back when bon jovi was actually cool

Here and now. That guy on the other side of the street is screeching out Bed of Roses again in his jukebox voice with the trying-hard accent. It seems like our neighbors' Videoke gig is back in business, too bad for the rest of us in the neighborhood. Those Videoke people have a nasty habit of putting the volume full-blast, and their patrons always select the difficult songs with those high-pitch belt-outs because of how they exhibit one's singing prowess (or lack of it) - sheer torture to listeners when sung by people who neither have the range nor the talent.

As I try to shut out the noise caused by I juana leeeeey you down on a beeeeeyd of roseeeeeeeyz, I consider the fact that Bon Jovi is one of those unfortunate Videoke hall-of-famers - i.e., a common choice of Pinoy Videoke singers everywhere (along with Regine Velasquez, Heart, Aegis and other belters). I have myself participated at a Videoke party in which we poked fun at the hideousness of Bon Jovi songs. Those Bon Jovi cheesy power ballads that no one would be caught dead listening to; big-haired glam rock lounge songs that not even 80's retro bands would dare cover, more like something you'd imagine a poledancer swinging to.

And then I think about how I used to like Bon Jovi - at a time before their songs were considered beerhouse fare and were given jologs status.

Yes kiddos, Bon Jovi used to be cool.
And I think in some circles in some parts of the world, they still are.

Early '90s Bon Jovi.

Early '80s Bon Jovi.
Yes, THIS actually used to be cool.
Photo from here. Read his funny take on "Livin' On a Prayer"

Bon Jovi started out as a glam rock band from the early eighties - one of those crimped-hair-and-ripped-spandex acts with the powerful vocals. I started paying attention to them the time they released Blaze of Glory for the movie Young Guns II. I must have been ten. Both the song and the music video got a lot of air time in those days. I paid even more attention after local pop diva Zsa Zsa Padilla confessed she had a huge crush on their frontman, seeing him singing with his guitar on a desert mountain, topless and all sexy for the Blaze video.

The band's name of course is from the surname of vocalist John Bongiovi.

By the early nineties, Bon Jovi was already a worldwide phenomenon. Pretty much everybody knew who they were. They, along with the likes of Guns n Roses, were usually covered by amateur groups at rock shows and battles of the bands because of the showy vocals. On a night of, let's say, ten bands, at least two of them would do a Bon Jovi song. The most popular choices were Livin' On A Prayer and I'd Be There (For You).

I'd Be There is actually still the most popular choice for Videoke-ers today, haha :D

I remember watching a few impressive covers of
I'd Be There at band shows back when I was in high school. One was by these twentysomething rockers called Rust; the vocalist sang Bon Jovi but moved like Axl Rose. The other was this all-girl rock band formed by my schoolmates (and that's actually why they were impressive, especially on a night of male acts) called Blue Pearl.

I don't think my admiration was ever stoked to fangirl level, but I must admit, I was a Bon Jovi fan. I knew all their albums, knew the band members' names, knew the lyrics to their most popular songs. I owned a poster too - a gift from a friend. And since it was almost obligatory for a high school girl to swoon over some rock star, I decided to crush on frontman Jon.

Photo from here.

October 13, 1993. It was a Wednesday night. Two friends and I lined up outside the Rizal Baseball Stadium to watch Bon Jovi live. The band was on their Keep the Faith tour; both nights in Manila were sold-out.

And we, three high school girls, bought tickets for the first night. We had sweet-talked our parents (and submitted ourselves to needlessly paranoid harangues) to allow us to go out and stay up late on a weekday night for a rock concert. I remember standing in line feeling all excited, like I was about to be part of history or something.

I even remember what we were wearing - I had on a button-down long-sleeved shirt that had thin white fabric with blue paisley print, rolled-up dark-blue shorts and 6-hole DM knockoffs. I also wore a clear blue plastic pendant. I brought a similar pendant, exactly the same except it was violet, and gave it to my friend V that night because it was in her favorite color. V wore a see-through black button-down long-sleeved shirt with colorful sea animal print over purple pants.

Our P200-tickets sat us in the bleachers - that price would have been two days' worth of allowance, all we could afford at our student budget. People around us sat patiently and behaved decently - no, it was not a jologs crowd at all - though you could feel excitement mounting as the minutes drew closer to 8pm. I chatted with my pals as I went people-watching. Somewhere to our 7 was a guy a red plaid shirt around his waist, Seattle-style. With him was his petite girlfriend who wore a white shirt, black shorts, a cap and her long, straight hair in a ponytail. In front of us were two guys, one of them with pageboy hair and a black Faith No More shirt, also wearing a plaid shirt around his waist (black and white this time). A few meters away was a guy with a backpack who partied alone.

As the music started, the formerly weary-looking crowd on the bleachers sprung to its feet. The stage was far away but no one seemed to care; we could watch the lights and smoke anyway. We couldn't even make out Jon's face (I could see his bare chest gleaming though). We bleacher people sang along to You Give Love A Bad Name. Plaid boy pumped his fist, petite girl waved her cap in the air; backpack guy seemed to have felt warm so he peeled off his shirt and slung it around and around over his head. And we three high school girls - we just had a good time. Even if the performers were too far to fully appreciate, the fans nearby were entertaining to watch. Whattarush for energetic teenagers like us; it was so much fun.

Until it rained thirty minutes into the concert and the whole event had to be cut short.

We sat around for an hour or so in case things dried up and the band decided to walk back onstage, but the organizers announced that the electronics were soaked and that posed a fire hazard. My friends and I decided to stay put on the bleachers and chat to pass the time. We were oblivious to the so-called riot that was happening beneath; we only learned about it later on the news.

Bummed as we were, we left the place thinking it was all still memorable. We supposed we could crash the concert the following night, demand that organizers give us what we paid for. That was two days' worth of allowance after all.

We weren't the only ones who entertained that thought though: a throng of fans who came the first evening showed up on the second night, squeezing their way between ticketholders, metal barricades and security people. There was another semi-riot (i.e., not a full-blown one) and security conceded, eventually allowing everyone in.

Man, the place was packed. Bon Jovi launched into old and new, Jon shaking his newly-shortened tresses. Girls on the grounds began climbing onto their boyfriends' shoulders halfway through Bad Medicine. One seemingly high girl took off her top and threw it to frontman Jon in crazy fangirl fashion and spent the rest of the night covering herself with nothing but her arms (Bon Jovi isn't a mosh pit kind of band, so it was relatively safe for girls to be that near to the stage, though scantily clad). A slow song played and lights dimmed into a concert cliche, a signal for the crowd to raise their lighters. And lookie: No rain!

It was a blast.

... At least, from what I heard.

Sadly I wasn't there the second night to demand my money's worth. Some of my friends were fortunate to be though. Considering that my parents loved putting on the strict hat, and that things always got ugly whenever I asked permission to go anywhere, and that we had a fight over letting me out Wednesday, I didn't even bother asking for Thursday. Besides, I had a report due Friday on a book I hadn't even finished reading so I had to spend Thursday night cramming.

I eventually forgave myself - it actually came easy since glam rock and its artists soon became passe. Power ballads were out, incoherent verses were in. Belter vocals out, unintelligible growling, in; screechy guitar solos out, choppy 3-chord messes in. Artists like Bon Jovi, GnR, Poison and Black Crows were almost immediately considered corny jukebox music . By then I'd turned my attention to the fast-rising grunge and post-grunge music; pretty soon, I was swooning over the deep-voiced, red-meat Eddie Vedder instead of John Bongiovi. I didn't even notice how or when my Bon Jovi phase ended; I didn't even bother when they came back for their These Days concert April of 1995.

For a time i was ashamed to admit I ever liked glam rock. But nowadays songs by those glam-metal bands are already revered as rock classics - except when they're being sung Videoke - so I'm not now too embarrassed to admit that there was a time I indeed thought Bon Jovi was cool.
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