Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Secret Story of Jon Bon Jovi's Brother

Repost this on your own blogs to keep Jimmy’s memory alive!!

The Secret Meaning Behind Bon Jovi’s "Lost Highway"

When Bon Jovi’s latest release, "Lost Highway", hit stores this past June, the press for the record focused primarily on the "new direction" of the music, and its countrified feel. What no one talked about was the inspiration for this record, because, quite frankly, no one had any clue what the true inspiration really was.

Whispers have been heard in the music industry lately, whispers about an event in Jon Bon Jovi’s life that had a huge impact on him. This event, in itself, wouldn’t be so significant if it didn’t reveal so large a story.

Some time in 2006, there was a death in Jon Bon Jovi’s family. His brother Jimmy passed away. Not many people even know the name Jimmy Bon Jovi (or Bongiovi, as their surname was originally spelled), but the few that are familiar with the name know that it belonged to a man whose musical talent eclipsed that of his brother on every level.

Jimmy Bon Jovi was three years older than his brother Jon. The two grew up making music together, and when Jon assembled his band in the early 80’s, Jimmy assumed an "honorary member" role, mentoring Jon and his buddies as they worked on demos (in their uncle Tony’s studio) and began to make records and tour. The night that Jon met Richie Sambora, Jimmy was right by his side, and allegedly told Jon that he should let him join the band.

During the band’s earlier years, Jimmy attended every recording session, helped Jon write songs (usually uncredited), and encouraged his brother in every way possible, while working on his own music on the side. Jimmy had been putting aside songs for a debut album since about 1983, and was almost finished recording them when another pivotal event in the Bon Jovi brothers’ lives occurred.

Jon stopped by the Empire Rock Club in Philadelphia one evening in 1986, just to have a couple of drinks and relax. The band booked at the club that night was Cinderella, whom Jon was quite enthused about. History says that he took them under his wing and subsequently let them open for his band on the Slippery When Wet tour. What he really did was refer them to Jimmy, who mentored them while they made their first record. Jon didn’t have time to work with them during that period, as he and the band were hard at work writing songs for what would become "Slippery When Wet". Some time towards the end of Cinderella’s sessions for its debut "Night Songs", a falling out occurred between Jimmy and the band, and this would prove to be the first blow that contributed to Jimmy walking away from the music business for good.

Meanwhile, earlier in the year, Jimmy had finally entered his uncle Tony’s studio to record the tracks for his first album, titled "Walking Off The Blues". The music had a feel to it that reflected the times, in that it had some of the same flavor as Bon Jovi’s work during the same period, but it also had an ease and a grace to it that gave it a similar feel to some of the Beatles’ best music. As sessions wound down for the record, Jimmy called Jon and told him that he was pretty sure he had created a masterpiece. Jimmy’s record label had decided to wait and release the record after Bon Jovi’s next album, so that there wouldn’t be any competition in terms of sales. Jimmy thought that was a good idea, and waited patiently for his moment in the sun. Almost as an afterthought, he added a cover of Paul McCartney’s "With a Little Luck" to the album.
When it came time for Bon Jovi to record what would become the first mega-selling album of its career, Jimmy was in attendance at all the sessions, as usual. He offered advice when he felt it was welcome, but was put off by the presence, for the first time, of outside songwriter Desmond Child, who he felt was trying to steal his brother’s band from him. Child, conversely, was unimpressed with Jimmy, and didn’t do much to warm the atmosphere between them. In spite of all this, Jimmy did contribute his song "Never Say Goodbye" to the album, although, in line with his own expressed wishes, the song was not credited to him.

As "Slippery When Wet" approached its release date, apparently Jon and Jimmy got together for a drink one evening. Jon apologized to his brother for the way the sessions had gone, and for the atmosphere that Desmond Child’s presence had created. Jon wanted Jimmy to join Bon Jovi as a full-time member of the band for their upcoming tour. It would be the perfect way to prep the audience for Jimmy’s solo record, Jon said. Jimmy was reluctant…The single for "You Give Love A Bad Name" was already starting to pick up some steam, and Jimmy was mainly interested in music, and not in the whole rock and roll circus he knew his brother was about to enter into. An unfortunate allergic reaction to a chemical used in the hairspray ubiquitous to Bon Jovi’s onstage look during the period pretty much sealed the deal for Jimmy—he would just stay home and wait for his record to come out.

An actual release of "Walking Off The Blues" was not to be, however. When Jimmy’s label heard about his decision, they took the record off the release schedule, reportedly telling Jimmy in a phone conversation, "This is the eighties. No one has time for Brian fucking Wilson now. Call us back when you want to be a star." One test pressing of the record had already been done, and to this day, those are the only copies that exist of Jimmy’s lone album. Those who have heard it say that it was potentially the key album of the entire hair metal era—that it could have "legitimized" a music that to this day has trouble getting critical respect. It could have made late eighties pop metal the most revered style of rock & roll of the 20th century. Had "Walking Off the Blues" been released, it’s possible the alternative revolution wouldn’t have even occurred. Also, many have said that the aforementioned cover of "With a Little Luck" redefined that song’s potential, and that Paul McCartney’s version pales by comparison. Most people are holding on tight to their test copy of "Blues". In fact, there’s only been one sighting of a copy on Ebay to date, and it sold for over $10,000.

After Jimmy’s dream was shattered, he retired from the music business for good, taking a construction job back in the boys’ hometown in New Jersey. It is said that every time Bon Jovi finished an album, from "New Jersey" through "Have a Nice Day" (the last album recorded while Jimmy was still alive), Jon would either come by the house and play it for his brother, or send him a copy, if he couldn’t get home. The only thing Jimmy would ever say in response to his brother’s new music was, "You’re one step closer, man. One step closer."

Jimmy Bongiovi, Jon’s brother, friend, mentor and musical superior, died in New Jersey in 2006. His memory lives on in the music of Bon Jovi’s new album, "Lost Highway". The song "One Step Closer" is presumed to be about Jimmy, and inspired by his cryptic affirmations for Jon’s music over the years. There’s even a hidden reference to Jimmy’s long lost album in the lyrics, with the phrase "with a little luck" turning up in the song more than once.

More than anything, though, the album title is revealing, because Jon Bon Jovi is looking for his brother, Jimmy, but he’s not going to find him.

Please repost this, so that the memory of Jimmy Bon Jovi and his talent is properly honored.

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