From their formation in 1983, Bon Jovi‘s climb to international superstardom was by no means meteoric, at least not for their first three years. Their self-titled debut album of 1984 reached No.43 in the US, producing two modest Hot 100 entries in “Runaway” and “She Don’t Know Me.” The second, 7800° Fahrenheit, peaked only six places higher than its predecessor, and generated two even more minor US chart singles in “Only Lonely” and “In And Out Of Love.”
The album that changed everything for the New Jersey rockers, however, was Slippery When Wet, which made its debut in record stores on August 18, 1986. Fuelled by a series of huge, anthemic singles, it became the record that made Bon Jovi’s name both at home and around the world.
The band had started the month of August on a yacht sailing around Manhattan. They were attending the wedding of their manager Doc McGhee along with members of his other charges, Motley Crüe, and bands such as Ratt. Then in the week leading up to the album’s release, there was great news for Bon Jovi from the all-powerful MTV, who added the video for the irresistible flagship single “You Give Love A Bad Name.”
The song entered Billboard’s Album Rock Tracks chart a week later, then the UK Top 40, and by early September was climbing the Hot 100. “Hard rock, raspy and aggressive,” was the sum total of the magazine’s pithy review. But its critique of Slippery When Wet was much more effusive. “An exceptionally strong album that should take the band all the way,” they wrote, and how right they were.
As Bon Jovi played European shows to big audiences on the Monsters of Rock tour with Scorpions, Ozzy Osbourne, and Def Leppard, the single and album raced up the charts simultaneously. The album began a non-consecutive eight weeks atop the US chart in October, eventually hitting 12-times platinum certification in that country alone. “You Give Love…” hit No.1 in November, the follow-up “Livin’ On A Prayer” did the same in February 1987 (for four weeks), and “Wanted Dead Or Alive” became another substantial Top 10 hit.
Talking to NME about the Slippery success a couple of years later, guitarist Richie Sambora didn‘t underestimate the power of the visuals. “I think it was largely to do with the videos,” says Richie. “At that point, we’d made five videos that didn’t capture who we were as people. People who saw us live knew what we were about, that we were an American rock band, but we had to project that in our videos. We simplified things to get our identity across, wrote some strong hooks, and took control of our own videos.”
Buy or stream Slippery When Wet.