Sporting impressive, well-cultivated coifs and flashing toothy, all-American smiles, they were the unparalleled poster boys of the glitzy, glamorous ‘80s pop-metal scene. But strip away the glossy, fashion-friendly finish and, at the core, Bon Jovi always was, and still is, a meat and potatoes rock and roll band with a strong work ethic and a seemingly endless slew of world-class, genre-defying songs.
Dateline — 1990. Bon Jovi had just completed a massive, 18-month world tour in support of their New Jersey record. It was the band’s fourth studio set and their second consecutive multi-platinum smash. In addition to their enormous album success, Bon Jovi had scored an amazing string of eight Top Ten singles since 1986. In the process, they’d become the anointed darlings of MTV.
“In the late-‘80s, Bon Jovi were the band every high school
kid wanted them to be, and MTV needed them to be.”
–Bryan Dumas (Author / Music Instructor)
At the time, to say Bon Jovi was a “big” band, would be like saying McDonald’s was a “successful” franchise. In fact, in the summer of 1990, Bon Jovi’s golden god namesake, Jon Bon Jovi released his highly-anticipated debut solo album — the Young Guns II soundtrack. A double-platinum blockbuster, the record featured the Top 20 singles, “Blaze of Glory” and “Miracle.” Look out fellas — here comes the pendulum!
When the boys dropped their next studio band effort, Keep the Faith, in 1992, the cultural landscape (particularly in the U.S.) had changed drastically. Yet despite being put on “life support,” rock’s “vitals” were strong enough that the album still reached the Billboard Top Five, moved over ten million units worldwide, birthed three more Top 40 singles and boasted another successful international concert tour.
By 1995, the audience for straight-up arena rock had diminished in America even further. However, overseas, the appetite for that brand remained insatiable. And it was in then, 25 years ago this week (June 27. 1995), when Bon Jovi released their sixth record, These Days.
A team production mission between Jon Bon Jovi, guitarist Richie Sambora and Peter Collins (Billy Squier, Rush, Alice Cooper, Suicidal Tendencies, Queensrÿche), the 12-song collection was decidedly darker than the band’s previous projects and since has become regarded widely as their finest work. Although the impeccable craftsmanship of the Jon Bon Jovi/Richie Sambora songwriting partnership had long been recognized as the key component of the thriving Bon Jovi enterprise, These Days pushed maximum density.
“I loved this record the first time I heard it. I still do.”
-Riki Valentine (International touring vet)
Reinforcing their notorious rep for placing a creative thumb firmly on the pulse of current culture, “Hey God” was an urgent, high-energy opener. Equally thought-provoking, “Something for the Pain” benefits from the Picasso-like input of pop master, Desmond Child. Street-smart and fresh-feeling, it’s one of the strongest entries in the celebrated Bon Jovi repertoire.
Another spectacular Desmond Child collab, “This Ain’t a Love Song” was a solid global hit single. In the vein of the band’s past power ballad epics, “I’ll be There for You” and “Bed of Roses,” it was a heart-stopping album stand-out. And Richie Sambora’s precision guitar work — superb, to be sure.
The introspective title track delivers a delicate piano-driven intro and builds into a soaring, organ/harmonica-fueled crescendo. Lyrically, it showcases Jon and Richie at their all-time best.
I was walking around, just a face in the crowd
Trying to keep myself out of the rain
Saw a vagabond king wear a Styrofoam crown
Wondered if I might end up the same
There’s a man out on the corner
Singing old songs about change
Everybody got their cross to bare, these days
From “These Days”
(Written by Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora)
“Lie to Me” finds Jon channeling a more listenable and less pretentious “Springsteen.” The authentic-feeling account of romantic relational tension is brought to life by Richie’s ambient guitar playing and signature backup vocals and is enhanced further by authentic Magical Mystery Tour-type garnish.
Despite the record’s overall WOW! factor, it can at times become a downer — to the point of pandering to the day’s clove-toking hipster contingent. Hey, what about “Livin’ on a Prayer?” What happened to THOSE guys? Truth be told, when you’re as blessed, beautiful and famously successful as Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora, a song like “Something to Believe In” seems as downright disingenuous as the grunge-soaked swill KISS were spewing a year later.
Stripped bare of gratuitous distractions, “Diamond Ring” sparkles like a rare gemstone. Reflecting everything their faithful flock had come to love about the band, this patchouli-scented love song closes out the album in a brand-defining fashion.
In sum, the record certainly lived up to the band’s legacy. And, while some of their subsequent efforts may have felt comparatively pedestrian, These Days shines as one of Bon Jovi’s best and brightest achievements.
These Days Track Listing:
1. Hey God – 6:03
2. Something for the Pain – 4:46
3. This Ain’t a Love Song – 5:06
4. These Days – 6:26
5. Lie to Me – 5:34
6. Damned – 4:35
7. My Guitar Lies Bleeding in My Arms – 5:42
8. (It’s Hard) Letting You Go – 5:50
9. Hearts Breaking Even – 5:05
10. Something to Believe In – 5:25
11. If That’s What It Takes – 5:17
12. Diamond Ring – 3:46
Running Time: 63:55
Release Date: June 27, 1995
Record Label: Mercury