For almost anyone between the ages of around 30 and 45, the songs on Bon Jovi’s most famous albums – Slippery When Wet and New Jersey – are indelibly etched into our memory banks, regardless of level of fandom. Released in 1988, New Jersey caught the band at a point when they had the world at their feet – so willing to eschew cool and so prolific with a killer pop chorus that they strode across the charts like a bouffant-haired colossus, and with the grunge party-extinguisher three years away, they ruled the roost.
And so you definitely already know the throb and thrust of Bad Medicine, the hyper gruff romance of I’ll Be There For You and the stadium chant-a-long of Lay Your Hands On Me. What you might not know, however, is that it was intended as a double album, codename Sons Of Beaches, and for the first time they’ve raided the archives to see what could have been.
As well as a few carefully picked B-sides – the best of which is a playful cover of Thin Lizzy’s The Boys Are Back In Town – they’ve revisited the demos for Sons Of Beaches, with interesting results. Some of the songs, such as Growin’ Up The Hard Way, with its hard luck story of a girl from the wrong side of the tracks running away to escape her drunken daddy, slots in seamlessly alongside Jovi characters like Livin’ On A Prayer’s Tommy and Gina.
But elsewhere, it becomes understandable why the record was trimmed to a single disc. It may give a brilliant indication of the band’s sense of humour about themselves, but the sweaty bedroom anthem Let’s Make It Baby is so close to pastiche, it becomes about as sexy, culturally relevant and serious as Ronald Reagan’s Spitting Image puppet. And the spectacularly unsubtle Backdoor To Heaven (fnar!) is so smirkworthy and Steel Pantherish that it’s a joy (and relief) to discover that they were in on the joke before the joke was even a joke.
So the extra content certainly doesn’t make New Jersey a better album, but it does give a sweet little glimpse into a perfectly preserved moment in time.