Blaze of glory

‘It’s about time’ — Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee for 2018 Jon Bon Jovi has been waiting for a decade

  • Published 19.12.17
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We’re not on the ‘where are they now?’ tour. My last three tours were the biggest-grossing tours in the world. We’ve been blessed that people come and see us and there’s a big catalogue of music. I wasn’t surprised, but I was pleased

Bon Jovi, the formerly huge-haired New Jersey group leads the 2018 class of inductees into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, the organisation announced last Wednesday (December 13), an accomplishment that may have at one time been thought impossible. Long a commercial juggernaut, if scoffed at by music snobs, Bon Jovi also won the Rock Hall’s fan poll, receiving more than a million public votes, which counts as a single vote in the overall judging.

Asked about its inclusion, Jon Bon Jovi, the band’s lead singer, stammered a bit. “Well. I mean… we’re very happy about it,” he said in an interview. “And um, you know. It’s great.” He paused. “I really want to say it’s about time,” he added, using a colourful adjective omitted here.

The band will be inducted along with Nina Simone, the Cars, Dire Straits, the Moody Blues and Sister Rosetta Tharpe, who will receive an Award for Early Influence, at the 33rd induction ceremony on April 14, 2018 at the Public Auditorium in Cleveland.

More than 1,000 industry figures, including artistes and historians, cast ballots for induction. The Rock Hall takes into account “an artist’s musical influence on other artists, length and depth of career and the body of work, innovation and superiority in style and technique,” according to the criteria. Artistes become eligible for the Rock Hall 25 years after the release of their first recording.

“Am I relieved? Yeah,” said Jon Bon Jovi, whose group has been eligible since 2008. “Am I pleased? Absolutely. But,” he repeated, “It’s about time,” using the same colourful adjective.

Starting with its self-titled debut in 1984, Bon Jovi has released 13 studio albums. The group’s hits have led to more than 100 million records sold. Still, the band’s place in the pantheon — especially this one — has remained an open question 

There’s no reason to get into mudslinging

Starting with its self-titled debut in 1984, Bon Jovi has released 13 studio albums, including This House Is Not for Sale, which topped the Billboard chart last year. The group’s hits like Runaway, You Give Love a Bad Name, Livin’ on a Prayer and It’s My Life have led to more than 100 million records sold (hence the 2004 box set titled 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can’t Be Wrong).

Still, the band’s place in the pantheon — especially this one — has remained an open question. In Sticky Fingers: The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone Magazine, a juicy new biography by Joe Hagan about the publishing mogul, who also co-founded the Rock Hall, Bon Jovi receives a special kind of scorn.

“I don’t think he’s that important,” Wenner, who remains chairman of the foundation that oversees inductions and was himself inducted in 2004, is quoted as saying in the book. “What does Bon Jovi mean in the history of music? Nothing.” He also noted that Jon enlisted the billionaire investor Ron Perelman to help his case. (The band had been nominated once before, in 2011.)

The singer declined to respond directly to those slights. “There’s no reason to get into mudslinging,” he said, adding of the voters: “The truth is that they all came around and said: ‘You can’t deny the facts.’”

He continued: “We’re not on the ‘where are they now?’ tour. My last three tours were the biggest-grossing tours in the world. We’ve been blessed that people come and see us and there’s a big catalogue of music. I wasn’t surprised, but I was pleased.”

The rest of the Rock Hall crop varies from more straightforward — Dire Straits and the Moody Blues, which both got in on their first try — to slightly left of centre.

Though the Rock Hall has been criticised in the past for its lack of diversity, five of the nominees this year were acts led by women, while six featured non-white performers. Ultimately, two prominent black women — Nina Simone and Sister Rosetta Tharpe (both deceased) — made it in as first-time nominees.

Other less down-the-middle rock ’n’ roll acts to receive their first look this year — including Kate Bush, Rage Against the Machine, Eurythmics and Radiohead — did not make the cut this time. Members of Radiohead publicly expressed ambivalence about the honour and booked a tour date in South America on the night of the induction ceremony.

Over all, this class of inductees also stands out for lack of acts especially popular with Gen X: Pearl Jam, Tupac Shakur, N.W.A, Nirvana, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Public Enemy have all been inducted in recent years. Additional nominees passed over this year included Depeche Mode, Judas Priest, J. Geils Band, the Zombies and LL Cool J, who would have been the seventh hip-hop act inducted.

Jon said he was looking forward to the ceremony, though he was not aware that all the groups present traditionally participate in an all-star jam at the end. “I really don’t watch award shows and get caught up in all that,” he said.

THE OTHER 2018 INDUCTEES

Moody Blues: The group’s singer is thrilled. “On Friday [the day before I heard the news], I couldn’t have cared less,” he told Rolling Stone. “On Saturday, I was thinking: ‘Wow, that's amazing!’ I’m extremely grateful to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for two things: For creating the supreme temple to something that has brought me endless joy since I was a little boy. The second thing is for, after all these years, including us.”

Dire Straits: What remains to be seen about the British group, which has been on ice since 1992, is whether they reunite… at least once. “I’ll definitely talk Mark into coming as well. It’s essentially up to him if he wants to do anything, and I completely respect his feelings about it. He doesn’t want too much white light,” the group’s bassist John Illsley has told Billboard.

HALL OF FAME CONTROVERSIES

The Beatles: The Fab Four were elected in the third edition of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988. Many hoped for a reunion but Paul McCartney, who didn’t even attend the event, released a statement: “After 20 years, the Beatles still have some business differences, which I had hoped would have been settled by now. Unfortunately, they haven’t been, so I would feel like a complete hypocrite waving and smiling with them at a fake reunion.”

Sex Pistols

The legendary English punk band had sent a handwritten letter in 2006 announcing they wouldn’t attend the ceremony. They called the Hall “a piss stain”. Rock Hall founder Jann Wenner read the letter and said the Pistols could come and pick up their statues at the Hall’s Cleveland headquarters. “If they want to smash them into bits, they can do that, too,” he said.

Blondie

Blondie guitarist Chris Stein, drummer Clem Burke and singer Debbie Harry (inset) were joined onstage in 2006 by all of the group’s past members — including bassist Nigel Harrison, guitarist Frank Infante, bassist Gary Valentine and keyboardist Jimmy Destri. The differences between the band members were all up there for the world to see. Harrison delivered a brutal line: “It’s nice to see everyone out of the courtroom…. Welcome to bingo night.”

Joe Coscarelli
(The New York Times News Service)

What does Bon Jovi mean to you? Tell t2@abp.in

T2’S FAVE BON JOVI TRACKS

¯ Livin’ On A Prayer
¯ Keep The Faith
¯ Bed Of Roses
¯ You Give Love A Bad Name
¯ It’s My Life
¯ I’ll Be There For You
¯ Runaway
¯ Wanted Dead or Alive
¯ Never Say Goodbye
¯ This Ain’t a Love Song

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