I started this series without ever intending for it to be a series. All I wanted was to celebrate my ridiculously nerdy love for the gloriously nerdy perfection that is the music video for Kansas’ 1976 no. 11 hit, ‘Carry On Wayward Son.’ It’s a creation that has brought me—and continues to bring me—so much joy over the years that it just felt like a dereliction of my duties as someone with any sort of platform to not be able to share that joy as far and wide as I possibly could.
Then, a little while later, I did the same thing for another slice of heaven: Van Halen’s perfectly ludicrous video for ‘Jump’. Immediately after finishing that piece it was clear to me that I was going to have to do more of these.
It was even more obvious that sooner or later, a Bon Jovi video would have to feature.
Because, I mean, come on? How could it not?
The only question was: Which would it be? There wouldn’t be a shortage of options. Would it be the stone cold, transcendental classic that is ‘Livin’ On a Prayer’? Or maybe the turn of the millennium, nascent-internet-featuring, time capsule tunnel rave of ‘It’s My Life’? Or, sh*t—scratch all that. The answer was clearly obvious from the get go. It would be ‘Bad Medicine’, wouldn’t it? It would have to be. Good old ‘Bad Medicine’. Without a doubt, The Greatest Song Ever Written, with an appropriately perfect and ridiculous (the two concepts exist in a divine synergy in my world, you may have noticed) video.
But nope. Wrong answers, the lot of ‘em. Completely right and yet oh so wrong. In the face of the actual Right answer, all others could only come up short.
You know what it must be. What it always really had to be. That’s right, baby! That beautiful explosion of hot pink and purple that is ‘You Give Love A Bad Name’!
A massive number 1 hit and first single from Bon Jovi’s 1986 monster third album, ‘Slippery When Wet’, ‘You Give Love A Bad Name’ is a perennial banger, and will long remain even after our civilisation is reduced to dust.
The fantastic thing about ‘You Give Love A Bad Name’ is that it starts as all musical geniuses agree a song should always start. With a meteor strike to the face. Like, bam! Straight into the chorus. No fu*king around. Everybody knows that intros and verses are for pansies.
SHOT THROUGH THE HEART, AND YOU’RE TO BLAME (darlin’) YOU GIVE LOVE A BAD NAME
That’s how you start a bloody song.
Appropriately, the song’s video opens with a shot of the stage. The altar. The sacred altar upon which our species worshipped for that brief spell that we had the means to do so.
And then, because it’s the only right thing to do and because it’s perfectly in sync with a song that starts at 100 and never once let’s up, it blows that stage the fu*k up.
Boom, and we’re off.
SHOT THROUGH THE HEART, AND YOU’RE TO BLAME (darlin’) YOU GIVE LOVE A BAD NAME
I know we’ve only just started this journey but I’m afraid we have to take a second here to acknowledge a moment of pure genius. Yes, of course, ‘You Give Love A Bad Name’ is composed of multiple genius moments stacked on top of each other, but whoever it was that had the moment of divine inspiration (and it was probably mega-songwriter Desmond Child, let’s be honest) to include the little ‘darlin” in that intro-chorus but not in the main chorus deserves to be celebrated with custom license plates and thumbs up for the rest of their days.
But back to the video, which above all else—and I think this is why I love it as much as I do—just wants to communicate a good time.
A good time that can be summed up with the appearance of The Trousers—an inspired Frankenstein’s monster of red and black leather that greet us almost straight away.
Here’s an indisputable fact: Jon Bon Jovi loves us very much. We know this because in the ‘You Give Love A Bad Name’ video he decided to bless us with the gift that is The Trousers.
The Trousers, which he immediately deploys in the video to incredible effect with this opening dance:
In case you aren’t sure how to feel about that, there’s drummer Tico Torres to give you a hint:
Goddamn right, Tico. Tico knows. Just look at that face again:
That is the face of a man who knows he’s in the best possible time and location coordinates in the entire universe. This is one of the things that I love the most about the ‘You Give Love A Bad Name’ video. That literally every member of Bon Jovi looks like they are having just the best time imaginable. Tico Torres’ face there, in the first few seconds of the video, is our guiding light. A light that points the way to a recurring element of the clip: Jon Bon Jovi, guitarist Richie Sambora, and bassist Alec John Such making up the ultimate trifecta of joy, and letting us all know it by spoonfeeding their joy direct into camera.
Just dudes being dudes, rocking. What’s not to love?
And in case you thought there was an age-old discrimination happening here and keyboardist David Bryan was being left out of the dudes rocking fun… Wrong! Give it to ‘em, Dave!
Yes, mate! You beautiful deskbound tasselled nerd, you.
In writing up this piece I noticed that all of my choices so far in this series have been videos that are in essence mostly just live performances. Which makes sense when I reflect upon it for a second. I love the artistic, surrealist, and/or interpretive music video as much as the next person, but what really makes me happy is just seeing a performer perform. Like that video of Tatiana from Jinjer performing ‘Judgement and Punishment’. Simple. Direct. Nothing getting in the way of the stream of magic that is the artist/audience interaction. When it’s a band you’re watching perform, you get to see so many wonderful moments of shared fun and joy between band members that you would miss from another type of music video. In ‘You Give Love A bad Name’ for example, you get treated to the sight of Jon Bon Jovi repeatedly sprinting across his giant stage in order to get back to either Sambora or Such and share his mic with them for backing vocals. Look how happy he is after one such a sprint!
That’s just the kind of guy JBJ is.
That’s just the kind of video ‘You Give Love A bad Name’ is.
It’s about sharing the joy.
It’s also about the sacred rock tradition known only as Making The Dumbest Faces Possible While Somehow Staying Incredibly Cool. Isn’t that right, Jon?
Damn right it is.
But mostly that joy. It’s laid on thicker in this video than the hair spray. Whether it’s the lads doing a slow little creep/duck walk along to the that first verse chug—
—or Sambora just losing himself in pure guitar god ecstasy—
—or indeed the incredible joy I feel every single time the video cuts to one specific shot of the crowd, a shot clearly designed to highlight the women in the front row, but which cracks me up supremely because I can’t help but focusing on the man in the very next row with the expression on his face that seems to hint at some sudden onset of a deeper spiritual malaise, the kind from which no one should be suffering at a Bon Jovi concert:
The best part of that is that a second later the video cuts to a shot of JBJ and Sambora, with the angle on the latter making it look like he just made eye contact with spiritual malaise guy, and his expression making it seem like that woe had been somehow instantly transferred into the guitarist’s soul:
If you didn’t know anything about the ‘You Give Love A Bad Name’ video, you might think that this was a perilous moment.
Maybe the joy stands upon the edge of a knife?
Maybe that intrusion of negativity is enough to send things teetering?
Maybe the boys from Bon Jovi are about to collapse into a sad heap?
Are they hell!
Everybody knows that the most divine union that there exists in the world is that between a singer and their guitarist. Forget marriage. Forget peanut butter and jelly or whatever. Forget even fish and chips. It’s the singer and their guitarist. That’s where you find the synthesis to beat all others. The video for ‘You Give Love A Bad Name’ serves as a loving testament to this union, with Jon Bon Jovi spending the entirety of the clip trying his hardest to get away from his boy Sambora, only to rubber band right back to his side each and every time, mic thrust between the two of them, gigantic smiles plastered on both their faces.
True love. That’s what that is. No doubt about it.
Aside from true love, the ‘You Give Love A Bad Name’ video also finds time for that other time-honoured and vital rock tradition: Fu*king with your drummer. And it’s important that it does.
There’s a point in the clip during which Tico Torres (which—and we didn’t mention this earlier but it needs to be said now—is an absolutely phenomenal drummer name) throws his drum stick up into the air. Look, there it goes:
The stick disappears out of the frame, heading upwards. The camera then cuts to cheeky chappie Jon Bon Jovi making this face:
And this is immediately followed by a rain of drum sticks coming down hard on Torres’ head.
The shots are sequenced in such a way so as to make it look like JBJ’s cheeky troll face is somehow linked to the monsoon of drum sticks, rather than being the random concert insert that it almost certainly is, and I very much appreciate that little touch of narrative wonder.
Okay, so, we briefly addressed this earlier on, but we have to return to it because it is such a pivotal pillar of the glory that is the ‘You Give Love A Bad Name’ video: the triumvirate of direct-to-camera rock face mugging that is JBJ, Richie, and Alec. I can’t get enough of this. It cracks me up in the best way possible. Everything about it. The camera angle. The faces they pull. The clothes we get a close up on. It’s all dynamite. Luckily, as with everything else, ‘You Give Love A Bad Name’ does not skimp here, instead returning to the shot again and again throughout the video, with Alec John Such’s expressions proving a particular delight, plucked straight out of a bad drama about New Jersey gangsters as they are.
That last one is the best because it serves as a bridging segment into the real central thesis of the ‘You Give Love A Bad Name’ video.
Namely: Pointing is awesome.
It’s a little known fact that you can spot who is destined to become a rock superstar selling out stadiums by gauging the strength of their rock point. You might see a singer or a band at the start of their career, performing a twenty minute set in an obscure pub toilet, with literally two people in attendance in the crowd and an atmosphere of despair hanging heavily over proceedings. While others might remain clueless about the artist’s possible futures, if you keep your eye on the strength of the singer’s rock point you’ll know whether they are destined for greatness or not.
But hang on one minute.
Let’s back track a second in the video.
There’s something not quite right in that last point. Let’s look at it again.
Okay and now let’s see what that resolves to, when the motion blur subsides and the boys settle into a stance for a second.
What the hell is that, Tico Torres?!
A thumbs up?!
You’re lucky this video is already a behemoth of solid gold and can’t be ruined by such lack of discipline, otherwise you’d get such a drum stick-ing.
Header Image Source: Gutchie Kojima/Shinko Music/Getty Images