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Posts Tagged ‘Bon Jovi’

So, last week, I went out for a short jog, and I had an idea. (Yeah, I had the idea a week ago… it just took a while for me to write the darn thing…) Anyway, the idea Running Musicwas this: why not write a blog entry on the songs randomly playing on my iPod during my run? Hey, it’s just as inane as 91% of all the other stuff on the Web, right? So, in a very much particular order:

“Runaway,” Bon Jovi: Even though this song is their first hit (in fact, it essentially pre-dates the band, in that Bon Jovi the guy was performing it before he assembled Bon Jovi the band), I just figured out the lyrics recently– as in, like, today.

To me, the song was always about a girl who turned to prostitution because her daddy never showed her love when she was a kid. The lyric at the beginning about the gaudily made-up women lays the groundwork for this interpretation, and the “Now she works the night away” line at the end cliches it.  But then there’s that part in the second verse, that begins “Now you sit home alone ’cause there’s nothing left for you to do.”  What’s that all about?

Then I realized I was falling victim to that ol’ poetic pitfall: ambiguous pronouns.  See, the song makes reference to a “you,” only sometimes the “you” is the girl, and sometimes, the “you” is the dad.  So in the second verse, the “you” is the dad sitting home, looking at pictures of his daughter, beating himself up for not being there for her when she was younger and thus sending her down this path of self-destruction. So, really, this song is about the importance of paternal love in shaping a child’s fate.

And thus, I have spent more time thinking about this song than perhaps anyone else in the world (with the possible exception of Bon Jovi himself).

“You Give Love a Bad Name,” Bon Jovi: Hey, whaddaya know?  Two Bon Jovi songs in a row, even though I had the iPod on shuffle!  What are the odds?  (Actually, I guess I could figure out the odds quite easily: 529 songs on the iPod, 10 of which are Bon Jovi. Of course, the same song is not going to play twice in a row, so that means… Ahh, screw it.  I lost interest.)

When I was out running, I almost skipped this one, not only because it came on the heels of another JBJ song, but because, after nearly twenty-eight years, I have perhaps grown a little weary of it. Heck, after twenty-eight years, even Bon Jovi himself is probably sick of it.

This got me thinking: Is “You Give Love a Bad Name” Bon Jovi’s “signature song”?  I mean, it’s one of his signature songs… but is it THE signature song? I’d probably give the honors to “Livin’ on a Prayer”… but it’s close. (And where does “Wanted Dead or Alive” fit in?  Is it a dark horse?)

“Doctor My Eyes,” Jackson Browne:  Juxtaposin’ Jackson gives us a great contrast here, with the upbeat piano coupled with sort of depressing lyrics.  And apparently, the first incarnation of the song was even grimmer. The central metaphor of the song has always been the same: a guy goes to see a doctor because he believes he’s having problems with his eyes– particularly, his tear ducts don’t seem to be working.  But the doctor can’t help him because the guy’s problem is not physical but metaphysical: the guy has soured on everything he’s seen in life and has “learned how not to cry.”

At the urging of some record company folks, Jackson removed some of the more pessimistic lyrics (e.g. a reference to an “Angel of Darkness”), sped up the piano, and added bongos. The result is Jackson Browne’s first big hit and a surprisingly great running song– yes, even better than “Running on Empty.”

“Bad,” U2: Another surprisingly great running song– and I say “surprising,” because it’s allegedly about heroin abuse. Even though never released as a single, this is the song that made U2 the Best! Band! in the World! back in 1985, thanks to Bono’s antics at Live Aid.  If you haven’t seen the Live Aid performance, check it out, especially the part where Bono jumps into the crowd and embraces two female fans, after the security plucks them out of the packed-like-sardines crowd.

The name “Bad” is actually fitting, since the Live Aid performance has a “Bad” news/ “Good” news thing going on:

“Bad” News:  the crowd interaction (plus some snippets from Lou Reed and the Rolling Stones, which Bono threw in) stretched “Bad” out to twelve minutes, which meant they didn’t have time for their third song (“Pride”).  As a result, the band was initially disappointed with their set; in a 1987 interview, guitarist Edge admitted, “We came offstage after Live Aid, and we thought we had really blown it.”

“Good” News: fans really appreciated Bono’s spontaneous persistence in getting to those fans, the song sounded great, and the whole thing put U2 on the mainstream map.

“Boy in the Bubble,” Paul Simon Not necessarily a great running song (with that funky, South African piano accordion), but a fascinating song nonetheless.   To me, the song is about advances in technology, both good and bad:  the “boy in the bubble and the baby with the baboon heart” (good) juxtaposed with the “lasers in the jungle somewhere” (bad).  Allegedly, Paul Simon once said the song is about “hope and dread… but coming down on the side of hope,” and I guess the repetition of “these are the days of miracle and wonder” in the chorus underscores that sense of hope. (For a way more advanced analysis of this and apparently every other Paul Simon song, click here.)

By the way, is  “boy in the bubble and the baby with the baboon heart” just about the best alliteration in pop music? At the very least, it’s tied with Warren Zevon’s “little old lady got mutilated late last night” from “Werewolves of London”…

“Here’s Where the Story Ends,” The SundaysAnd here is where the run ends, as it turns out. Great song, and I love the poetry of the line “a little souvenir of a terrible year.”  As for the rest of the lyrics?  In truth, I couldn’t understand all of them; even when I went back and finally read the lyrics, I didn’t understand them. (Who knew she was talking about a “shed” in the chorus?  What happened there?)  But I love the sound nonetheless, and I always thought it should have been more popular.

And there it is– the musical score for that day’s run.  I’ve heard some folks say that they don’t like to listen to music as they jog, but personally, I don’t know how you could run without music.  A good song can get your feet moving as well as your mind– and even give you the material for a blog post.

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Much like Tommy and Gina who were immortalized in song by Bon Jovi, Sheri and I are likewise halfway there.  That’s right: Today marks the half-way point of the National Blog Posting Month Challenge.

When I first floated the idea of doing this challenge, Sheri wanted to throw up. It all seemed so daunting—still does, in fact.  But fourteen blog posts later—on topics ranging from golden Buddhas to warring poets to Patrick Swayze—we’re somehow still standing.

We thought we’d commemorate this milestone by reflecting on what these past two weeks have taught us about blogging.  And, naturally, in keeping with the title of this post, we’re going to link these lessons to words spoken by that Great Sage of Everything, Bon Jovi.

“It’s all the same, only the (posts) have changed…” (from “Wanted Dead or Alive”):  Even though we had no idea what we were getting into when we started this, we set down a few guidelines for ourselves:  we wanted to write something every day, not just post something—that is, we didn’t want to copy and paste quippy lists or some trite-posing-as-inspirational poems we found on the Internet; we wanted to write something pseudo-substantial or at least vaguely interesting each day, not just a few sentences or a dirty limerick; and we didn’t want to write the same sort of things every day.  We wanted to change things up each time.  And while that seems liberating (Write about whatever you want? Cool!), it can actually be kind of paralyzing. (Maybe we should have stuck with the dirty limericks?)

“Tomorrow’s getting harder, make no mistake” (from “It’s My Life”) AND “I don’t know where I’m going/ Only God knows where I’ve been” (from “Blaze of Glory”):  Coming up with a blog entry that fit the above criteria for one day is manageable… but what about the next day?  And the day after that?  Blogging, we’ve discovered, is relentless… and I guess Sheri and I tend to be relentful.  Good thing we’re doing this together; we’re able to trade off days or pick up the slack if the other one is swamped.  We absolutely commend anyone out there who is doing this solo.

“Lock the doors/ We’ll leave the world outside” (from “Thank You for Loving Me”):  One of the hardest truths we’ve learned about blogging is that you cannot, in fact, leave the world outside.  Instead, the world is still expecting you to engage in all your ordinary worldly activities—like taking care of your kids, or eating, or raking leaves, or even going to work once in a while.  (Wouldn’t this contest be so much easier if everyone else in the world was doing it as well?  Then you could just say, “Sorry, can’t generate that annual report this month… gotta do some blogging.”  Why do we always have to accommodate the non-writers out there?)

Having said all this, we still think this has been an exhilarating experience so far.  We’ve been forced to exercise our minds every day, and we’ve become part of a community of other like-minded lunatics who’ve taken on this same challenge.  And lookee here: we’re already at the halfway point.

And so, as we look ahead to the next fifteen days, I want to say to my writing-partner, the one who wanted to vomit at the very thought of this: “Take my hand, we’ll make it I swear.”

Have a nice day!

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We are beautiful in every single way
Yes, words can’t bring us down, oh no
So don’t you bring me down today

In her song “Beautiful” Christina Aguilera makes a powerful case for what words can’t do.  On Friday night, while watching “Hurricane Sandy: Coming Together,” the NBC benefit concert for victims of the recent hurricane which ravaged New Jersey and New York, we learned something about what words can do.  And it was just as powerful.

Especially when you consider that they didn’t have much time to put the show together, the show boasted a star-studded line-up:  Christina Aguilera, Jon Bon Jovi, Billy Joel, Steven Tyler, Mary J. Blige, Sting, and Bruce Springsteen. These are legends, and they totally brought it on Friday night (well, except for the unfortunate group number of “Under the Boardwalk,” with Jimmy Fallon inexplicably doing lead vocals.)  And knowing that several of these performers had personal connections to these states—Billy Joel and Mary J. Blige to New York, Springsteen and Bon Jovi to New Jersey—intensified the impact of their performances. (As for Sting—no, he’s not from either state, but let’s face it, what benefit concert is complete without him?)

But what truly amazed us was how each performer chose a song from his or her repertoire that seemed as if it were specifically written for this terrible storm and its aftermath.  As we were watching, we couldn’t believe how perfect some of these lyrics were, and it made the show all the more haunting and effective because of it.

For example, when Jon Bon Jovi sang (as part a stripped-down mash-up of “Who Says You Can’t Go Home” and “Livin’ on a Prayer”) lyrics such as “There’s only one place left I want to go” or “We’ve gotta hold on to what we’ve got,” you almost forgot that you’ve heard both of those songs about three hundred million times before. Now, those words, paired with the sobering images on the screen behind Bon Jovi as he sang them, took on a new meaning.  These people really couldn’t go home again… at least not right now.

Same goes for Billy Joel’s “Miami 2017: Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway” which actually includes the lyrics “They turned our power down/ And drove us underground/ But we went right on with the show.”

When Sting, during an intensely somber performance of “Message in a Bottle” sang the lyric “a hundred billion castaways looking for a home,” we were haunted by the screen images of entire neighborhoods destroyed by floods or fire.

Typically, the beauty of a song can be found in its metaphorical meaning… the message that can found underneath the literal meaning of the lyrics.  In a reversal of this experience, what struck us about this concert was the way in which this literal meaning reached out to (and in some cases broke) our hearts.  Each song took on new meaning in a way that transformed it and gave it new life.  Sting was literally sending out an S.O.S. to the world.  And it had us running for our phone to donate to the Red Cross.

Of course, no one does the “lyrics take on new meaning” magic trick quite like Springsteen.  Eleven years ago, for the post-9/11 “America: A Tribute to Heroes,” Springsteen played a song called “My City in Ruins”—the lyrics of which fit so perfectly to the September 11th tragedy that it was almost impossible to believe that he wrote the song a year before and that he was talking about his beloved Asbury Park.

After 9/11, Springsteen opened the “Tribute to Heroes” show.  At Friday night’s concert, he came on last, and he deserved to: with all due respect to Bon Jovi (and, of course, Frank Sinatra), this guy IS New Jersey. His selection for this show, “Land of Hopes and Dreams,” is a song he originally wrote in 1998– but darn it if lyrics such as “I’ll stand by your side” and “tomorrow there’ll be sunshine and all this darkness past” seem exactly the kind of pick-me-up New Jerseyans need right now from their Boss.

“Words can’t bring us down,” Christina Aguilera tells us.  But we know that’s not true. Words can bring us down. But they can do other things. too.  They can inform and inspire and force us off the chair and make a donation, to the tune of $23 million.  And those things are… beautiful.

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