“Made of lipstick, plastic and paint”: Bon Jovi made Metal-lite safe for teenage consumption

By on May 16, 2018

Have a peek at Night Flight’s 1989 Bon Jovi video profile, featuring more than a half-dozen of the classic videos by the band Night Flight’s Pat Prescott says made “Metal-lite safe for teenage consumption.”

It’s streaming on Night Flight Plus.

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On April 14, 2018, Bon Jovi fans rejoiced when the band were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, whose website assures us they’ve “influenced innumerable young bands seeking to follow in their footsteps” (which we think means future Hall of Famers Hoobastank and My Chemical Romance).

At the induction ceremony, Howard Stern — the band’s longtime friend — gave a twenty minute speech in which he reminded us that Jon Bon Jovi was “the man who single-handedly destroyed most of the ozone layer in the ’80s with Aqua Net hairspray.”

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Stern also told reminded us that the band were “virtually broke” when they were recording their 1985 album 7800 Degrees Fahrenheit, living together in an apartment in Philadelphia.

They slept on the floor “when it was twelve degrees below zero outside,” with only “Jon’s hair and drummer Tico Torres’ farts to keep them warm.”

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Read more about Bon Jovi (only about half of which is true, the rest is “fake news” that we made up) below.

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John Francis Bongiovi, Jr., born in March of 1962, grew up in Sayreville, New Jersey.

He didn’t start out wanting to be a rock star (although he has said he’s a blood relative of Frank Sinatra).

At age thirteen, he’d told his parents — both former Marines, his father a hairdresser (and personally responsible for his son’s poodle perm cuts) and his mother, a former Playboy bunny — of his desire to attend classes at Robert Fiance Beauty School in Perth Amboy, NJ.

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Unfortunately, it was discovered as Bongiovi went through puberty that he suffered from hypogonadism, which results in underdeveloped, peanut-sized testicles.

Since he wasn’t able to play contact sports, he was allowed to take guitar lessons. He ended up excelling in something called “the Pizza Strum,” and began writing his first (mostly insipid) songs.

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Bongiovi was also interested in clothing design, and spent a lot of idle hours alone in his bedroom, sketching colorful smock designs for dental hygienists.

He had lofty dreams that one day he might be able to work for Aerosmith as Steven Tyler’s scarf wrangler (he probably would have settled for wrangling Stevie Nicks’ scarves).

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The summer he turned fourteen, Bongiovi attended Fashion Camp at Camp Riverbend in Warren, NJ, where he made his first bedazzled scarves and decorative abalone butterflies, which he sold later at a local mall kiosk.

Bongiovi also led a campfire sing-a-long, singing some of his favorite songs by Punky Meadow’s band Angel and a few of the Carpenters’ lactose-free early ’70s hits.

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It was at Marbles, a support group for small-balled Northern New Jersey teenage boys, that Bongiovi met a few other small-ballers, forming his first band.

They were called The Rest, a name inspired by something his school pals had suggested (it turned out that he’d misunderstood them when they told him he should “give it a rest”).

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Bongiovi’s cousin, Tony Bongiovi, owned the Power Station, the famous NYC recording studio, and gave him a job, when he was seventeen, sweeping the floors at night.

Bongiovi eventually made his first appearance on a recording by Meco, a track for his Christmas in the Stars: The Star Wars Christmas Album called “R2-D2, We Wish You A Merry Christmas.”

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In June of 1982, Biongiovi — now calling himself “Jon Bon Jovi” — began recording some of his songs.

One of those was “Runaway,” which lyrically gave Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen some real competition in wordsmithery:

On the street where you live, girls talk about their social lives
They’re made of lipstick, plastic and paint, a touch of sable in their eyes
All your life, all your life, all you’ve asked when’s your daddy gonna talk to you
But you were living in another world, tryin’ to get your message through

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“Runaway” ended up becoming a Top Forty hit in 1983 — #39 on Billboard‘s Hot 100 — and he now needed a real band to back him up.

He asked the group of studio session players who had played on the track if they wanted to become his permanent backing band. They emphatically said “no.”

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Bon Jovi eventually found other musicians he’d sung with in the outdoor plaza at Marbles, including keyboardist David Bryan, bassist Alec John Such and drummer Tico Torres.

Bon Jovi later replaced original lead guitarist Dave Sabo with Richie Sambora, and before long their band — who were also called Bon Jovi — were offered a recording contract with Polygram Records.

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If you’ve read this far, you probably realize some of the above is made up (but some of it wasn’t!).

With Bon Jovi, it’s hard to know where the real truth stops and the frivolity begins.

This much is clear: with formulaic pop chart success, you don’t fuck with the formula, which is why Bon Jovi became one of the biggest-selling hair-metal bands of all-time.

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They’ve sold more than 120 million records worldwide, performing more than 2,600 concerts in over 50 countries for more than 34 million fans (Bon Jovi estimates he’s pointed from the stage at more than 32 million fans alone).

Bon Jovi also credits his female fans for teaching him how to shimmy into too-tight rock star jeans without crushing a testicle (easy to do if your balls are on the smallish side).

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Watch Night Flight’s Bon Jovi video profile on Night Flight Plus.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.