I don't feel like summer has really arrived until I'm driving around near the ocean in New Jersey (preferably Seaside Heights) with all of the windows rolled down and Bad Medicine turned up all the way. There's just something about being Jersey born and raised, being down the shore, summertime and Bon Jovi. They're not completely dependent on each other, but life is better when I've got all three.
(For the record, in New Jersey, we don't "go to the beach" we "go down the shore.")
Many of Bon Jovi's big hits has a significant summertime memory attached to it for me.
Living on a Prayer was the summer after fifth grade and my best friend was Takia Payne. We had a whole dance routine to this song. It's pretty pathetic and I can still remember most of it. We worked it out in her yellow bedroom in the apartment next to the Dairy Queen and in Riverbank Park across the street.
They played Wanted Dead or Alive on the local Top 40 station at least 50 times a day during the summer of 1987. (Or was it 88?) Like every other summer of my childhood, my grandmother erected the rickety old above-ground swimming pool in her yard. I spent every weekend in that pool getting yelled at for splashing chlorinated water on the laundry hanging from her clotheslines. My portable radio was always tuned to Z100 and always blasting. My Aunt Allison lived in the apartment above my grandmother and I lived for the hours she'd play with us in the pool. She'd put us on her back and bounce us in and out of the water. So I'd hear something like, "I'm a...steel...ride. Wanted... alive."
Bad Medicine is all about the day I met my best friend for the first time. Maria was the third of three American teenaged girls summering in a small farming town in Spain. I was number one and Eva was number two. Eva knew both of us but we didn't know each other. Maria was wearing tons of black eyeliner, big hair and a black tee shirt. She sat on a stone wall around the abandoned school next to her parents' house and was chatting with one of my second cousins and another guy. Eva brought me over to meet her. (Really, Eva had a wicked crush on said second cousin.) I was carrying my portable purple tape player/radio and the cassette inside was New Jersey. While they gossiped and flirted in Spanish, I listened to Bad Medicine over and over and tried to look cooler than I felt. I didn't see Maria again until the next summer, again, in Spain.
I met Brian at the end of the summer of 1992, between sophomore and junior years of high school. He drove a red and white Bronco II with a killer stereo you could hear coming from a mile away. When we'd drive down the Parkway to go lay on the beach at Sandy Hook, Side 1 of New Jersey, specifically Lay Your Hands on Me and it's pseudo church organ intro were the soundtrack. Brian later took me to see Bon Jovi play at the (then) Continental Airlines Arena in the Meadowlands during their "Keep the Faith" tour.
In the end, I stole Brian's copy of the CD from the Moscow Music Festival that is the only place I knew where you could find Bon Jovi's cover of the Thin Lizzy classic, The Boys are Back in Town-- my personal summer theme song.
The affair continues today, in May 2008.
When the weather is warm and the windows are open, I want loud, guitar-driven rock. Not depressing emo stuff or discordant progressive rock. I eschew the country pop I listen to sometimes and turn instead to the music that died out during my high school years. Even though Warrant's Cherry Pie, Poison's Talk Dirty to Me and the Crue's Girls Girls Girls can get me singing along and sometimes off my ass and dancing, nothing moves me like some old school Jon Bon and the other Jersey boys.