Bad Medicine: Bon Jovi’s New Jersey Turns 35

Fessing up to my appreciation for their famous fourth album

New Jersey-era JBJ (Image: Facebook)

A personal story about Bon Jovi and New Jersey, the band’s fourth album, which came out 35 years ago today.

I was in 9th grade and playing my one year of JV football (totally not for me as I learned). And none of those meatheads in the locker room were listening to Jovi on some macho man stuff. I was the same way, thinking I was too cool for Bon Jovi because I was listening to R.E.M. and Cheap Trick and Van Halen. I was equally as ignorant about George Michael and Faith as well, even though I really dug the singles. Real dumb. 

But “Bad Medicine,” which the band co-wrote with master pop songwriter Desmond Child, was an undeniable earworm. I was hooked, but only on the New Jersey album on back. You’ll never catch me talking up any other record they made in the 35 years since they released New Jersey on this day in 1988 (Enya’s Watermark, Anthrax’s State of Euphoria and the Phil Collins Buster soundtrack also came out that Tuesday). 

Bon Jovi New Jersey, Mercury Records 1988

But yeah, I didn’t want to admit I was into this album back in ’88, man. And I was a fool to do so, quite honestly. I’m sitting here right now listening to New Jersey online, and once again relishing in the sheer musicality of deeper cuts like “Homebound Train,” “99 in the Shade” (speaking of Cheap Trick) and “Blood on Blood” (another Child co-write, and a personal favorite of both Bon Jovi and his songwriting partner, guitarist Richie Sambora). “Ride Cowboy Ride” is made to sound like a scratchy old 78, which is kinda cool. Album closer, “Love for Sale,” meanwhile, is an acoustic blues number lifted straight from the demo sessions for the LP when it was originally called Sons of Beaches. 

Those demos, in actuality, make up the second disc of the 2014 deluxe edition of New Jersey. And, for my money, these sessions stand as some of the best in-studio work of their career, especially the demo versions of such New Jersey nuggets as “Wild Is The Wind” (co-written with Diane Warren) and “Stick To Your Guns” (written with Holly Knight), both of which sound better in this incarnation. What else is cool on the 2014 bonus disc is how it includes tracks that never made the final cut of the original album like “Full Moon High” and “Backdoor Heaven.” It’s crazy to consider a song like “Growing Up The Hard Way” never made it beyond the demo stage.

There’s also two songs from these demo sessions that ended up in the hands of other artists, like the Desmond Child co-write “House of Fire,” which would be recorded by Alice Cooper for his 1989 LP Trash, and “Does Anybody Really Fall in Love Anymore?,” which Cher would cut on her Heart of Stone album, also from ’89. 

New Jersey would debut at no. 8 on the Billboard Top 200 before quickly securing the top spot a week later. It would stay there at no. 1 for four weeks until it was toppled by U2’s Rattle and Hum. It would go on to sell seven million copies here in the United States, and five million more overseas. 

New Jersey also holds the distinction of being the only hard rock album to have five of its singles reach Top 10 status on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. Not even Hysteria achieved that honor. 


VIDEO: Bon Jovi “Bad Medicine” 

But “Bad Medicine,” man. That’s where it’s at. It deserved to go no. 1 on the Hot 100. Listening to it now at 50, I can hear the T.Rex influence so clearly where my high school freshman self barely knew who Marc Bolan was (maybe I saw the video of “Bang A Gong (Get It On)” on MTV’s Closet Classics). But I was a big fan of the “Bad Medicine” video as well, with Sam Kinison and everything. It was on Dial MTV for the longest. The best.

Another cool thing about the deluxe edition of New Jersey is that it features Bon Jovi’s cover of Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys Are Back In Town,” previously released on the Stairway to Heaven/Highway to Hell compilation, which indicates the purity of their intentions during this particular period for the band.

I might not carry water for much of the Bon Jovi discography like other friends and loved ones do. But I’ll always go to bat for New Jersey without prejudice.






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Ron Hart

Ron Hart is the Editor-in-Chief of Rock and Roll Globe. Reach him on Twitter @MisterTribune.

One thought on “Bad Medicine: Bon Jovi’s New Jersey Turns 35

  • September 19, 2023 at 6:55 pm

    Great article. NJ is one of my favorite albums from the band. I appreciate you mentioning Blood on Blood, one of their most underrated songs. I urge you to take a listen to the Keep the Faith album and These Days; both are completely worth it. I have been a fan since the very beginning and have followed the band for many years, they are still one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen.


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