Albums of the ’80s: Bon Jovi – New Jersey

Hi Everybody!!! Today, Robert is back with another article for us. This one covers one of my favorite albums of all-time – Bon Jovi’s New Jersey. You can also check out Robert’s last article about Bad English if you haven’t caught that one yet. Now let’s kick back and enjoy this perfect album. Take it away, Robert. 2, 3, 4!!!!

Bon Jovi: A Masterpiece Follows up a Masterpiece

September 1988: I was just starting my sophomore year of college. I was in the process of buying CDs to replace my records and cassettes, and I had a very specific hierarchy in this process – my favorites had to come first. This also meant that any new music released by any of these artist would immediately be purchased in the CD format. My first CD was Survivor’s Too Hot To Sleep. I was enjoying the process and worked my way to one of my favorites, Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet (Return to the ‘80s review of this album). As fate would have it, I just read that Bon Jovi was set to release a new album! I waited with as much patience as I could muster and then stood in line at my local CD store on that September morning to get a copy of New Jersey as soon as I could – and I was not disappointed.

New Jersey skyrocketed to the well deserved place as my favorite Bon Jovi album. I played it constantly driving my roommate and girlfriend crazy – but I did not care. Clearly, I was not the only one who thought this way. The album sold over 7 million copies and had 5 Top 10 hits (2 of those #1). New Jersey is one of the few albums in my collection that has no bad songs. There is not one track on this album that I would ever skip. So, let’s get to those great songs.

Lay Your Hands On Me

Is there a better opening to an album? Tico Torres on the drums – the band shouting “HEY”, Richie Sambora adding some licks on the guitar – David Bryan’s keyboards – a full 1 minute and 19 seconds of suspense building. And then Jon Bon Jovi says, “They say to really free your body, you’ve got to free your mind. So come on, check this out.” Here is an invitation to sit back, relax, and enjoy the musical ride that Bon Jovi is about to take the listener on. The song explodes with an intense rhythm guitar and a chorus that begs the audience to sing along.

Bad Medicine

This song is a clear (and successful) attempt by Bon Jovi to capture the feel of a live show in a recording studio without using crowd noises or other effects. The rapid pace of the verses combined with a shout-at-the-top-of your-lungs chorus makes this song irresistible. Just when you think the song is over, Jon Bon Jovi keeps it going with, “Wait a minute, wait a minute, hold on. One more time, with feeling.” – giving it that concert feel. Every time I attend a Bon Jovi concert, I eagerly await this song. The official video for this song features fans onstage with 16mm camera as they film ‘their’ video.

Born to be My Baby

What a breath of fresh air – an excellent love song that absolutely rocks.This song is a raw and honest look at a couple who does not have much, but they have each other. Here is yet another example of Bon Jovi’s lyrical focus on middle class America. The couple in the song work hard and do not have many worldly possession to show for it – and they do not need any, “Table for two on a TV tray, it ain’t fancy, baby, that’s OK – our time, our way.” The bonds of true love are strong and ever-lasting.

Living in Sin

I was 19 when this album was released and this song spoke to me and jumped out right away. It was not so much the idea of a premarital physical relationship that struck me, rather the idea of the blatant hypocrisy of so many ‘rules’ that I had always felt obliged to follow. The lyric that really captured my attention was, “Is it right for both our parents to fight it out most nights and pray for God’s forgiveness as they both turn out the lights?” At the time I was questioning many rules and societal expectations that struck me as hypocritical or just plain silly. This song made me realize that as I was aging, Bon Jovi aged with me, writing about things that concerned me. This would continue well into my adulthood.

Blood on Blood

This song was never released as a single, but remains one of the band’s most popular songs and is consistently on the set list for a Bon Jovi concert. The song rocks and lyrically touches on the idea of growing up with best friends and then dealing with the idea that we all grow older and move on. We never forget the best friends who were always there for us. Every time I hear this song my best friends, LeRoyce and Marvin, are in my mind. The video is an excellent live version.

Homebound Train

While I love all of the songs on this album, this may be my favorite. This song begins with a bluesy sound and then becomes an excellent guitar driven rock song – and the guitar shreds. Richie Sambora is one my favorite guitarists and I believe he is underrated – this song, and a later song called Dry County, are two great examples of just how good he is.

Wild is the Wind

The previous song has my favorite guitar work on the album and this one has my favorite lyrics. Many of us expect love songs and most of those love songs are somewhat predictable – love lasts or love is lost. What distinguishes this song is the speaker coming to grips with the fact that he is not what she wants and it is time for him to move on. For some reason, the bridge to this song gives me chills: “Maybe a better man would live and die for you, baby, a better man would never say goodbye to you.” This captures the difficulty of having to admit that you do not have what the one you love needs. Great song.

Ride Cowboy Ride

This track serves three purposes. First, it is an excellent setup for the next song. Second, it shows the range of both Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora’s talent and creativity. Third, is it a sign of what is to come with the Young Guns II soundtrack. I have no real great reasons, but I love this short song.

Stick to Your Guns

No love song here. This song answers this question: what are you going to do when people doubt you? It does not matter what the situation is, Bon Jovi has the same answer for all occasions. Getting into a tough music industry is an enormous risk, full of the failures of those who have tried before. I can only imagine how many times Jon Bon Jovi was told to not follow his dream and instead, find a more reliable way of making a living – ‘you do not have a chance.’ Fortunately for all of us, he did not listen – and the rest is history.

I’ll Be There For You

This has to be one of Bon Jovi’s most famous and often played ballads. It has the typical Bon Jovi sound – great guitar work, smooth lyrics, and awesome vocals. I love everything about this song, but my favorite are the lines, “I know you know we had some good times / Now they have their own hiding place / Well, I can promise you tomorrow / But I can’t buy back yesterday.” The heartfelt desperation of this song has always enthralled me and pulled at my heartstrings.

99 in the Shade

This song has always reminded me of a great song on Bon Jovi’s second album 7800 Fahrenheit; this song sounds like a cousin to “Tokyo Road“. I think it is because it has a similar air of fun rock n’ roll and several turns of phrases that I love.

Love for Sale

This song is a perfect end to a perfect album. The band is sitting around on their acoustic instruments and jamming. You can almost hear them saying: the album is finished and it is time for a break – but before we go, here is one more song to remember us by: “We’ve been living together for 3 years, 2 hours, 20 minutes maybe four hundred beers / You can’t shop for love when you’re shopping at Sears / Love for sale.”

Bonus: Love is War

I am including this song even though it was one of the last songs cut from the original release of New Jersey; it was released as a B side to the single Living in Sin. The beginning of it is a bit over the top, but the song is great. It captures the feelings of what sometimes happens in relationships as people change and begin to feel cheated by those changes – sometimes things can get nasty.

New Jersey is an album that represents the pinnacle of Bon Jovi’s career. The band has continued to record great music, and I have all of it, but nothing completely measures up to this rock masterpiece. A 25th anniversary box set was released in July of 2014. It features the original album with extra tracks, a CD with unreleased tracks, and a DVD of the New Jersey tour documentary. As I was gathering a few numbers for this article, I started counting the number of views the videos linked here have on YouTube. The result is a staggering 205,471,009! If you have not listened to New Jersey recently, let this serve as your inspiration to do so. If you have, there is nothing wrong with giving it one more listen.

Wasn’t that awesome!?!?! If you still can’t get enough of this incredible album (and let’s face it, can you ever get enough of it?), check out Rock Out Loud’s most bodacious episode about the New Jersey album.

2 thoughts on “Albums of the ’80s: Bon Jovi – New Jersey”

  1. Lay Your Hands On Me – Is there a better opening to an album? No! Man, I really love this whole album. The weak point for me is Bad Medicine, but as a whole, I love it and it’s an album I still listen to today (I can’t say that for much of my 80s/90s catalog). Great write up!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. There is no better way to open an album! Especially after Slippery When Wet, when we’re wondering how they could possibly follow that album. This was pure perfection. This is one of those albums that is in heavy rotation on my iPod.


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