Personnel in Bon Jovi. Livin’ on a prayer 1986.
- Jon Bon Jovi – lead vocals.
- Richie Sambora – electric guitar, talk box, backing vocals.
- Alec John Such – bass guitar (credited), backing vocals.
- Tico Torres – drums, percussion, finger cymbals.
- David Bryan – keyboards, backing vocals.
Breaking It Down
“Livin’ on a Prayer,” Bon Jovi’s signature hit, epitomized the band’s fusion of the best elements of hard-driving heavy metal, storytelling rock and roll, and romantic pop. In fact, that stylistic merger is built right into the structure of the song.
The song opens by establishing a bleak environment. The sound of the song’s first bars is ominous; a lone, prolonged synthesizer note lends the “Livin’ on a Prayer” an eerie feeling from the very start, a feeling only heightened by Sambora’s distinctively out-of-this-world-sounding guitar solo. Dark-sounding minor chords predominate as Tico Torres’ drums and Alec John Such’s bassline kick in to give the song a propulsive metal-driven momentum. Bon Jovi’s lyrics begin telling the story of Tommy of Gina, a young couple struggling to “hold on to what they’ve got” in the face of economic hard times. Through its intro and first verse, “Livin’ on a Prayer” is a pretty grim song.
Then everything begins to change. As verse gives way to pre-chorus, Bon Jovi stops singing about the problems facing Tommy and Gina and starts singing about their mutual devotion and determination to “give it a shot” no matter what. Meanwhile Sambora lays off the ominous-sounding guitar, switching to a more conventional soaring guitar riff while David Bryan’s keys begin chiming in a brighter key. Things for Tommy and Gina seem to be looking up.
And then, “Ohhhhhhhh! We’re halfway there! Oh, oh, we’re livin’ on a prayer!”
The chorus erupts from what has been a progression of gloomy minor chords shifts suddenly into bright, hopeful G Major, while Bon Jovi’s voice is suddenly backed by a multi-tracked chorus, making it sound as if a stadium of fans is already singing along. The lyrics turn defiant, and Tommy and Gina’s Love conquers all.
This is one of the great choruses in all of rock and roll, as joyful and exuberant as anything in modern pop music. This is a chorus to make fans dance. The chorus is pure pop adrenaline.
Below is a very useful plan for how most Rock Songs are written.
Looking again at yesterday’s Rock Rhythm Grid- Can you play some of the rhythms along to Bon Jovi? Notice the different sounds on the rhythms: Try hitting/tapping the seat of a chair for one sound, carpet or hard floor for another pitched sound etc.
Play your own ostinato drum pattern on Junk Percussion, Food containers, House furniture or body percussion along with a Rock Song of your choosing.
Describe the different musical elements (pitch, tempo, rhythm, melody and dynamics) with regards to mood and effects in We will Rock you.