Bon_jovi_slippery_when_wet

Years ago, when I was still enslaved to the will of Jimmy John and his sammich chain, the song “Wanted Dead Or Alive” was playing overhead, and while I was readying yet another delivery to go, my boss strides out of the kitchen, reading his smart phone, and asks us one of his typical pop culture quiz questions: “Who plays this song?”

I immediately respond with, “Bon Jovi. From their album Slippery When Wet. Released in 1986, on the Mercury label.” Maybe a bit more information than he was actually looking for, but I drove home my point. That being that I am the resident Metal Demigod, and none shall defeat my superior knowledge of all things hard rock and metal. It helps that Slippery When Wet was one part of the overall soundtrack that helped define my Junior High life back in the day.

Ah, Slippery When Wet. This was the album that broke the New Jersey rock band into superstardom. The first two albums – the self-titled debut from 1984, and 1985’s 7800 [degrees] Fahrenheit – were lackluster releases, as far as having massive pop radio appeal, and everything was apparently hinging on the success of the third album, which originally was going to use the working title of Wanted Dead Or Alive after one of the songs included on the album.

Essentially, what happened was, the band brought in professional songwriter Desmond Child to collaborate on the songs, and wrote a grand total of 30 songs. These they decided to demo to the local teenagers in New Jersey and New York to find out what songs didn’t suck.

The original artwork...rather glad they decided against it...

The original artwork…rather glad they decided against it…

That must have worked wonders, getting the outside opinions of the demographic they were shooting for, because when Slippery When Wet was finally released in August of 1986, that thing blew up. The first song, “You Give Love A Bad Name” was everywhere. It was hard rock awesomeness, with slick production, heavy guitars and a hook that you’d need a pair of pliers to remove from your brain. I remember remaining glued to the radio, hoping that song would come on rotation again, just so I could lip sync along to it. The next single, “Livin’ On A Prayer”, was even bigger, having a bit darker edge to it, but still catchy as all get-out. By the time the last two singles – “Wanted Dead Or Alive” and the Junior High dance staple “Never Say Goodbye” – were released, they were firmly embedded in the minds and tape players of my fellow classmates, pretty much almost everyone I knew owning a copy of Slippery When Wet. Of course, it was a while before I was able to own a copy of my own, but that didn’t stop me from taping off the songs from the radio to listen and re-listen to over and over and over.

Outside of the hits, I would argue that Slippery When Wet ranks as one of the best hard rock albums released in the 1980s. At least the Top 10. Sure, there’s the issue of the keyboard player, but let’s face it: the keyboards just enhance the music, and doesn’t overpower it at all. The first song starts off with a keyboard riff, yes, but builds up to a guitar-driven hard rock anthem appropriately titled “Let It Rock”. The next two tracks are the hits “You Give Love A Bad Name” and “Livin’ On A Prayer”, two songs that still hold up to this day, but after listening to them a bazillian times on both their initial run, and later on AOR radio stations, I probably would be able to not care if I never heard them played again. The following song, “Social Disease”, is a catchy if risque rock tune that…um, starts off interesting. Yeah. Anyway, the final song on the first side (if you remember records and tapes) was the immensely popular ode to travel burnout, “Wanted Dead Or Alive”, which I have to admit, proved to me that the acoustic guitar can actually be used for rock beyond just stupid balladeering.

The second side starts off with “Raise Your Hands”, which has a guitar riff that one can argue is close to the speed metal riffs that I had yet to discover (give it a couple of years from that point). “Without Love” is the typical mournful sounding power ballad. Eh. “I’d Die For You” has a rather heavy hooked guitar and keyboard duo that recalls a lot of the style from the mid-80s. The final single hit, “Never Say Goodbye”, is usually skipped (sorry, no need for sentimentality at this stage in life), and the final song – “Wild In The Streets” – brings things to an end, a fitting “roll credits” type end song to an overall solid release.

Yeah, I know I sound like I’m just reviewing this thing, but that’s pretty much my thoughts on the album even way back then. It’s something I can still pop on and rock out to. Back then, I had to be pretty handy with the fast forward button; nowadays I can just program the player to play the songs I like. And yes, for continuity sake, I have all the songs in the MP3 copy I have, along with the artwork and such. And while my memories of Junior High isn’t exactly filled with happy days and sunshine, Slippery When Wet certainly does bring back pleasant memories of the time.

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