Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The one where I ramble on and on about Bon Jovi.

Remember how you saw a poster of a really hot singer from a band…and then they became your favorite band before you even knew their music?  Yeah, that didn’t happen to me.  The fact that the singer was hot…was totally a bonus.

I grew up on country music and bluegrass.  In my house we listened to Hank Williams Sr. and Hank Snow and Johnny Cash.  Mom listened to all the newer country like Garth Brooks and Reba McIntire and George Strait.  So that’s what I grew up with.  I started branching out and making my own choices about music when I was about 13 years old.  I didn’t really own any of my own music at that point…but that’s when I got my first stereo and started listening to the radio in my room.

I never really paid that much attention to bands unless they were really mainstream and popular and everyone was talking about them.  Otherwise…I just knew what songs I liked.  There was one song I liked and didn’t know who sang it…it was called “Runaway”.  I never really tried to find out who sang it but I sure loved it when it came on. 

When I was 16…I was in the truck with my brother and he was flipping stations.  We were driving along listening to some random station and a song came on that I just really loved.  My brother grunted and turned the station.  I said “Wait!  What was that!  I liked it!”  He said “Ugh, they play that damn song every five minutes, I’m so sick of it.”  Just then, we pulled up at the store we had been going to and he went in.  The minute he got out of the truck, I turned the radio back to that song and I really enjoyed the rest of it.  They never said who the band was…but the song was apparently called “Livin’ on a Prayer”.  I really liked it.

A couple of weeks later…I went to my cousin’s house with my mom.  My cousin had cable and was watching MTV in the living room.  (We never had cable growing up so I barely ever watched MTV.)  While standing in the kitchen with my mom…I heard yet another song that really caught my ear and I wandered into the living room to listen.  I said hi to the cousin and asked, “Who is this?  I really like it.”  He tells me, “It’s Bon Jovi.”  I look at the screen…and just stand there…in shock.  On the television screen is the most beautiful man I have ever seen.  He is wearing red, patchwork leather pants and a jean jacket and a scarf.  He has long, curly, puffy hair…and the most gorgeous blue eyes on earth.  I was completely smitten and just stood there and watched the video.  I was in awe.  Bon Jovi.  Their name was Bon Jovi.

Over the next year I managed to get the cassette tape that “Livin’ on a Prayer” was on…as well as the song he was singing in the video, “You Give Love a Bad Name”.  I also managed to get two other cassettes that had been released previously.  Guess what?  They sang that Runaway song I liked so much.  How exciting!  From there…it progressed to posters and magazines.  By the time I was 17, two entire walls of my bedroom were completely wallpapered in pictures of this band and more importantly, it’s singer…whose named turned out to be Jon Bon Jovi.  I was completely and utterly obsessed.  I cut small two to three inch square photos from magazines and put them all around the door jamb.  I couldn’t get enough of his face.  When I was 18, they came to Dallas to play.  I taped an interview with him from the radio station Q102.  I hung on every word that came out of his mouth. (Honestly…I think I might still have that tape around somewhere…)  I begged and pleaded to go to the concert but was not able to get anyone to take me.

In April of 1989, Bon Jovi played in Lubbock, Texas, just a few miles from where my grandparents lived.  My cousin Melanie, knowing I was a huge fan, managed to get me a ticket.  I just had to get to Lubbock.  So I took what little money I had from my crappy Dairy Queen job and bought a bus ticket.  I packed up my 2-1/2 year old daughter…and off we went.  My grandfather agreed to drive me to the show and my grandmother would keep my daughter.

The night of the concert, I was 80’s-tastic in my black spandex pants, white, fringed leather boots and a giant white t-shirt that said “Welcome to the Zoo”…of course, belted with a double wrap, black leather belt with studs.  I had huge 80’s hair and ridiculous 80’s make-up.  My grandparents frowned a little…but didn’t say anything.

I was so excited I could hardly speak when we got into the venue.  I enjoyed the opening band, Skid Row and stayed on my feet from the time they started until the end of the night.  I was surprised to be asked to sit down by the people behind us.  The couple I was standing with and I told them no…who sits down at a concert???  I mean…I didn’t mean to be rude…but people, BON JOVI was about to be on.  I could barely contain myself.  But the real moment of truth…the moment of bliss…was when Bon Jovi hit the stage.  My heart was pounding so hard that I thought it would explode out of my chest.  I sang my heart out to every song and I screamed my happiness at every break.  And when he came out onto the catwalk above the audience…I was in shock that he was a mere 25 feet away!  By the end of the show I could barely speak, I was so hoarse.  It was – at that point – the greatest night of my life.  I had never been happier.  Ever.  I still have the tacky headband and the buttons I bought after the show.  And I still remember walking out of the venue with the people I sat with…singing Homebound Train at the top of our lungs.

In the 22 years since then…I have seen them in concert about 8-10 more times.  And as my daughter got older, something else truly amazing happened.  She fell in love with them too and Bon Jovi became something we could share.  We have been to their concerts together several times and it’s practically a ritual.  It’s something that she and I treasure and that belongs solely to us.  It’s an extra bond we have.

Additionally, I have collected ridiculous amounts of Bon Jovi paraphernalia.  I have all their albums.  I have concert shirts, hats, stickers, shot glasses, key chains and jewelry.  I even have Bon Jovi pajamas and a blanket.  When my daughter has a child…it will have Bon Jovi onesies and whatever other baby stuff I can find.  But more than all of that…I have music that never ever fails to lift my heart out of whatever depths it may reach.  Bon Jovi has been there for me through the worst periods of my life.  They have kept me sane.  They have kept me from misery and more than likely…kept me from harm.  They have lifted my spirits…made me cheer…made me laugh…made me cry…made me think…made me proud…and just generally been the one light in my life that has never gone out.  No matter what…they were always there.  Even though they didn’t know it…and likely never will.  Sometimes I wish I could just hug each and every one of them and simply tell them Thank You.  Thank you for always being there for me and never failing to be a light when all other lights were dim or out.

Jon Bon Jovi is an inspiration to me.  He is a happily married, father of four who commits his life to his music and his family and to helping others.  He has built homes for the homeless, fed the hungry, donated to, and raised millions for, charity, donated his time and energy to worthy causes, raised awareness for important causes and inspired me to volunteer.  My very first volunteer work ever…was because of him.  Because he talked about how everyone should go out and volunteer at least a little of their time and how everyone can be a hero to someone else.  From the first time I saw his face…somewhere in the very last days of 1986…I have known he was special.  I was right.  And I will be forever grateful to him for his music that has touched my life and for his inspiration to me and the kind of person I want to be.  Though you may never know it…I love you Jon Bon Jovi.  You are one of my true heroes in life.  You will always be one of my favorite people to hear…and to look at.