Ed#446 The Big Beat Goes On

21 November 2013 Alan Attwood

Ed#446 The Big Beat Goes On

A few years back I was in a small town on the west coast of Scotland. As I was checking out the sights I was distracted by music, which seemed to be drifting in on the breeze from the harbour. So I wandered in that direction and was soon able to identify it as big-hair music; ’80s music; pump-it-out music. Surely it wasn’t… Could it be? No, it wasn’t. This was a covers band, with all the moves and swagger down pat, playing to a hundred or so people.

The best thing about the band was its name: Non Jovi. I liked that. The rockers from New Jersey might never make it anywhere near Tarbert, but those lads in Non Jovi were carrying the torch for them. And if imitation truly is the sincerest form of flattery, Bon Jovi’s worldwide appeal can be gauged by the number of Non Jovis formed over the past 30 years. Still, nothing beats the originals, who will be touring Australia again in December. And the person they can thank for the attention they are getting in this edition is Beth Heath (author of ‘It’s My Life’ on p17). Early in June, Beth – a regular buyer of The Big Issue – wrote to us making the case for Bon Jovi on our cover. She is a fan, a big fan, looking forward to her 25th Bon Jovi concert. (“Some may call it an addiction,” she explained. “I suffer it the best I can.”) But Beth also mentioned band members’ work for charities and the positive message of their music: “hope through adversity”.

Interesting, I thought, before seeking the opinion of our Music Editor, Doug Wallen – a man of eclectic and often surprising tastes. He’s a devotee of new indie bands I’ve never heard of, but also The Kinks. Doug reported back: “I’m a fan of the big ’80s hits but haven’t followed the band much since. I do admire their longevity.” What Doug didn’t confess (at least until he filed his cover story) was that as a uni student in Pennsylvania he himself was known to have a karaoke crack at ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’. Which means that both of our Bon Jovi correspondents have credibility.

Me? Not so much, although (and I know that Beth will lament the unfairness of this) I did once have lunch with Jon Bon Jovi himself. This was in the US in 1997, when JBJ had made a solo record. Sixteen years on, details of our lunch date are fuzzy, though I recall him as being engaging, polite and professional. He arrived on his own: no minders; no entourage; no ‘disguise’ other than a pair of sunglasses. Being recognised, he explained, was “never a problem, because my music doesn’t draw the fan looking for Jesus. Mostly it’s people wanting to say ‘Hi, I like your music’, whatever. That’s about the limit of it. Bono [of U2] had more of the Jesus kind of thing.” Already, in 1997, there was a sense of his band being survivors. Yes, he conceded, it could get frustrating sensing that people were just waiting for him to sing ‘You Give Love a Bad Name’ “because the song’s 10 years old”. Better make that 27 years old now. And counting.

He was a fan of The Rolling Stones. To suggestions that Mick & Co. should pack it in, JBJ said: “As long as they’re doing it as well as anyone else on the road, or better, why not? There’s no reason they shouldn’t [keep going]... I know they put on a great live show.” And this, I suspect, is what Beth Heath and all her friends down the front at the coming Bon Jovi shows could say.

Age will not weary them. Rock on.

For Bon Jovi fans, Christmas comes a little early this year. For everyone, the perfect gift is available already, with The Big Issue 2014 Calendar now being sold by our vendors everywhere. And coming up, next edition, is a bigger-than-usual Christmas magazine. Don’t miss it.  


Alan Attwood is Editor of The Big Issue.