Bon Jovi – Livin’ on a prayer
There is probably someone to whom the names Tommy and Gina don’t say much, it could be any two guys who found themselves in the right place at the right time, that is, in the first lines of a fantastic song released in late October 1986. Of course, there are also millions of dinosaurs like us who immediately connect the names of Tommy and Gina to one of the most beautiful songs of a group that really made the history of 80s rock, the Bon Jovi.
The band formed in 1983, and they risked to live a completely different story, because the leader Jon Bon Jovi, stage name chosen by his record company from his real name John Francis Bongiovi Jr., was for a while poised between film and music career! In fact, the handsome Jon had been chosen as the protagonist of Footloose (Paramount wanted to change the subject, changing the main role from a dancer to a rock star, but this is another story of the 80s and we would end up talking about cinema) . The smart guy, however, declined, because he was looking for success as a singer; however, it must be said that the story between Jon and the cinema did not end at that moment, actually.
After a moderate success in previous years thanks to the albums Bon Jovi and 7800° Fahrenheit, they had the turning point of their career in the summer of 1986. Their third album Slippery When Wet and above all the first single You Give Love a Bad Name are a resounding success, and for the first time Bon Jovi reach the top of the charts. In fact, they had changed something to achieve success: not only did they find a new producer, but above all they were now working together with composer Desmond Child, who had written and arranged historical pieces such as, for example, I Was Made for Lovin’ You by Kiss.
Livin’ on a Prayer became one of Bon Jovi’s most popular and beloved songs, and was the second consecutive hit that topped the charts, thus opening the doors to the worldwide success of this rock and metal group (many called it “hair metal”, actually). And initially Jon didn’t want to put this song on the album, because he didn’t consider it good enough! Luckily Sambora and Desmond Child managed to convince him.
In this song, written by Desmond Child, Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora, a talkbox is used for the first time by the band; it’s a pedal-led effect that actually sends the sounds of an instrument (Richie Sambora’s guitar) to the mouth through a tube, so that the user can modify the sound just like when we make sounds with our mouth.
The video shows the phases of a Bon Jovi concert that was held in Los Angeles in July 1986. The rehearsal and soundcheck phases are in black and white, while the actual concert is in color. Bon Jovi had a great marketing idea, to have the name of the band written on the floor, so that anyone who saw the video knew who they were.
The song, as we said, is about two boys, Tommy and Gina, he works in the docks and she’s a waitress, who want to build their life despite the troubles they are forced to face. The boys live their story in the midst of difficulties, never giving up and without giving up their dream.
There is an interesting curiosity about the lyrics of this song! Do you know is the real Gina of the text? She is another star of the 80s, Maria Vidal, the singer of Body Rock. Maria Vidal had in fact been the girlfriend of Desmond Child, author of the song together with Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora: so this means that Desmond is Tommy, and the situation described was really a piece of real life: Maria Vidal had really worked as a waitress in a place where everyone called her Gina, a compliment for her beauty, so similar to that of Italian actress Gina Lollobrigida!
And indeed, the original version of the text was not about Tommy and Gina, but about Johnny and Gina, and actually John is just the real first name of Desmond Child! It was truly a snapshot of their daily youth struggles!
Tommy and Gina have truly become symbols in Bon Jovi’s songs, and represent precisely the strength to resist and not give up to achieve their dreams. They have also been mentioned by the band in other songs: in 1988 they will be mentioned in 99 In the Shade, and especially in 2000 in It’s My Life, where Richie Sambora will return to use the talkbox. In other songs the verse “Take my hand and we’ll make it” is also quoted.
In short, we can really say that Tommy and Gina not only finally made it, but really helped the success of one of the most iconic groups of the 80s!
Bon Jovi su Wikipedia