How Jon Bon Jovi Finally Fell in Love With ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’
Jon Bon Jovi ended his solo concert aboard the Runaway to Paradise cruise in the expected manner, offering up a raucous version of “Livin’ on the Prayer.”
It almost never happened. Bon Jovi said he nearly scrapped “Livin’ on a Prayer” before it could become the second chart-topping single from 1986’s Slippery When Wet.
“Ultimately, the song was so unique,” Bon Jovi said during an earlier Q&A session onboard the Norwegian Pearl. “It didn’t sound like anything. You know, ‘Runaway’ had eight notes, like a lot of songs on the radio at the time. Even ‘[You Give Love a] Bad Name’ was reminiscent of other songs that were on the radio. ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’ didn’t sound like anything. So, I was sort of indifferent. I thought, ‘Well, it’s different, but is it a rock song? Is it us?”
Bon Jovi composed the song with departed guitarist Richie Sambora and long-time songwriting collaborator Desmond Child, then did a discarded demo that eventually showed up as a bonus track on the 2004 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can’t Be Wrong box set. “Granted, we wrote it on acoustic guitars, so there was no drum beat or anything,” Bon Jovi added. “There was no bass line.” And that’s what did the trick, as Hugh McDonald’s uncredited contribution finally completed “Livin’ on a Prayer.”
Bon Jovi’s only regret is the song’s memorable key change, which continues to present a particular challenge on stage: “I want you to know, every night for 36 years,” Bon Jovi said, laughing.
Wednesday’s concert was the highlight of Sixthman’s first-ever Mediterranean cruise, which took Bon Jovi fans from Barcelona, Spain to Palma, Majorca this week. Audience members had a chance to get up close and personal, joining Bon Jovi on stage for “It’s My Life,” as well as the set-closing “Livin’ on the Prayer.”
He began with the title track from Lost Highway, and also performed “Summertime and “We Got It Going On” from that 2007 release. Elsewhere, Jon and his Kings of Suburbia solo band played “Born to Be My Baby” from 1988’s New Jersey; “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead,” the fourth single from 1992’s Keep the Faith; “We Weren’t Born to Follow” from 2009’s The Circle; and “I’m Your Man” from 2015’s Burning Bridges. Huge Bon Jovi hits like “You Give Love a Bad Name” and “Bad Medicine” were sprinkled throughout.
“For those of you who have not been out on one of these with us before,” Bon Jovi announced before the concert began, “it’s a jukebox musical. I play everything in the jukebox that I grew up loving."
That meant Bon Jovi’s set expanded to include key favorites from across the rock spectrum, nicely leveraging his solo band’s horn-driven format. They covered Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock and Roll,” the Rolling Stones’ “Honky Tonk Women,” Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition,” Roy Orbison’s “Oh, Pretty Woman,” U2’s “When Love Came to Town” and – in a nod to a more political forthcoming album titled Bon Jovi 2020 – Sly & the Family Stone’s “Everyday People.”