Bon Jovi: 7800° Fahrenheit - Album Of The Week Club review

Bon Jovi's second album 7800° Fahrenheit failed to launch the band towards superstardom in the way its follow-up Slippery When Wet did. Can our reviewers figure out why?

Bon Jovi: 7800° Fahrenheit
Bon Jovi: 7800° Fahrenheit

In and Out of Love
The Price of Love
Only Lonely
King of the Mountain
Silent Night
Tokyo Road
The Hardest Part Is the Night
Always Run to You
To the Fire
Secret Dreams

 

7800° Fahrenheit is the album Bon Jovi have tried to forget. With the occasional exception of In And Out Of Love, they don’t acknowledge the record at all in the live shows. Why? Because it brings back bad memories of a tough time in their career. 

But that‘s precisely what makes the album so compelling: it’s full of cathartic songs that came from the soul, and didn't shoot from the groin. 

There's little doubt that songs like The Hardest Part Is The Night and Tokyo Road are good enough to stand beside the band's best songs, and perhaps - more than three decades after its release - the album deserves a little reappraisal. 

Every week, Album of the Week Club listens to and discusses the album in question, votes on how good it is, and publishes our findings, with the aim of giving people reliable reviews and the wider rock community the chance to contribute. 

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Background

Bon Jovi had built a steady UK following, thanks to copious touring and hard work. They came over in 1984, opening for Kiss, and got a good reception all round. They returned the next year to play headline shows, and also to appear third on the bill at the annual Monsters Of Rock festival at Donington Park. ZZ Top headlined, but such was Jovi’s growing appeal they were placed above Metallica on the bill.

But if the UK was slowly falling under the spell of Bon Jovi, the same wasn’t yet true of their home country. After their self-titled, debut album in 1984 had put them firmly into the trench, everyone took it for granted that 1985’s 7800° Fahrenheit would take the guys over the top, and into the vanguard of platinum-selling bands. But it didn't play play out like that. 

“Everything about that second album was wrong,” says Jon Bon Jovi. “All of us were going through tough times on a personal level. And the strain told on the music we produced. It wasn’t a pleasant experience. 

"I also reckon we went for the wrong producer. Lance Quinn wasn’t the man for us, and that added to the feeling that we were going about it badly. None of us want to live in that mental state ever again. We’ve put the record behind us, and moved on.”

Other albums released in March 1985

  • Metal Heart - Accept
  • Behind the Sun - Eric Clapton
  • First and Last and Always - The Sisters of Mercy
  • Birdy - Peter Gabriel
  • Disturbing the Peace - Alcatrazz
  • The Power Station - The Power Station
  • The Right to Rock - Keel
  • Southern Accents - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
  • Tao - Rick Springfield
  • Rogues Gallery - Slade
  • Bad Moon Rising - Sonic Youth
  • Equator - Uriah Heep
  • Everybody's Crazy - Michael Bolton
  • Hell Awaits - Slayer
  • Lost and Found - Jason & the Scorchers
  • Night Time - Killing Joke
  • Up on the Sun - Meat Puppets
  • Vox Humana - Kenny Loggins

What they said...

"7800° Fahrenheit tempered its black-leather rock & roll with a rudimentary form of the sound that would make Bon Jovi superstars. They puffed out their chests for the groupie-groping, Mötley Crüe-style catcalls of In And Out Of Love and made sure King Of The Mountain rumbled with boys-night-out bravado. But they seemed much more comfortable with the twittering ballad Silent Night or Price Of Love, where arena-ready riffing met smoke machine keys and vocal trills." (AllMusic)

"Their second album is a mostly well-executed, always merciless barrage of hard rock. Bon Jovi says that he wrote the material for this record based on talks he conducted with audiences around the world. Giving the kids what they want seems to involve off-the-decibel-meter guitars and screamed choruses. But such tracks as The Price of Love and King of the Mountain contain a musical grace unusual in the metallic crowd." (People)

"It’s a more uneven record than Bon Jovi, with some fantastic tracks (In And Out Of Love, The Price Of Love, Always Run To You) undermined by some below par cuts (Only Lonely, Silent Night, King Of The Mountain). Still, the highlights showed that the group were becoming stronger composers, and under the right guidance, they would (and subsequently did) produce better material. Worth checking out for three or four songs, but overall, one for completists only." (Midlands Metalheads)

What you said...

Daniel Jago Edmonds: I quite like this one and their debut. They refined their sound on Slippery and New Jersey (then dropped the ball after that IMO), but I reckon there are a handful of decent tunes on this one.

Philip Qvist: It certainly isn't the band's greatest album, but it is certainly not their worst either - not by a long shot. A good, solid album that deserves a spin once in a while.

The word "underrated" can be overused at times, but not in this case - this is an underrated album.

Tony Cruse: I liked the album. Without it I’m not sure we’d have had the mammoth Slippery When Wet. Tokyo Road is great and Silent Night are two decent tracks. Perhaps the production was a little light but I like the album.

Daniel Jago Edmonds: I tend to prefer the more 80s Kiss-like hair metal/AOR tracks on the album like In And Out Of Love, Only Lonely and King Of The Mountain. Although the stand-out track is The Hardest Part Is The Night. Should’ve been used on a Rocky montage!

Nick Crowe: There's bits of various songs which work but it's clunky! Desmond Child clearly helped with both this and how to write a chorus on Slippery When Wet! But I always liked Tokyo Road - which to me is the bridge between this album and the next - and Silent Night is a good one. It shows a band still figuring out where to fit in but it's got its moments.

Brett Deighton: I initially heard the first two albums in reverse order and that sounded right to me. Fahrenheit just didn’t have the growth you would have hoped for. Listening to Jon’s explanation makes a lot of sense. It does seem rushed and is more filler than killer. In saying that there is a lot of love on here for this album, so to each their own.

John Davidson: A lacklustre effort that plods from cliche to cliche, exhibiting all of their later flaws but without the bombastic production that helped them break into the mainstream with Slippery...

The vocals are delivered with a pretend tough boy sneer that doesn't work. The guitar and keyboard work is mediocre. The bass sounds ok but is far too low in the mix. And the drumming... the drumming sinks this stinker like a stone. They could have replaced Tico Torres with a drum machine and had more punch, more dynamics in general.

1985 wasn't a great year in heavy rock but albums like On A Storytellers Night showed what you could do with softer rock, Power Windows showed how bands from the 70s could evolve and embrace new instrumental options, and the Cult's Love showed us what a proper rock band sounded like.

1/10.

StuPop Huepow: An album more for nostalgia. It might not be fair for me to say it doesn't really have a place in this day in age. I doubt fresh teenagers will be rushing to put their ripped denim jeans and cowboy boots on to this...

Alan Dingley: I remember they followed Metallica at the Monsters Of Rock festival at Castle Donington in 1985. I loved the first album, a genuine classic, but the songs off this album were so boring - even live - that I lay on the grass and fell asleep! Rumour has it they were going to be dropped by Mercury after this album, if they didn't agree to bring in outside songwriters. Enter Desmond Child and the rest is history.

Bill Griffin: The first Bon Jovi album I bought (and the only one I have on vinyl) but I haven't listened to it since New Jersey was released (I actually just recently got Slippery When Wet). It is better than average (maybe just because I like them) but really sounds like a band in search of an identity which I think the band themselves acknowledge. There are way too many attempts at an anthem here; it gets tedious after a while. They would get much better though.

Judit Bakó: I love Only Lonely and The Hardest Part Is The Night, but I think New Jersey and These Days are much better albums. However, it is absolutely not that bad as the band members themselves think it is. Once they said they had made a decision not to play it in concerts ever. I think it's an exaggeration.

Chris Downie: While I'd agree that it's only an incremental step up from their debut, I also think it's easily their most underrated album. Richie Sambora's riffing and lead work is certainly more to the fore than on their later works and its heavier sound puts them squarely in Ratt and Scorpions (both of whom they opened for) territory.

While it's a marginal progression from the debut - and was subsequently overshadowed by their next three mega-selling albums - it was understandably marginalised throughout their heyday, I can't help but think that (dated production aside) it's aged well enough to deserve a reappraisal, especially in light of the relative disappointment of their post-These Days output.

Luis R Suárez: I just can remember when I first listened to this record back there in 86. I discovered the band after a friend of me lend me Slippery When Wet, and I needed to know more about the band. I bought the two first records and 7800° was immediately one of my favourites because of his heavy sound. I was 15 then, but sure, now I can say it's not a great Bon Jovi album. But it's worth a listen.

Roland Bearne: Re-visiting this is like meeting up with a old friend who you haven't seen for years. You were like siblings back then and that reunion euphoria hits straight away with In And Out of Love. The Price Of Love is like the moment after that when the weight of the years hits back and you realise that a lot have life has happened in the meantime and stuff like this song, whilst sweet, are of the past. 

The drinks and reminiscences continue to flow as do the tracks, Tokyo Road, King Of The Mountain (dedicated to cyclists everywhere!) with Always Run To You re-sealing that decades'-old friendship. You realise that while things have changed there will always be love and some albums - as with people - will always be there when you need or want them. I loved this album and suddenly do again! 

The first two Bon Jovi albums were "mine". Hardly anyone I knew had even heard of them, I got the tip off from Kerrang! (smuggled into Luxembourg!). The first was the soundtrack to an Inter-Rail trip in '84 and this saw me through my first year in a new and bewildering city (London) and while my drama school tutors were trying to pull apart my barely constructed self this album was a constant companion and "anchor". 

It's far from perfect, of course; the drums - especially the snare and cymbals - are very splashy. Richie's rhythm sound is a bit odd. Sounds like a single coil, very driven and processed (a metaphor for the band perhaps?) but seemingly without any cabinet "oomph" (a Rockman straight into the desk maybe?) but these are quibbles for me, overall it's wonderful and gets a nine, only because there's no denying the leviathan that was Slippery. This group is special for introducing bands and albums you might not know but when an old friend comes to the party it's just a joy.

Carl Black: I need to be hosed off in the garden, followed by a shower, followed by a steaming hot bath, followed by a shower. I'm dirty right now. That was tough. It's was as bad as I remember it coming through my bedroom wall as my sister had on loud so she could hear it in the bath. 

We used to have share what videos (VHS) we would watch. And as I'd just watched Nuclear Assault live from Hammersmith its was her turn. The only song I recognised was Tokyo Road. But this seemed awful on this ( its was a live concert from the New Jersey days on the video). 

At this point I need to cry foul. So I never liked Bon Jovi but I can't deny that Slippery When Wet (the album after this) was a titanic album. No evidence from this album. It's like when an athlete wins the 100m final from nowhere, all the pundits where amazed. And then foul play becomes apparent later. Same here. Did Jon and Richie walk down to the crossroad and sell their soul? Or did they get an elite songwriting team in? [Yes - Ed]. Special mention for To The Fire, which is dreadful. I need to put Master Of Puppets on to restore normality in head. That was tough

Jonathan Louis: 7800° Fahrenheit has occasional moments of inspiration from the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, but the majority of it has a very "safe" glam metal style. In other words, all of these songs were made with the idea of getting on top 40 radio. I think that was a great work ethic for Bon Jovi to have at the time, and even more so given the personal turmoil the band members were having. 

The team, including the band and the people involved with putting this album together, seem to have a mission and be focused on breaking through the music scene. I am really surprised 7800° Fahrenheit did not initially break Bon Jovi through, because the pop-rock songwriting, with all members receiving a credit, is very well done. In addition to the songwriting, the band's image is equally as well thought out with the goal of getting mainstream exposure. 

However, I personally do not like this album or this band very much because they play it safe (see the follow-up, Slippery When Wet). Most of the songs sound the same and do not add anything unique to the glam metal genre. I prefer Dokken's Under Lock And Key and Ratt's Invasion of Your Privacy, which came out the same year, due to both band's party atmosphere, heaviness, and more anthemic songs. 

The songs are more forgettable and watered-down in 7800° Fahrenheit compared with the other acts at the time. Yet, I commend Bon Jovi's work ethic and mission, because there were still finding their way, whereas Dokken and Ratt were already well-established. If poppier glam metal is your thing, you will enjoy this album.

Juanjo Ordás: With Bon Jovi first of all you have to keep in mind that the band you are thinking about it's the one topped with hit singles written with collaborators (aka songs doctors). But before their global success version Bon Jovi used to be a good band trying to survive without external help. Not saying that when they broke big with Slippery when wet they sold themselves to the industry, but 7800° Fahrenheit was the last chance to listen to the purest version of the band. That is, Bon Jovi on their own, writing without outsiders and trying to make something big out of it. 

But they never succeeded at it, and this is why you'll never experience live songs off 7800° Fahrenheit, and why they had to search for help outside their camp to craft future hits. Yes, Runaway, their very first single worked but not enough to build a career around it. Bon Jovi needed more and they tried their best with 7800° Fahrenheit and even with its failure sticker on it we have to agree that it was a good effort. 

Don't compare it with their next two magnus opuses, just leave 7800° Fahrenheit room to tell its own story about an ambitious youngster called Jon Bon Jovi trying to make a solid connection with his generation through songs mainly about having fun with your friends and - surprisingly for an usually optimistic band - bitter love. The music is solid as a rock and the production is not about nuances, but there is a dense darkness surrounding a lot of the songs included here. Of course 7800° Fahrenheit is not an apocalyptic record, but it's pretty dark for the 80s, which makes the album a very interesting (and even funny) record to listen to today.

Alan Dingley: Excellent summary by Juanjo. With groups like Bon Jovi, it probably best to think of them as a company. Businesses that can't adapt when the marketplace changes on them die. It is well documented that Jon Bon Jovi always had one eye on the money - the Bon Jovi 'business' has survived until now by re-inventing itself to produce the most commercially viable 'product' at any particular time. This album set them up to exactly in the right place to capitalise on the hair-metal boom in 1986 with Slippery When Wet. Jon Bon Jovi must've known it wouldn't last long, as Faith No More and Nirvana were already waiting to shift the market away from them.

Iain Macaulay: Definitely of its hair metal time. Hate the keyboard sound and that reverb drenched snare. Were they trying to copy Maiden (badly) with The Price Of Love? And Rainbow with King Of The Mountain? Only Lonely and Silent Night and To The Fire, with their forced keyboard emotion sound like they were made to be picked up by a big Hollywood blockbuster like Officer And A Gentleman. To me, this album sounds disjointed like the band were desperately throwing ideas around to see which one the audience liked for commercial gain rather than create a style. Not for me thank you very much.

Brian Carr: The first two Bon Jovi albums were in my household prior to the onslaught that was Slippery When Wet. I was stumbling into my teenage years and loving all things hard rock with melody and guitars.

Bon Jovi probably never landed in my top ten bands of this era, but I still liked them just fine. I always dug Richie Sambora’s guitar playing and background vocals a lot.

Is 7800° Fahrenheit groundbreaking? By no means. The keys are full on 80s cheese (but are mostly supportive in the mix, thankfully) and those in search of heaviness (or substance, I suppose) are going to lambast all things Bon Jovi, but I still find the songs full of melodic hooks and fine guitar work. 

I wish I heard some of these tunes on the radio instead of their endlessly replayed hits (including the debut’s Runaway). Maybe businessman Jon Bon dislikes this album because it didn’t make him a mint or a household name like subsequent releases, but you can’t climb the ladder without the first rungs.

Final Score: 5.54 ⁄10 (320 votes cast, with a total score of 1775)

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