’s good looks that attracted women in their droves. The clever trick of the light the band pulled off here was to produce material with plenty of pop sensibility lurking beneath the big chords. Big chanty vocals, ear-wormy melodies and ‘all lads together’ mateyness make for an impressive ’one size fits all’ winner.
1) Livin’ On A Prayer
The album’s biggest tune is also the standout track. Jon again channels his inner lyrical Springsteen to paint a picture full of optimism in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. When Tommy’s got his six-string in hock and Gina’s working the diner all day, what else is there to believe in but the twin redeeming powers of love and rock? The histrionic delivery of this chorus has surely caused more sore throats than any other song in rock history.