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I have never-ending love for the guys in this band, says Jon Bon Jovi

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JON BON JOVI was the New Jersey kid who aimed for the stars with no plan B.

In a scene from the new Bon Jovi docuseries, Thank You, Goodnight, the frontman is looking at footage of his younger self on stage.

Rocker Jon Bon Jovi has opened up about his love for his band members as they release their latest album, Forever

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Rocker Jon Bon Jovi has opened up about his love for his band members as they release their latest album, Forever
It is 40 years since Bon Jovi began their journey from the clubs of the Jersey Shore to become a global phenomenon

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It is 40 years since Bon Jovi began their journey from the clubs of the Jersey Shore to become a global phenomenon
The band is made up of (left to right) Phil X, David Bryan, Jon, Tico Torres and Hugh McDonald

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The band is made up of (left to right) Phil X, David Bryan, Jon, Tico Torres and Hugh McDonald

The crazy hair, the heart-throb good looks, the outrageous outfit, the high energy, the singalong chorus, the crowd going wild.

“Showboating f***er,” he smiles wryly. “One of the best there ever was.”

For the second part of my interview, this intriguing character picks up the theme.

“It took audacity to go up on a stage where the Rolling Stones could be playing the next night,” says Jon. “We had a lot of nerve.”

READ MORE ON JON BON JOVI

It is 40 years since Bon Jovi began their journey from the clubs of the Jersey Shore to become a global phenomenon.

With crowd pleasers like Livin’ On A Prayer, You Give Love A Bad Name and Bad Medicine, they bridged the gap between hard rock and chart pop without a glance in the rear-view mirror.

For Jon, none of it could have happened without the band of brothers who have been with him through thick and thin.

“Got a fistful of friends that will stand up for me,” he sings on Legendary, lead track on the new Bon Jovi record.

This helps explain why their 16th studio album is called Forever. “I was just thinking that everybody has given so much for so long — 40 years,” he affirms.

“Who knows if we’ll be around for 50, let alone be making records? This was a good milestone to mark.”

Who is Jon Bon Jovi’s wife, Dorothea Hurley?

‘This nobody kid’

Of his bandmates past and present, he adds: “I look back on my relationships with such deep gratitude.

“Each of them bought into my dream and helped me facilitate it. The collective is why I get to talk to you today.”

First, Jon singles out drummer Tico Torres, who, at 70, is eight years his senior.

“When I met him, he was established in a band with a record deal.

“He had a wife and mortgage to pay but he said, ‘I’ll give it all up for this nobody kid who doesn’t have a deal yet.’”

Jon shows his affection for shaggy-haired keyboard player David Bryan, who has been with him longer than anyone.

“Dave left school to stand by my side when I was 16. He said, ‘School isn’t going to be so much fun, I’d rather follow him.’

“How much more grateful can I possibly be? I have never-ending love for these guys.”

Another key member of the Bon Jovi family is recording engineer Obie O’Brien, who has also been there from the start.

The others could enjoy the ride but me and Richie would go, ‘Holy s**t, we’ve got to write another song, how are we going to do that?’

Jon on his relationship with Richie Sambora

Jon says: “His support has been undying. If I call, he’ll drop what he’s doing and work for us. I couldn’t ask for a better best friend than Obie.”

But then, of course, there’s guitarist Richie Sambora, who left Bon Jovi mid-tour in 2013, causing much upset.

Jon says that he and, to a lesser extent, Sambora, his songwriting partner through the glory years, had to shoulder most of the responsibility.

“The others could enjoy the ride but me and Richie would go, ‘Holy s**t, we’ve got to write another song, how are we going to do that?’”

Sambora’s replacement, flamboyant Canadian Phil X, has had big shoes to fill.

“I’m so blessed to have him,” says Jon. “When Richie was in rehab in 2011, Phil stood in for him and, from 2013 on, he’s been with us permanently.

“I know this sounds a little less than warm, but it’s not the same as it was. He’s not a collaborator as a songwriter.”

However, Jon is full of praise for Phil X’s contributions to the Forever album, which is filled with extravagant licks.

“He played so well and was very creative. He’s just a joy to be around. He loves life.”

Next, Jon pays tribute to original bassist Alec John Such, who left the band in 1994, and died “too young” from a heart attack in 2022 aged 70.

When Bon Jovi were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame in 2018, this “sweet, crazy character” joined them on stage one last time.

‘I didn’t take drugs’

Jon reminisces about Such’s madcap antics: “On our very first tour, we were in Germany on one of those bad tour buses, driving to a show to open for Kiss.

“We got to the hotel and, by five in the afternoon, this son of a bitch still hadn’t arrived so I was trying to learn his bass parts.”

He continues: “I thought, ‘If I don’t kill him, I’ll have to deal with this tomorrow.’ Then he finally turned up and said, ‘I was fishing.’ I shouted back, ‘You were what? You were f***ing fishing?’

“Al was like Peter Pan and the Lost Boys. He’d come back and tell us all these unbelievable tales.

“He got arrested on more than one occasion. He had this antique gun built into his belt buckle — on stage at Madison Square Garden!

“Next sound you hear is, ‘click, click’, handcuffs, and New York police telling him, ‘Let’s go.’ That was Al.”

Throughout Bon Jovi’s 40-year rollercoaster ride, Jon has had to be the sensible one, the glue holding the band together.

Confusing and not as pleasurable for me as it was for the guys in the band

Jon on the monster succes of Bon Jovi in the 8Os

He says: “Some of the guys could go on a bender or some kind of trip, then wake up in the morning and say, ‘OK, cool, let’s go.’”

Jon recalls that “Tico was not a good drunk. He was angry and he had to work through it.

“But, with a snap of his fingers, he gave up and hasn’t had a drink in well over 30 years.”

As for the singer himself, he insists: “I simply did not have the mental fortitude for taking drugs.

I also had something as big as your thumbnail supporting the ecosystem.” (A reference to his vocal cords which recently required surgery.)

So what was it like for Jon when Bon Jovi became the biggest band in the world in the late Eighties on the back of two monster albums, Slippery When Wet and New Jersey?

“Confusing and not as pleasurable for me as it was for the guys in the band,” Jon replies.

“For me, it was a case of, ‘How do I do this tomorrow night and the next night?’

“That took its toll on me emotionally. If there’s one thing I wish I could tell my younger self, it is, ‘Enjoy it more.’”

With that, we move to the present day and take a deep dive into songs on Forever, which brings enjoyment back front and centre to the world of Bon Jovi.

Masterful vocal performance

Two take listeners to the start of Jon’s musical journey.

We Made It Look Easy harks back to his first bands, Atlantic City Expressway and Jon Bongiovi and the Wild Ones, as well serving as a “thank you” to all his bandmates past and present.

“Jersey Shore cover bands, couple of friends in the stand, on a Saturday night,” goes the evocative track.

Another nostalgic song finds Jon singing the hilarious chorus, “I’m in love with my first guitar.”

He recounts the back story: “I had a cheap Japanese sunburst Stratocaster-style guitar made by a company called Univox.

“My parents bought it for me for a hundred dollars and it was perfectly fine. It came in a cardboard case with crushed red velvet inside.

“Around 1979, I sold it to a neighbourhood kid. Then, in 2023, a volunteer at the Soul Kitchen (part of the charitable foundation Jon runs with wife Dorothea) said, ‘I know the kid you sold it to. He thinks the guitar belongs to you and would you like to buy it back?’”

Turned out that this “kid” still lived in Jon’s hometown of Sayreville and was a retired police officer.

The reunion after 44 years between singer and his precious guitar was agreed — and it gave him a song.

Jon says: “The guy was incredibly kind and didn’t want much money. Not only had the guitar never been touched in that time, but I believe it still had my sweat marks on it.”

This brings us to one of Forever’s strong rock tracks, Living Proof, which acts as a testament to Bon Jovi’s endurance.

Now I’ve realised, in our own little way, that some of these songs are part of the patchwork of pop culture. They’re not just the Macarena.

Jon on the band’s legacy

It employs a talk box — a weird device that allows a guitar to “speak” — which was used so effectively on Livin’ On A Prayer.

Jon explains: “The talk box is very much identified with us and, of course, we stole it from Peter Frampton and Joe Walsh — guilty as charged.

“We’ve used it in other songs since Livin’ On A Prayer. So using it again was no harm, no foul. If Slash pulled it out for Guns N’ Roses, it would be another matter.”

The final song on Forever, the country-tinged Hollow Man, is a reflective ballad with a masterful vocal performance and some of Jon’s most affecting lyrics.

He recites two lines: “What do you sing when the song’s been sung? Who do you fight when the war is won?”

Then he adds: “After 40 years, I can ask those questions.” Though the song has an air of finality, I sense that we’re far from Bon Jovi’s final chapter — but Jon IS thinking about how he and the band will be remembered.

The self-confessed hoarder has kept a load of archive video, sound recordings and memorabilia which will be rolled through an exhibition, a “Backstage With Bon Jovi” website and physical releases.

He says: “Legacy is important to me as I’ve gotten older. I want to leave something behind that will outlive me — for my kids, for their kids.

“Now I’ve realised, in our own little way, that some of these songs are part of the patchwork of pop culture. They’re not just the Macarena.”

Jon pays tribute to original bassist Alec John Such, who left the band in 1994, and died 'too young' from a heart attack in 2022 aged 70

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Jon pays tribute to original bassist Alec John Such, who left the band in 1994, and died ‘too young’ from a heart attack in 2022 aged 70Credit: Alamy
Richie Sambora left Bon Jovi mid-tour in 2013, causing much upset

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Richie Sambora left Bon Jovi mid-tour in 2013, causing much upsetCredit: Getty Images – Getty
The rocker with wife Dorothea - who Jon has described as a 'legend' and 'pillar'

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The rocker with wife Dorothea – who Jon has described as a ‘legend’ and ‘pillar’Credit: Getty

As with so many of his generation, Elvis Presley was an inspiration, but Jon has long been wary of the dangers of life in the fast lane.

“The late Sixties Elvis in black leather suit? He was the sexiest man alive,” he muses.

“At the end of his life though, he was misguided by his manager. I would never become a victim of the music business.”

With his rock solid band, his loving family, his voice on the mend and a joyous new album in the bag, Jon is in a good place right now.

And I’m pretty sure people will be singing Bon Jovi songs. Forever.

Bon Jovi’s new album Forever is out now

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Bon Jovi’s new album Forever is out nowCredit: Supplied

BON JOVI

Forever

★★★★☆

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