This post (and this blog in general) is about one writer’s first encounters with Story.
Last week, I posited (confessed) that many of my earliest dances with narrative may well have been on vinyl (cassette more likely) and not in a book.
To this end, I’m revisiting the records of my youth, and this week we begin with one of my generation’s biggies.
Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet (1986) has an almost unrivaled status among its peers. Over 12 million copies sold tells of its reach, though the numbers only say so much. To be sure, a number of other bands owe their very existence to the boys from NJ. They certainly impacted me as well.
It’s possible that I, at the age of 13 or so, first heard of Romeo and Juliet on Slippery’s I’d Die for You. The irony of this is how Jon Bon Jovi sees himself as the anti-Romeo in this song, or at least a hero in a world that no longer knows Romeo and Juliet.
Additional irony manifests as one concedes that the bulk of Slippery is in fact this same tale of star-crossed lovers.
But Jon’s world is not Verona. No, NJ is docks, pawn shops, diners, and long cold nights spent dreaming of tomorrow.
Still, a dream and some determination, and one can find themselves halfway there, or so perhaps Bon Jovi’s biggest-ever hit boldly promised.
But where does this leave our inquiry? The songs of Slippery When Wet are even more than an introduction to Shakespeare. (Truth be told, they were most probably my first exposure to Springsteen as well, what with Never Say Goodbye and its gorgeous tribute to Bruce’s Point Blank – more on that here.)
No, Slippery also introduced a generation to Jon as steel-horse cowboy. His tale of lonely redundancy, of course, being one of the band’s other colossal hits.
Bon Jovi even knew how to work a sequel, with their New Jersey (1988), beyond being my favorite album of theirs if not of the decade, reinforcing most of the themes discussed above.
And so, though my bookshelf was empty, I moved forward into my future life as a writer. A loaded six string, it turns out, is quite as potent as an English class… At least it was in my case.