Monday, September 27, 2010

About Prayer...

From The Billboard Book of Number 1 Hits, 5th Edition, published 2003.

Livin' on a Prayer

Writers: Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora, Desmond Child
Producer: Bruce Fairbairn
February 14, 1987
Weeks at Number 1: 4

The Top Five - Week of February 14, 1987
1. Livin' on a Prayer - Bon Jovi
2. Open Your Heart - Madonna
3. Change of Heart - Cyndi Lauper
4. Touch Me (I Want Your Body - Samantha Fox)
5. Keep Your Hands to Yourself - Georgia Satellites

Less than three months after scoring their first number one single (You Give Love a Bad Name), Bon Jovi returned to the top of the Hot 100 with "Livin' on a Prayer". It was a stunning achievement for the heavy metal band that had never made the top 30 of the singles chart until they released Slippery When Wet.

They began the project by bringing in a new producer. "I was listening to my compact disc in my room, trying to pick out the third single off the 7800 degrees album, and I threw in a cassette of a band called Black 'n' Blue," Jon Bon Jovi told reporter Sylvie Simmons. "I liked it so much production-wise that I put on our CD again and I said, 'Wait a minute! This doesn't sound as good as that cassette! What's the matter?' And that's when I realized it was time for a change. So I met up with the producer and he just had that same Jersey gutter attitude as us."

Which is odd, because Bruce Fairbairn was from Vancouver, British Columbia, in Canada. "I got a call from Derek Shulman, who is the A & R guy responsible for Bon Jovi at PolyGram," Fairbairn recalls. "He asked me if I'd be interested in working with Jon...I hadn't really been a big fan of Bon Jovi. I'd hear a couple of their songs on the radio, but I hadn't really followed the group." Fairbairn talked with Jon on the phone and then flew to New Jersey to meet the band.

"One of my priorities was getting better songs," Fairbairn says. "While their previous record had been good, I felt that the songs weren't as strong as they could be. Specifically, they didn't have songs on their records that were radio-oriented. They'd been selling most of their records based on their live shows.

"So first of all I went after the songs and then I went after the performances of the band. I found (them) to be excellent players. If anything, their last record really sold them short. The other (objective) was to get Jon singing lead well...I had heard from different people that he wasn't that good a singer. When I first heard him sing...he had real good soul, he had good pitch and he had (a) great feel. I (told him), 'You're capable of doing a really strong album vocally, let's try and push it a bit and see how far we can take it.'"

Production of the album went quickly, according to Fairbairn. "We set the band up live in the studio and recorded all the tracks...It only took us six or seven days to cut all the tracks, and from there we had time to work on the vocals and we did some work in the keyboard parts and fixed up a few guitar solos. The record only took us six weeks from start to finish."

"Livin' on a Prayer" was one of the over 35 songs that could have been included on the album, and it almost didn't make the final cut. "Jon wasn't that excited about it," Fairbairn notes. In an interview for the Denver Post, Jon said, "When we wrote 'Livin' on a Prayer', I said to Richie (Sambora), 'Maybe we can get this on a soundtrack or something,' because I never thought it was right for the band."

"I really heard the lyric in that song as being something that spoke to a lot of people," says Fairbairn, "so I liked it for that and I fought for the song. At some point it looked like it might not make the record. I convinced Jon and Richie that it was worth hanging in there, and sure enough, it started to develop. We were digging around in Richie's guitar effects box...I grabbed hold of this old tube and up comes this talk box, and I thought, 'Stick this in, I haven't heard one of these since the (Peter) Frampton album'...We worked on the harmonies and the chorus and everything we did to it made the song better. By the (time) we finished it, everybody had the feeling that (it) was going to be a single. I thought it could be the biggest single on the record...as it turned out, it was. I'm glad I hung on to the song."

2 comments:

Jen,  September 27, 2010 at 9:50 AM  

People told him Jon wasn't that good a singer???!! Wow.

Peg September 27, 2010 at 1:32 PM  

Thanks for the great article Hath. Bruce Fairbain was one of the greatest record producers of the time. He also produced Aerosmith's Permanent Vacation album. He had a knack for creating great albums without a lot of over-production. It was a great loss to the canadian music scene when he died in the early 90's. I know his death hit the band hard, particularily Jon. He gets choked up about it when he talks about Bruce on the box set DVD.

Anyway, thanks for the great read.


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