Thursday, November 24, 2016

How Slippery When Wet Took Bon Jovi To The Top

What do you do when you're a hard rock band in the mid 1980s making decent music, but no one's buying it?

You bring in a guy with a proven track record for writing hit songs, along with a producer who can get you a radio-friendly sound for your hard rock anthems. And that's just what Bon Jovi did for their monster 1986 album Slippery When Wet.

After the lackluster reception for 1985's 7800° Fahrenheit, despite touring, along with some video and radio play for "In and Out of Love" and "Only Lonely", Jon Bon Jovi, the rest of the band and the record company felt they could do better and take it to the next level.

So their label, Mercury Records, decided to bring in noted songwriter Desmond Child to help Jon Bon Jovi and guitarist Richie Sambora pen a few tracks. Child had helped KISS pen their disco hit "I Was Made for Lovin' You", as well as "Heaven's on Fire".

Additionally, Bon Jovi sought out Canadian Bruce Fairbairn to produce the record after loving the sound of Fairbairn's work on Black 'N Blue's "Without Love". At the time, Fairbairn was a relatively little known producer who had worked with Blue Oyster Cult, Prism and Loverboy.

When working on Slippery When Wet at Vancouver's Little Mountain Sound Studios, Fairbairn had his protege, none other than Bob Rock, handle the engineering and mixing duties.

So Jon Bon Jovi, Sambora and Child hunkered down in the basement of Sambora's mother's New Jersey home and ultimately crafted four tracks for the record, including the bands breakthrough single "You Give Love A Bad Name", the huge "Livin on a Prayer". Both of those songs would shoot up the charts to No. 1, making it the first time in history a hard rock band would have two consecutive No. 1 hits on Billboard's Hot 100 chart. Interestingly, Jon Bon Jovi didn't think "Livin' on a Prayer" should be on the record, while Sambora lobbied heavily for it, knowing it would be a hit. The other two songs written with Child were "I'd Die For You" and "Without Love".

In terms of the other songs on the record, the writing collaboration of Bon Jovi and Sambora found a new groove on one of the band's best songs "Wanted Dead or Alive", the third single released, and "Let It Rock", another stellar track. They also perfected the art of crafting power ballads with the soppy "Never Say Goodbye", which has become a staple at high school graduation dances.

Slippery When Wet: Homage to a Vancouver Stripclub

Slippery When Wet was recorded in the spring of 1986 and when they weren't grinding it out in the studio, the band, naturally, partied hard and frequented the local establishments in Vancouver, including some well known strip joints. Their favourite was the No. 5 Orange Stripclub, where the girls would get soapy on stage. That club became the inspiration for the album title.

In terms of sound, Slippery When Wet boasts a distinct low end, while the drums sound rather tinny, especially the snare sound. The keyboards are at times too loud in the mix, which is otherwise very good. The big gang vocals found on many of the songs' choruses were all the rage in the mid-80s (hear Def Leppard) and this record features plenty of that. Overall though, it was the sound of radio-friendly hard rock in the mid-80s.

Propelled by the hit singles and almost a year and a half of touring, Slippery When Wet easily went platinum in the U.S., and has gone on to sell some 15 million copies worldwide, putting it among the best selling hard rock albums of all time.

No comments:

Post a Comment