Bon Jovi are one of the best-selling rock bands of all time. The band first rocketed to international success back in 1986 following the release of their third album, Slippery When Wet, which sold over 20 million copies worldwide and included their most popular song to date, Livin’ on a Prayer. Released as a single, the song has since been certified as triple platinum (having achieved over 3 million digital downloads) and has over 680 million views on YouTube at the time of writing.
Since their formation in 1983, the group have won multiple awards – including one Grammy and one BRIT – and have been inducted into both the UK Music Hall of Fame and US Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In short, Bon Jovi are one of the most popular, influential, and successful bands to come out of the 1980s.
Here are 20 things you never knew about the iconic group.
20. David Bryan once nearly died because of parasites he picked up in South America
Bon Jovi went on a hiatus in the early 90s before reuniting and recording their fifth album, Keep the Faith, in 1992.
Most of the band used the hiatus to pursue solo musical projects, with Jon Bon Jovi using the time to record a solo album titled Blaze of Glory.
But keyboardist David Bryan mainly needed the time off to recover from a serious illness.
Bryan spent a significant amount of the hiatus recovering from parasites which he picked up during the band’s tour of South America.
Bryan was lucky to survive the ordeal: “They ate out my intestines and my stomach and put me out of commission for about six months,” Bryan told Keyboard in 1993.
Bryan was bedridden and lost around 40 pounds before recovering after a two-week stint in hospital.
19. They nearly called themselves ‘Johnny Electric’
Bon Jovi are famously named after the band’s frontman, Jon Bon Jovi – real name John Bongiovi.
But did you know that the rock group very nearly called themselves ‘Johnny Electric’ instead?
Back in 1983, the band nearly signed to PolyGram’s Mercury Records under the name Johnny Electric.
But at the last minute they decided to take the advice of a peer and instead name themselves after their frontman.
Other bands at the time had achieved success by plumping for simple, two-word names – such as Van Halen.
And so Bon Jovi wisely decided to follow suit. The rest, as they say, is history.
18. Richie Sambora was once arrested for drink-driving with his daughter and niece in the car
While Richie Sambora struggled with substance abuse throughout Bon Jovi’s prime, this was largely behind closed doors.
However, Sambora’s drinking issues were made very public back in March 2008 when a police officer spotted his car carelessly weaving through lanes.
Sambora was pulled over and the policeman found him driving while inebriated with his girlfriend, daughter and niece also in the car.
Sambora failed the breathalyser test and was immediately arrested. He went on to plead no contest, saving himself from imprisonment.
He ultimately paid a total of $1,600 in fines, received three years of probation, and was made to attend a class on the dangers of alcohol.
Sambora continued to perform with Bon Jovi right up until 2 April 2013 when it was announced that he would be leaving for personal reasons.
17. They were the last band to play at the old Wembley Stadium before it was demolished
Back in September 2000, Bon Jovi had the honour of being the last ever band to play live at Wembley Stadium.
Before it was demolished and refurbished, a series of ‘farewell’ gigs were organised at the venue.
Jon told the crowd that the group was “privileged to be the last band at Wembley Stadium.”
He added that the band was “proud to follow a long line of superstars including Michael Jackson and Elton John.”
The band played several of their biggest hits, including Livin’ on a Prayer and You Give Love a Bad Name, and indulged the audience by playing several encores.
The night then ended with an impressive fireworks display. Bon Jovi were also meant to be the first performers at the new stadium when it opened in 2007, but the job ultimately went to George Michael.
16. They’ve never had a UK No. 1
Bon Jovi have bagged a BRIT award and even been inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame.
But despite this, the group have never actually secured a chart-topping single in the UK.
The closest they ever got was in 1994 when their hit single Always reached #2 on the UK chart.
They have also had 18 songs in the UK Top 10 and 37 in the UK Top 40.
By contrast, the band have had four chart-toppers in the US, with 25 songs placing on the Billboard 100 over the course of their career.
The band are still going strong to this day, so who’s to say there’s not still time for them to nab a UK No. 1?
15. They were the first US band to have an album legally released in the USSR
The USSR was famously hostile towards anything that smacked of Western decadence, going as far as banning rock music from the US.
Many in the country still sold and listened to illegal bootlegs, with some even creating bootleg pressings on discarded X-Rays.
It was only in 1988 that American music was officially allowed to go on release in the USSR.
Bon Jovi had the honour of being the first rock band to have an album legally released in the Soviet Union.
In 1988 their fourth album, New Jersey, hit shelves behind the Iron Curtain, and the group became the first band officially permitted by the Soviet government.
In 1989 they went on to perform at the Moscow Music Peace Festival alongside Mötley Crüe, Ozzy Osborne and Scorpion.
14. The title of their second album was inspired by Ray Bradbury’s novel Fahrenheit 451
The band’s second album is titled 7800 Fahrenheit – a nod to the 1953 Ray Bradbury novel Fahrenheit 451.
The dystopian novel follows protagonist Guy Montag as he grows disillusioned with his job of censoring literature and burning books.
The book is so called as 451 degrees Fahrenheit is the temperature at which the paper in a book catches fire and burns.
The novel is now widely regarded as one of the most influential books of the 20th century.
The Bon Jovi album is called 7800 Fahrenheit as most rocks supposedly begin to melt at that temperature.
The album performed well with singles Only Lonely and In and Out of Love both charting on the Billboard Hot 100.
13. You Give Love a Bad Name was originally written for Bonnie Tyler
You Give Love a Bad Name was the first single from Bon Jovi’s 1986 album Slippery When Wet.
The song reached #1 on the US Billboard 100 in November 1986 – a milestone, as it was the band’s first number one.
However, this almost never happened. An earlier version of the song was written by songwriter Desmond Child, intended as a single for Bonnie Tyler.
This version was released in May 1986 as If You Were a Woman (And I Was a Man).
Child, however, was dissatisfied with the outcome and reworked the song into You Give Love a Bad Name.
He worked on the new track with the help of Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora. It’s safe to say the finished product was a huge success.
12. Tico Torres has a clothing line for babies
It’s not uncommon for rock stars to dabble in other creative projects. Some launch their own alcohol brands, while others pen memoirs.
Many often branch out into the world of fashion – which is exactly what Bon Jovi drummer Tico Torres did.
But Torres’ foray into fashion was a little unorthodox in that he started his own fashion line specifically for babies.
The brand is called Rock Star Baby and produces everything from strollers to baby-grows for any little rock stars.
The label is still going strong with a range of products on offer, including cots, baby-grows, and bibs.
So if you’re after a dummy emblazoned with a skull and crossbones, it might be work checking them out.
11. Michael Jackson once sent Bubbles to hang out with the band
Hanging out with Michael Jackson is one thing – but hanging out with Michael Jackson’s pet chimpanzee is another matter altogether.
Back in 1987, both the King of Pop and Bon Jovi were performing in Japan and happened to be staying at the same hotel.
Jackson entertained the group in his hotel suite one afternoon and listened to their wildest stories from the tour.
The band encouraged the enigmatic star to come and join them in their own room later on in the night.
Jackson didn’t head down to party with the band, but not wishing to look rude, sent his pet chimp Bubbles in his place.
The monkey and the band had a great time, despite the absence of Michael himself.
10. Lead singer Jon made his debut on a Star Wars-themed Christmas song
Before Bon Jovi made a breakthrough in the 1980s, lead singer Jon was struggling to make a name for himself.
His musical debut wasn’t exactly enough to catch anyone’s attention – largely because it was on a Star Wars Christmas Album.
The bizarre album was called (rather uninspiringly) Christmas in the Stars: Star Wars Christmas Album.
Work on the album began after producer (and Jon’s cousin) Tony Bongiovi came up with the idea.
Bongiovi and his colleague Domenico Monardo were keen to create more Star Wars-themed tracks following the success of their disco version of the Star Wars theme.
A kind cousin, Bongiovi was keen to help his cousin embark on a music career, and so featured him on the track R2-D2, We Wish You a Merry Christmas.
9. The band’s original guitarist went on to form Skid Row
Before Richie Sambora joined, Dave “The Snake” Sabo was the lead guitarist in the band.
Sabo was more of a ‘tangential’ member of the band, flitting in and out of the group sporadically.
Bon Jovi was looking for someone more committed and brought in Richie Sambora in Sabo’s place in 1983.
There was no ill-feeling between Sabo and Bon Jovi – in fact, the two promised each other that whoever made it first would help the other out.
As it happens, both Sabo and Bon Jovi ‘made it,’ as Sabo went on to form the group Skid Row.
Skid Row achieved great commercial success in the 80s and 90s with their first two albums certified as multi-platinum.
8. Jon is a keen actor
Jon Bon Jovi is a man of many talents. On top of being a keen musician, he’s also an accomplished actor.
Back in the 1990s, Bon Jovi decided to take the plunge and dabble in acting alongside his musical ventures.
He was successful and ended up starring in films including Moonlight and Valentino and Destination Anywhere: The Film.
He’s not only appeared in movies. He’s also appeared in TV shows including Sex and the City and 30 Rock.
When asked by the Guardian in 2021 if he minded being typecast as “the hunk,” he replied “hell no.”
“I never went to the Shakespeare Company,” he said. “I was so anxious to get work I said: ‘I will do the small role, the hunk, just to get enough of a résumé.’”
7. They had no idea Livin’ on a Prayer would be such a hit
Livin’ on a Prayer is perhaps Bon Jovi’s most popular and recognisable song of all time.
The single release sold 800,000 copies in the United States alone. In 2013, it was certified triple platinum for over 3 million digital downloads.
But, funnily enough, not one of the members of Bon Jovi predicted how much of a hit the song would turn out to be.
Speaking to the Guardian in 2021, frontman Bon Jovi said: “That song, God bless it. But my God, who knew? Not us, I can assure you.”
“It was created on a day when none of us had any ideas, we just had a conversation and it came out of that. I’m sure happy my name’s on it!”
“I remember walking out of the room with Richie and I said: ‘Eh, it’s OK. Maybe we should just put it on a movie soundtrack.’”
6. Jon started out working at his cousin’s studio
It seems Jon Bon Jovi ended up being a touch more famous than his cousin Tony, but the roles were reversed back in the early 80s.
Tony Bongiovi, Jon’s cousin, owned a prolific music studio in Manhattan called Power Station Studios.
When Jon was 17 he spent much of his time working there with his cousin, starting out by sweeping floors.
Bongiovi wanted to see his cousin succeed and let him record several demos using the facilities available at the studios.
One of these demos was even produced by Billy Squier, but they failed to catch the eye of any record companies.
Jon’s big break eventually came in 1984 after his band Bon Jovi released their self-titled debut album.
5. Jon and Richie Sambora are no longer on speaking terms
Lead guitarist Richie Sambora left Bon Jovi back in April 2013 for undisclosed “personal reasons.”
It doesn’t seem like the split was amicable. In 2021, when asked if he was still in contact with Sambora, Bon Jovi simply replied “no.”
“He chose to do what he did, but my heartbreak is I personally loved having him in the band – I loved my band.”
“But there was not a chance in the world that we would discontinue because of his inability to go on,” he said.
Back in 2016 he also admitted that he had been in a “dark place” following Sambora’s departure.
In another interview with the Guardian in 2016 he went as far as saying that it “broke [his] heart” when Sambora left.
4. They were once banned from performing in China
Back in September 2015, Bon Jovi were scheduled to perform a series of gigs in China.
But just a week before they were meant to head over, the Chinese authorities pulled the plug on the tour.
Why? Because it had come to light that the band had used an image of the Dalai Lama at a gig in Taiwan, five years prior.
The series of concerts were intended to be the band’s first shows in China and no expense had been spared when it came to promoting the tour.
Bon Jovi aren’t the only musicians who have been forbidden from playing in China after expressing support for the Dalai Lama.
In July 2015, Maroon 5 had a series of concerts cancelled after a band member wished the Dalai Lama a happy birthday on Twitter.
3. They left Mercury Records in 2015 after 30 years with the label
Back in August 2015, the group announced their departure from their record label Mercury Records.
The group had been signed to Mercury Records for more than 30 years, having first signed with them in 1983.
The band even released a song about their split from the company back in 2015 called Burning Bridges.
Lyrics from the song offered an insight into the bitter break-up, with one verse reading: “after 30 years of loyalty, they let you dig the grave / Now maybe you can learn to sing or strum along / Well I’ll give you half the publishing / You’re why I wrote this song.”
Speaking to Billboard, frontman Jon Bon Jovi said of the track: “This hits it right in the head and tells you what happened.”
“Listen to the lyrics because it explains exactly what happened. And that’s that.” The band have since begun working with Island Records and Universal Music Enterprises.
2. Tico Torres has had both his appendix and gall bladder removed
Back in September 2013 Torres suffered a bout of appendicitis and had to have his appendix removed.
Just two weeks later, the drummer was back in hospital again as he underwent gall bladder surgery.
The band had postponed a gig in Mexico City in early September after Torres’ first spell in hospital.
According to Jon Bon Jovi, Torres was eager to “come back for the surgery right after the show.”
But his doctors advised that he really needed an emergency appendectomy and the band postponed the gig.
Following Torres’ readmission after issues with his gall bladder, the band went ahead with the rescheduled shows and called in a replacement drummer.
1. They headlined a charity concert with Bruce Springsteen to raise money for victims of Hurricane Sandy
Hurricane Sandy caused death, damage, and destruction after sweeping across America back in October 2012.
In order to raise money to fund relief efforts, several musicians clubbed together to put on a charity concert back on 12 December 2012.
Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi – keen to support their local communities back in New Jersey – headlined the show.
Many other famous performers took part in the charity event, including The Who, Alicia Keys, Eric Clapton, Billy Joel, and The Rolling Stones.
It also marked the first time in 18 years that the surviving members of Nirvana performed together. More than $30 million was raised through ticket sales.
Jon Bon Jovi himself went on to donate $1 million of his own money to the New Jersey Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund.