20 Years Ago: Bon Jovi Fight the Alt-Rock Revolution With ‘These Days’
For a lot of rock acts, releasing a greatest hits record is often a tacit admission that the most commercially successful part of their career is over. But a year after going quintuple platinum with their best-of collection Cross Road in 1994, Bon Jovi kept right on rolling with their sixth studio effort, These Days.
The album arrived at an uncertain time for Bon Jovi, who hadn't released a record of new material since Keep the Faith in 1992 and faced no shortage of turbulence, both within the band — which was forging ahead without co-founding bassist Alec John Such following his departure the previous year — and on the charts, where bands of their vintage were being crowded out by a rising tide of younger acts with a more serious, stripped-down approach that made music of the hair metal era sound goofy and quaint by comparison.
But while Bon Jovi may have been frequently lumped in with other '80s hard rock acts, they'd always had sharper commercial instincts than many of their peers, as they'd proven repeatedly with a series of albums that boasted multiple hits at rock and Top 40 radio. Those instincts carried them through the lengthy sessions for These Days, which stretched out across multiple studios throughout 1994 and produced dozens of demos, 12 of which ended up making the final cut for the album.
As they had with Keep the Faith, Bon Jovi tinkered with its sound for These Days, adjusting its approach slightly to better fit in with the new "alternative"-dominated pop landscape. "I've been listening a lot to bands like Nine Inch Nails and Tool," Jon Bon Jovi told Request in 1994. "I don't write those kinds of songs myself, but it sure makes you think. Because I couldn't stand another moon-June-spoon rhyme scheme that's the seventh generation of something that Def Leppard started and that we capitalized on or whatever."
That being said, Bon Jovi insisted he wasn't about to go jumping on any bandwagons. "How many more alternative bands can you stand before you want to throw up? I just figure that fashion is fashion, and we've been around just long enough that fashion comes and goes," he shrugged. "And the good ones will survive — Pearl Jam will still be around — and the bad ones will make a second or third album and fade away. I can't pretend to write what I don't write, and I'm not going to jump on the fashion boat because it would be bulls---. So I'm writing things that mean something to me, and hopefully people will like them. That's the only attitude I can take."
Fans were able to hear the results on June 19, 1995, when These Days arrived in stores — preceded by the record's lead-off single, "This Ain't a Love Song," which ended up scoring the band yet another Top 20 hit. Peaking inside the Top 10, the album added another platinum record to Bon Jovi's pile, but for the first time, the LP — and all of its singles — did better outside the U.S. than they did in the band's home territory.
Watch Bon Jovi's 'Something for the Pain' Video
That disparity started to show with the release of the second These Days single, "Something for the Pain," which rose no higher than No. 76 on the Billboard chart but proved a Top 10 hit in a number of other countries — including the U.K., where all five of the singles from the album peaked inside the Top 15 and the record itself topped the charts. In much of the rest of the world, the sales returns told a similar story: If Bon Jovi were fading in the States, they were making up for lost fans just about everywhere else.
Those shifting demographics were reflected in the mammoth These Days tour, which stretched out for over a year after the album's release and found the group playing more dates in Europe and Asia than the United States. More than most rock acts, Bon Jovi were a global brand as much as a band, and although few could have guessed it at the time, their eagerness to grow their overseas fan base made them uniquely well situated to navigate the music industry's increasingly bumpy terrain during the post-Napster era.
And as it turned out, the timing couldn't have worked out better for Bon Jovi. As they had after Keep the Faith, the group went on hiatus following the These Days promotional cycle, and when they returned five years later, the musical landscape had changed all over again. They'd go on to prove themselves yet again with their seventh LP, the worldwide hit Crush ... but that's another story.
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