They’ve seen a million faces, and they rocked them all. And on Saturday night at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Cleveland, the members of Bon Jovi thanked a few of them, too.
It was a poignant moment, since the multiplatinum rockers have been eligible for inclusion in the institution for close to a decade and were snubbed once in 2011. Now they reunited with their estranged founding members, guitarist Richie Sambora and bassist Alec John Such, to accept the honors from the self-proclaimed King of All Media, Howard Stern. “Am I relieved? Yeah,” Jon Bon Jovi told The New York Times when asked last year about the induction. “Am I pleased? Absolutely. But it’s about time.”
He and his past and present bandmates used their time at the podium to reflect on just how they got to this point in their career. Here’s what they had to say.
Alec John Such: I realized, I soon realized, how serious it was and [Jon Bon Jovi] had a vision that he wanted to bring us to and I am only too happy to have been a part of that vision. Many people here tonight, I know it, I’m gonna thank you – all the managers, agents, PR people, record people, family, road crew, I’m gonna thank you. You know who you are. To be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is such an honor. Thank you. These guys are the best. We had so many great times together, and we just wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for those. Love ’em to death, always will. I’d like to bring up Hughey McDonald.
Hugh McDonald: Thank you, Alec. Wow. First off, my wife Kelly, my kids Morgan and Jake, I love you. I’m so happy that you’re here to share this honor with me. Thank you to the friend and the accountant, Gary, who’s had my back for 40 years. Thank you to my friend Brian, who’s been on back for over 50 years. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, thank you for the induction. Jon Bon Jovi, thank you for being you. Thank you to the fans for your devotion.
Richie Sambora: Just think that … think you could even imagine if any of this shit would’ve went down with this dude, or that dude. And I am proud to be working with these guys and you know, songs that found the way … because you’re connecting with humanity and then you find out more with humanity. Everybody is more alike than they are not alike … First gotta say thank you to everybody in this band because, the hardest thing to do, I believe, is to find four guys with yourself that will go through anything, that will work hard, that’ll go crazy, whatever it took. And we did that for a really long time. But boy, was it fun. If I wrote a book, it would be the best time I ever had.
Howard already explained that for me, and I thank you, Howard. And there’s so many people to thank, and you know, a career as long as we’ve had, and I’m so blessed. I gotta thank my mama. I gotta thank my beautiful daughter. You know, everybody, I mean, all the record company presidents we’ve been great friends with, we’ve had the chance to really bond and do business with. Make music with and make people happy all over the world. I think that’s what I’m really, really happy about. 130 million records, 33 something million people we’ve played to. Not one of them left without a smile. Miles of smiles! Thank you. Gotta thank the fans, because without the fans … every night we went out to face the stage full of that – 72,000 fans. They gave us what we needed. We gave them what they needed. Thank you very much! Tico Torres!
“I’ve been writing this speech since I first strummed the broom and sang at the top of the stairs of my childhood home,” – Jon Bon Jovi
Tico Torres: I must say … Howard, thank you very much. The guy’s always made me laugh. I’m short, but I try to look up to him … Anyway, this is a blessing to be here. I gotta thank my mom, too, and my dad who can’t be here. She backed me as a musician, saying “Do what you wanna do and play from your heart.” And honestly, you don’t get it that good. So mom, I love you, thank you very much. My dad, Lenny. Dad covered 30s and 40s … And that started my career as a drummer. So blessed to be here. Great news, and wonderful news. Not only from the past, the present, and hope to come a lot in the future. I get to stand on this stage with some of the finest musicians I ever worked with. Richie. He’s got a warm heart and soul. Hugh McDonald. Alec, I love Alec. I met him and we played together since I was 16. In 1969. Lost my virginity. I love Alec. If it wasn’t for Alec, I don’t think I could be in this band. Or any of us, he was the kingpin. David, may I say it once, the funniest man I ever met. The genius behind many coats. Great playwright. He’s the funniest man I know.
Jon Bon Jovi. When I met Jon, I immediately knew that he wanted everything that I wanted, which made me wanted to work harder than 150 percent. And he’s absolutely the best frontman I’ve ever been with, seen, or worked with. These guys are family yes, and Howard did reveal some stuff that we went through when we were younger and the funny thing’s we’re still together. We have a new roster of young guys who’re not here. John Shanks, they’re playing with us but they’re not on this stage, but I wanted to include John Shanks, Phil X. They’re wonderful, and I think with all of this, the fact that this brought us together, not only as human beings and musicians to be able to play something that we love so much, I thank and I pay homage to all these gentlemen, all the passion that came on this stage, all the future to come. I wanna thank my family, my son Hector, Holly, all my family and friends, especially everyone here … it’s been our backing for the rest of our lives. I’d like to introduce David Bryan.
David Bryan: How ya’ll doing? Tonight is a celebration of a landmark in an incredible musical journey. A celebration of a seven year old who took fifteen years of piano – classical piano – I should say. I joined the Atlantic Expressway, the celebration of a 21-year-old recording the first Bon Jovi record. And the celebration of the 56-year-old who stands here tonight. When we started out, we said we’re gonna make it no matter what. Passion, blind faith, goes beyond our wildest dreams. And in 1983, we set out in Tico’s station wagon. And then the big tour came. A real tour bus picked us up at our house. So Jon, Richie and myself, we still live at home with our parents. And Alec and Tico were adults – they had real houses. So the bus picked us up. This bus was worth 20 times more money than my entire house. The most amazing, shiny bus comes. We said “okay, it’s time to go,” so I got all my luggage and I brought my bowling ball, because I am from Jersey. I’m not gonna use a lane ball. I need a real bowling ball. So I brought my bowling bowl, and then Alec brought his bowling ball, and Richie brought his bowling ball. So we picked up our stuff but we had to go back to each of our houses and drop off the freakin’ bowling balls because there was no room on the bus.
We grew up as nobody but we became someone. From the streets of New Jersey to the stages of the world, to my own personal journey on Broadway and now to Cleveland, for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I wanna thank my original members, my new brothers, my beautiful wife, my beautiful kids, our managers, agents, road crews, recording crews, video crews, my friends, and especially all the fans. For a great journey that continues to surprise and thrive. Thank you. Now, my brother, Jon Bon Jovi.
Jon Bon Jovi: Thank you, thank you, thank you. First, I want to thank Beth Stern for not only getting Howard here, for getting him to stay here. And I want to thank Howard because he is the only man in America that thinks he needed a passport to come to Cleveland. Thank you. My dear friend, it is the truth, he was my first, my only choice, to induct us tonight.
I’ve been writing this speech since I first strummed the broom and sang at the top of the stairs of my childhood home. I’ve actually written it many ways, many times. Some days I write the thank you speech, other days, I write the fuck-you speech. Writing it was, in fact, therapeutic for me in a lot of ways. I certainly see things differently tonight than I would have 10, 20, 30 years ago. But in the end, it’s all about time. It took a lot of people to get us here tonight and not all of them were hairstylists.
See, I was first introduced to music at seven years old when my mother brought home a guitar that she had bartered for along with a Kenny Rogers Learn to Play Guitar record. As a kid, my parents took me to lessons where this guy was in a little cubicle, smoking a pipe. He opened the book to a bunch of scales and he tortured kids with his smoke and his lack of interest. After a couple weeks, I quit, brought that guitar down the basement stairs, conveniently making a tuning peg.
That guitar laid there in the dark until I was around 15 and a man named Al Paronella moved into our neighborhood. Al played in the lounges and the wedding circuit. He was a great guy, a family man. He took an interest in a couple of us neighborhood kids and he taught us a couple of songs. Al’s teaching style was much different than that of the pipe smoking, scale playing, half-hour nap taking session man in the strip mall. I didn’t learn quickly. I was by no means any good, but Al showed me the magic of a song. First, it was the Animals, a version of “House of the Rising Sun.” We slogged through that and then it was Thin Lizzy and “The Boys are Back in Town.”
Truth is, I did a half-ass job at practicing, but I went back and after a couple of weeks, Al lost his cool demeanor and he said, “Don’t waste my fucking time. If you don’t know this next week, we’re done.” It worked because I’ve practicing like crap every single day. Al passed away in 1995, the initials AP have been carved in my guitar ever since and they serve as a reminder to practice every day. So for that, I say thank you to Al.
Whoever played in a garage dreams of being in a big rock band and I was no different. I began in my buddy’s basement and in the back yard. We played in the local talent show, came in second place, worked up to block dances and then the clubs where we got a glimpse of what we thought was the big time. At 17, I started a big ten piece band called the Atlantic City Expressway playing songs of my childhood heroes, the Animals, Thin Lizzy, of course, but especially Bruce Springsteen. David Bryan was in that band. He used to do his homework in the basement of the Fast Lane before we played our set and I want to take a moment here to thank David’s dad, Big Ed, because I know he’s here tonight watching down over us, so thanks, Big Ed for your band, for cheering us on.
By 18, I could already see that there were two paths to music: you either play for fun or you play for keeps. The cover band circuit was where the money was or the girls were, but where the future was not, so I quit my own cover band and I joined an original band as their lead singer. The rest didn’t last very long, but I do appreciate Jack Ponti, whose band it was, for taking me in and nurturing the earliest me.
By the fall of 1980, I was out of high school, I was out of the rest, I was fronting my own band whenever and wherever I could, and running errands at a place called Power Station. The next couple years were my college: write, sing, play, watch, learn, repeat. I saw a lot of the men and women who make up this Hall of Fame walk in and out of those studios: the Stones, Queen, Bowie, Bruce, Dylan, Cher, Chic. I did hand claps on a Little Steven record and I sang on the Star Wars Christmas record. I remember Mark Knopfler who was dating the studio manager at the time asking me to borrow a copy of his album, Naked Movies. I told him I would loan it to him if he would sign it for me. I still have that album and I remain a huge Dire Straits fan. Thank you, Mark and Dire Straits.
By 1982, I had written and recorded a bunch of songs, but one of them stood out. One was called “Runaway.” After sending that cassette to that every label, every manager I could think of, I thought, “Who is the loneliest man in the music business? The DJ. There was a new station in New York City called WAPP. It was so new that there wasn’t even a receptionist, so I was able to walk in and get the attention of John and the DJ, Chip Hobart. I told him about the song on the cassette and the frustration of not getting any label to listen to it, but Chip did listen and he told me he thought it should be included on their home grown record for local music.
A few months later, “Runaway” was playing on the radio not only in New York, but in Tampa, in Chicago, in Detroit, in Denver, and other parts. Now, I had all the attention I needed, but I needed to showcase the songs. What I needed was a band.
So, I called David. He was still playing, but he was also going to college to be a doctor like his nice Jewish mother said he should. I met Alec Such, he was in a cover band called Phantom’s Opera. Alec was the coolest cat on the cover circuit. He was the rock star in his band. Alec was also in an original band called Message with Richie Sambora. They were doing a summer tour supporting Joe Cocker and promoting their own EP. And Alec knew the baddest ass drummer in the land, Tico Torres. I swear, back at the Fast Lane, I once watched Tico beat a drum to death. He was the hardest hitting sledgehammer I had ever seen. Tico was already a married man, had a house, was in a band called Frankie and the Knockouts, was already on the road with a record deal and hit singles, and I needed to convince him to give that up to rehearse in a store front and play with a 21 version of me. Part of me thought no chance, the rest of me was pretty confident, so that Sunday I went to his house and I played him the songs, I told him about the radio exposure, and I hoped that he might help me out. Tico took a shot and I’ve been his singer ever since.
So, Tico, Alec, and Dave Sabo, who went on to perform Skid Row was helping me out and leaded to a couple of promotional shows. And one night at the Fountain Casino in Aberdeen, New Jersey, Alec invited Richie Sambora to come see us play. Richie came backstage and we hit it off. Legend has it he told me that he was going to be in the band and I said, “Well, let’s get together and write a bit. Let’s see if our styles work. Let’s see if it works for the vision.” It didn’t take me but a minute to realize that Richie was a great singer, a great writer and a great player, and it didn’t take him too long to agree to join us.
The success of “Runaway” led to a deal with PolyGram that I signed in 1983 and the label remains our home to this day. With the band at my side, a record deal in place and a song on a radio, it was time to look for a manager. Several of them showed interest, each offering something unique, but Doc McGhee just wanted it more. And I remember back in ’83 going into a record store with him talking about music, looking at album sleeves, and touring programs, we talked about my influences and the big names of the day like Van Halen, like Journey. He told me we could be like them, only bigger. He believed it. I believed him. I signed that deal.
The record came out in 1984 and “Runaway” cracked the Top 40. We toured the U.S. with the Scorpions and then we went to Europe with Kiss and then onto Japan for the first time with Whitesnake. We learned how to win over a crowd that doesn’t know your name, doesn’t know your songs, or even understand your language, all in 40 minutes or less, so to all of those who allowed us to open for you and learn from you along the way, I say thank you.
In ’85, our second record had a couple of Top 40 hits and another year on I wrote another American Gold record that set us up for the make-or-break third album, Slippery When Wet. That record would change our lives. There was the magic combination of our band, Bruce Fairbairn, Bob Rock, Desmond Child, our A&R guy, Derek Shulman, Doc, a little known studio called Little Mountain in the city of Vancouver. Nothing would ever be the same. “You Give Love a Bad Name, “Wanted Dead or Alive,” “Livin’ on a Prayer.” We started having consistent hits and we finally became a headliner. And everyone that was involved in that record and the tour brought out the best of each other. Many millions of records and hundreds of shows later became the New Jersey album and millions more records, hundreds more shows, same team, same results. They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, it almost killed us, but we lived to become stronger, so thank you to all of those who helped write that chapter. To Bruce Fairbairn who produced Slippery and New Jersey, thank you for your trust, your faith, your patience, and your kindness. Your memory lives every time when we hear those records and thank you, Doc McGhee, for reaching us the ropes.
By 1992, rock music got the kick in the teeth that it needed with Seattle scene. The grunge movement was a turning point in many of my peers’ careers. The big, happy anthems of the hedonistic ’80s had gone out of style and there were many of you out there who had figured that we would be gone with it. Then I opened Bon Jovi Management with Paul Korzilius. Some management certainly wasn’t the most fashionable an artist can make, but thanks to Paul, BJM had a pretty great 25 year run.
As time marched on, Keeping the Faith reinvents the band, we continued having hits, and now we’re playing the biggest stadiums in the world. Alec leaves the band and Hugh McDonald joins the tour. As the ’90s worn down, we write the next chapter of our career. We ring in the new century and introduce ourselves to a new generation with “It’s My Life” and the Crush record.
In 2005, Jack Rovner joins the team and challenges the status quo. With Jack’s help, the band wins a Grammy and plants the seeds for what ultimately becomes the JBJ Soul Foundation. John Shanks, our producer, collaborator, support system, and on Have a Nice Day, Richie and I go on to write “Who Says You Can’t Go Home.” We’re the first rock band to have a Number One country single. Then it’s three more Number One albums in a row, Lost Highway, the Circle, What About Now, things are actually going incredibly well, so if this was one of those Behind the Music episodes, this is where the shit ends.
“There was an exuberance and a joy that was put into every single note,” – Jon Bon Jovi on This House is Not For Sale
So, during the Because We Can Tour, Richie is no longer standing at my side. Once again, Phil has to answer his phone and answer the call, Tico, has not one, but two, emergency surgeries and we actually have a replacement drummer sit in for 11 stadium shows. One night I’m looking out at 80,000 faces at Rock in Rio and I turn to David and I think, “Holy shit. I’m back in a cover band.” Hugh, now Phil, eventually Tico, David, and I play another 105 shows and still manage to have the gears in high.
By 2014, 2015, I’m dealing with record company turmoil, as well as the unexpected departure of my creative partner and guitar player. My rock, my lawyer, my godfather, he gets ill and he has to retire. There was so much of loss during this time, my voice has no interest in working for me any longer. I swear to you, my guitar gave me the finger. So to paraphrase Malcolm X, my wife reminded me that there is no better lesson than adversity. And I sought help anywhere that I could find it, professional, as well as spiritual guides in the form of my angels. They all helped put me back together again. So, when we went back in the studio in the spring of 2016, it was a renewed sense of pride and purpose and we ended up recording in the same studio where I used to be a gopher back in 1980. The same studio where I signed the record deal with PolyGram in 1983 and where we extended that deal in 2015. And this time, it was like the first time, there was an exuberance and a joy that was put into every single note that there was because there was a feeling of a band working together with something to say.
This House is Not For Sale. David, he stepped up and he filled the creative and emotional gaps that were left behind. You’ve always been there for me but on this record, you were doubly there, and I thank you. Tico, you filled Billy Falcon, you poured your heart into this record. John Shanks produced every note on this record with pride and an urgency to deliver for me what I needed, what I wanted, what we stood for. This House is Not For Sale entered the charts at Number One.
“Time is the most precious commodity we have,” – Jon Bon Jovi
And that brings us here, amongst the class of 2018 in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Thank you to all the artists for an amazing experience. To be a part of this incredible ride for the last 35 years and may all the fans who supported this band share this honor with me because none of it possible without all of you guiding us.
There are so many of you here that I want to hug and I want to kiss and I want to say thank you to. Without my parents, there wouldn’t be me. To my brothers, Matt and Tony, who have always stood by my side, my godfather, my protector, to Paul Korzilius, the one man that I wanted with me, thank you, Paul. To Obie O’Brien, my best friend. To Mike Rue, a righthand man for the last 20 years who has given me his best every single day. Desmond Child, my friend, you have taught me many, many things along the way, thank you for your talents … David Massey, you’re an honor. You’ve always believed in us and you’ve supported us throughout our record, to our family of 35 years, I thank you. I thank Ken Sunshine and Tiffany Shipp, aside from teaching me key Yiddish words like mensch and schmuck, you are the tag team who has always kept the word out there and always keeping my word. John Sykes, my friend, you’re unwavering support throughout my career cannot be compared. Robert Norman, Alison McGregor, Chris Dalston and all CAA, but especially Rob Light, who just refused to take no for an answer, you fought for this, you and you’ve been in my corner being my agent for over 25 years. To my kids, Stephanie, Jesse, Jacob, and Romeo, you are my greatest hits. Thank you. And to my wife, Dorothea, you’re my everything. You’re the greatest gift that God could have given me. You’re there whenever I breathe and I just want to make your tea and tell you how much I love you forever.
And finally, the end of my speech. I know, I know, it’s about time. And that has been the theme of our weekend, so it all really just depends on how you read into those words, “it’s about time,” because time is the most precious commodity we have. I thank my lucky stars for the time that I have to spend with each one of you, Alec, Richie, Hugh, Tico, David, to you, to us, to all of you, tonight the band that agreed to do me a favor stands before you so I can say thank you for making this dream live on.