Monday, October 25th, 2010

Dear Jon Bon Jovi

Dear Bon Jovi,

Sorry for throwing empty beer cans on your lawn.

You know how sometimes you tell the day by the bottle that you drink, and then times when you’re alone and all you do is think? Well, sometimes when you’re 17, and a world-famous rock star who is famously from the state where you live but whose music you strongly dislike buys a fancy house on a cul-de-sac in the next town over from yours, you find out where that house is and drive over there with a bunch of your friends and sit outside in your car and drink beer and throw the empty cans over the fence into the rock star’s lawn. Like, three times.

Kind of obnoxious, I realize, to start an apology by making fun of song lyrics you wrote almost 25 years ago. Though I do think they are incredibly bad. They are some of the worst lyrics I can think of. Maybe just after the ones from Kansas’s “Carry On My Wayward Son” about masquerading as a man with a reason, and how that charade is the event of the season.

But I didn’t intend this to be a critique of your lyrics. Whatever my opinion of them, it’s no excuse for vandalism. The fact is, I think it’s wrong to throw empty beer cans, or any other trash, on another person’s lawn, under pretty much any circumstances. Even if that person surely has a well-paid grounds crew on hand to pick it up for them. Especially in that case, really, when you think about it. It’s not like the guys in your grounds crew wrote “Wanted Dead Or Alive” or “Livin’ On a Prayer” or titled their album Slippery When Wet.

Jesus, this must be the least apologetic-sounding apology you’ve ever gotten. Obviously, I’m still conflicted about your contribution to my home state’s cultural image. (You know, you titled your next album New Jersey.) A couple years from now, I’ll probably be writing you another apology just for the tone of this one. So before I fall into some kind of infinite regression, allow me to be sincere again:

While I believe very much in forgiving youthful indiscretion, including my own, I also believe in taking responsibility for one’s actions. It was my idea, to drive to your house, to park there, to throw the first can. There were often other cars parked there, too. Your real fans, I assumed. I remember a Camaro was there once, and I wondered whether its inhabitants would want to fight us or something when they saw what we were doing. I had a twinge of guilt, too, at the thought. Here they were, honestly liking you, hoping for a chance at an autograph, maybe. What must have they felt like, watching us insult you? Who made us the taste police? I wish I had thought then, as I do now: no matter how I feel about the music someone makes, that someone is an actual person. He actually lives in that house, and this is not cool.

And you’re probably a really good person. I’ve never heard anything otherwise. In fact, this past summer, when I was back in New Jersey for the weekend, I ran into an old friend of mine, Matt Cheslock, who told me you’d been doing a lot of charity work lately with his father, who is a doctor and a good person. Apparently, you’ve been helping a lot of people that don’t have health insurance to get medical treatment. This is an unmitigated good, regardless of the quality of the lyrics of any given song. Sorry again. I just can’t let the lyrics thing go. Maybe you’d even agree at this point, though, huh? I mean, it’s okay, right? Lyrics are just one element of a song. A small part, really, of your job. You’re 48, I’m almost 40. Everything is more complex than we think it is when we’re kids, right? There's nothing wrong with reassessing our past work. I mean, we should see things as they are. As ridiculous as those lyrics are, they're kind of perfect in their way. I mean, for a silly, pubescent, rock-star-outlaw-cowboy thing. Like Foreigner’s “Juke Box Hero," too, right? I mean, I loved that song when I was twelve. Or Bad Company's "Shooting Star." Or Bob Seger’s “Turn the Page,”—that must have been a big influence, right? Honestly, I probably would have been the biggest Bon Jovi fan going if “Wanted Dead Or Alive” had come out three years earlier than it did. In fact, I remember really liking the first song of yours that I ever heard, “Runaway,” which did come out three years earlier, in 1983, when it won that battle of the bands contest on 103.5 WAPP. I remember hearing it at the 7-11, waiting on line to play Ms. Pac-Man. That dynamite keyboard line, and then your voice comes in: “On the street where you live girls talk about their social lives…” It fit the scene just right. I still like that song! But even if you did agree with me about the problems with “Wanted Dead Or Alive,” even if you chuckled and said, “Yeah, you know, thinking back, I have to admit, those lyrics are pretty silly,” that wouldn’t change the fact that this song, this thing you thought of with your brain, is inarguably a classic. Get in a car anywhere, drive around for an hour listening to the radio, you're bound to hear it—New Jersey and Long Island, of course, but California and South Carolina, too. Almost 25 years since it came out, your song gets played on the radio, how many times every day? Hundreds? Thousands? How many classic rock stations are there in the country? It must be very satisfying. Not to mention the money it’s made you. I don’t say this to be a dick. You deserve that money. It’s a very catchy song, eminently sing-alongable with, especially the part where Richie echoes you in the chorus, where he makes “wanted” into a four-syllable word. “Wan-teh-eh-ed!” Everybody loves to sing that part. Everybody fights over it at karaoke. You know this. You wrote that melody with your brain. Surely you know how so many people love it. You’ve been everywhere. You’re standing tall. You’ve seen a million faces and you’ve rocked them all. I’m sorry I can’t help it. Those lyrics! God, they’re awful, right?! Just totally, ridiculously overblown! You know it, too, right?! I mean, come on! You must know it. You must laugh about it, right? You and Richie and Heather or Denise or whoever he’s hanging out with at the moment. I’m sorry, I’m being a dick again. I don’t know what it’s like to be famous. But, man, “a loaded six-string on your back?!” Ha ha ha ha! Right?! But it’s okay! It doesn’t matter. No matter how awful I think those lyrics are, no matter how much they make me laugh my snotty laugh, I know them all by heart. I sing along at the top of my lungs when I'm in the car. Jokingly, sure, mostly. But also, I have to say, I’ve come to love them in a way. In a confusing and complicated way. In a way perhaps not entirely unlike the way you can feel sort of proud about some dumb thing you did when you were a drunk punk kid, even as you know, and are fully willing to admit, that it was wrong and so are, at the same time, honestly ashamed of it. Those lyrics are a part of me. They’re a part of New Jersey, the culture. A part of our state’s big stinky stupid romantic gorgeous ugly awesome cheesy swamp. And you wrote them.

What did I ever do? I threw beer cans on your lawn.

35 Comments / Post A Comment

Art Yucko (#1,321)


there. fixed.

Matt (#26)

Good lookin' out, as ever. Arty Ucko, A Dude Supreme

A.R. Chrisman (#2,964)

SOM is a glog about correcting Dave Bry?

Matt (#26)

Summer of Megadeth Internet Glog is a glog about correcting everything, and correcting nothing.

boyofdestiny (#1,243)

It's a good thing this got posted so late in the workday. I don't know if I can handle reading the inevitable 50+ comments lambasting my personal hero.

deepomega (#1,720)

I assume you're referring to Richie Sambora.

Art Yucko (#1,321)

any slights of Ronnie James Dio on this thread are punishable with flaying by spider-chord.

-The Inquisitor.

deepomega (#1,720)

Mr. Bry, I hope you're happy to know that today you have rocked my face. All of my face.

Bittersweet (#765)

Nicely written, Dave, but stop saying your Bon Jovi love is "confusing and complicated" and just embrace the cheese. Sometimes the sublime and the ridiculous meet for drinks and sing 80s karaoke.

boyofdestiny (#1,243)

Right? An uncritical and irrational love for JBJ is part of our Jersey cultural inheritance.


You live for the cheese when it's all that you've got.

C_Webb (#855)

Sometimes "Lonely is the Night" feels really TRUE.

hockeymom (#143)

My god, I can only imagine what you did to Springsteen when you heard Dancing in the Dark.

A.R. Chrisman (#2,964)

Dave, you have some intense feelings about "Turn the Page".

I want to know Dave's thoughts on the lyrics in Boston's Boston. "He smoked a big cigar and drove a Cadillac car…"

iantenna (#5,160)

are you speaking ill of bob seger? because i will cut a person (metaphorically, across the internet) for speaking ill of bob seger.

NinetyNine (#98)

I was once reprimanded by the owner-operator of a blog that username way to go dot tumblr dot com doesn't believe exists for suggesting that Bob Seger was hacky. And I'm someone who thought the inclusion of 'Night Moves' in American Pop was awesome.


6h057 (#1,914)

Getting banned on the bbs is the new posting backchannel jokes up front.

C_Webb (#855)

I've been waiting on the thunder for, like, 25 years now. Sadly.

Matt (#26)

Why are we talking about Bob Saget?

brianvan (#149)

Sinatra famously drank whatever was left in the alcohol containers thrown at his house. "Hate to see a good thing go to waste", he'd say at 7:30am, right before he slapped his wife for the first time each day.

Matt (#26)

I think you mean "Bing Crosby," dude.

6h057 (#1,914)

@Matt I think you misunderstand the meaning of Bing.

Louis Fyne (#2,066)

"waiting on line"


jolie (#16)

You can't rip on Kansas. Not cool, dude.

Art Yucko (#1,321)

not. cool. at all.
The only good thing that ever came out of Top City.

cuiveen (#370)

I, too, liked Runaway but blanched when I heard all the rest. I also did not like acid wash jeans and yet here we are. (OMG I LOVE THIS COMMENT EDIT THING! IT EVEN HAS A COUNTDOWN! SQUEEE!!!)

Dave Bry (#422)

Bittersweet: I agree. But I'm still conflicted. The point where the appreciation of kitsch transitions into something more heartfelt, it shakes your foundations. (As AC/DC would put it.)

Boy of Destiny: But how do we reconcile that inheritance with the truly beautiful poetry of Springsteen lyrics? Hoe can we be uncritical when we know so much better?

C Webb: It feels especially true when you find yourself alone. That's when your demons come to life, and your mind is not your own. But that "Lonely is the Night" is a Billy Squier song. One that I love. But again, I think it's a matter of timing. Billy Squier's first three albums are all very important to me. I even rocked with "Rock Me Tonight," in 1984, when I was 13. And jesus, that video. Talk about conflict. I didn't know what to do with that one! But three years later, by the time "Slippery When Wet" came out, I was listening to the Smiths and wishing I lived somewhere far, far away from Bon Jovi. Which is to say, maybe I haven't given Bon Jovi's "Lonely is the Night" the serious listening and consideration it deserves.

You know, one solution to the problem might just be maybe "don't listen to the radio"?

C_Webb (#855)

Holy cow, I had no idea Bon Jovi covered "Lonely is the Night!" I was making a general point about the glories of 80s anthem karaoke, and Billy Squier is my go-to number. I somehow managed to completely miss the Bon Jovi thing — prolly because I was a Deadhead at the time, and if it wasn't reeking of reefer, I didn't smoke it, hang out with it, or listen to it.

Dave Bry (#422)

Oh, no. Bon Jovi's "Lonely is the Night" is a different song completely. (And needless to say, it doesn't hold a candle to Squire's.)

This is really a fascinating blog, lots of stuff that I can get into. One thing I just want to say is that your Blog is so perfect
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goodboy3 (#178,044)

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