in The People's Album

Is it weird that this is the first People’s Album that’s also been declared a Classic Album on a Tuesday by this very blog?

I’m gonna say yeah, it’s a little weird.

Album: Slippery When Wet
Artist: Bon Jovi
Release Date: August 18, 1986
Copies Sold In The U.S.: 
12 Million

Why Was This Popular?

Because America Loves Glammed-Up Everymen

Out of all the dudes to front a hard rock band in the 80s, it’s not terribly surprising that Jon Bon Jovi was the only one that managed to turn his good looks and charisma into a marginally successful acting career.  He had an appealing kind of pretty boy sensitivity combined with a tough guy party-rock vibe, sort of like a rock n’ roll Patrick Swayze.  And I think it’s this vibe that made Bon Jovi (the band) one of those quintessential rock groups that appealed to both men and women, even if those men and women tended to be the worst kind of people.

I think these so-called “people” also gravitated towards Bon Jovi because despite belonging to the blatantly materialistic and shallow hair metal scene, they seemed intent on maintaining the imagine that they were just a couple of working class guys.  This notion probably derives entirely from the fact that Bon Jovi hailed from New Jersey and wouldn’t let you forget it.  Hell, the band’s follow up to Slippery When Wet was called New Jersey for Christ’s sakes.

I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that any claim Bon Jovi had to being blue collar is a bunch of bullshit, and probably part of some false mythology that had been built around New Jersey.  After all, this was around the same time that Jersey’s patron saint Bruce Springsteen was selling out stadiums with his multi-platinum ode to the working man, Born In The U.S.A.  I suspect that Bon Jovi saw this mytholothization of New Jersey that The Boss was indulging, and decided to work it in to their glammed-up brand of rock and roll.  Of course, this image would’ve meant nothing if their songs didn’t deliver, and I think the reason Slippery When Wet was ultimately a hit is that it didn’t fuck around when it came to no-nonsense anthems aimed towards the mulleted masses of 1980s America.

Did It Deserve To Be Popular?

In author Chuck Klosterman’s wonderful ode to 80’s heavy metal, Fargo Rock City, he poses a question that plagued nearly every hard rock fan during this era: Can a band that features keyboards rock?  This question sparked countless debates, which presumably took place in 7-Eleven parking lots all over America by some of the dumbest people in America.  But I’d say it’s still a question worth posing when discussing the merits of Bon Jovi.  Keyboards obviously played a big part in Bon Jovi’s sound, as they were all over the band’s break out single, 1984’s “Runaway”, and were also a big part of why they appealed to more than just mere metalheads.  So did Bon Jovi manage to rock hard while still featuring the blatantly un-rock instrument of the keyboard?

My answer: Who gives a shit?

Even if there weren’t keyboards on these tunes, they’d still be the same kind of overdone rock n’ roll sing-along’s that are concerned with having nothin’ but a good time.  And sure, the keyboards push this album even farther from approaching the kind of dangerous or out-of-control sound that most ‘80s rock bands strived for.  But to be honest, I’m completely willing to overlook all of that in the face of how much dumb fun this album is.

Basically what I’m trying to say is, if Jon Bon Jovi is rock’s Patrick Swayze, this is his Road House – a full-throttle burst of rock n’ roll idiocy that never pulls it’s punches and is always willing to give you a roundhouse kick to the face.  I mean come on.  You can hear “Wanted Dead Or Alive”, “You Give Love A Bad Name”, and “Livin’ On A Prayer” all within the confines of this one album.  If that isn’t a holy trinity of guilty pleasure for the ages, I don’t know what is.  And even though there are a few ballads here that aren’t great or anything, I think it’s all just part of the magnificently dumb package that makes Slippery When Wet one of the best “so bad it’s good” albums I’ve ever heard.

Would I Pay Money For This?

Hell yeah.  This is the perfect album to crank the fuck up, just as long as no one else is around.  So I’d probably say my ceiling’s somewhere around 3 bucks.

Next Time On The People’s Albums: I’ll come together with something heavy I want you to listen to while golden slumbers come in through the bathroom window with a darling album that brought an End to The Beatles career.  (I’ll be talking about Abbey Road.)