I had to create a plan to get more MTV. I wanted my MTV, and I wanted it bad. I moped around, catching glimpses of Martha Quinn and Nina Blackwood and Adam Curry’s awesome hair when I could, but my sister and I really got our fix during Friday Night Videos. I started babysitting in the summer of 1982, and I discovered that MTV was a fantastic fringe benefit for a job that only paid a dollar an hour. SHHH. Kids, I can’t hear Kevin Cronin singing “I Can’t Fight This Feeling.”
By the time Headbangers Ball came into rotation, both my sister and I were deep into the hair band craze. Bon Jovi released Slippery When Wet (cue the snicker at the obviousness of the title) in 1986, and my family was all about the New Jersey pride. I reminded all of my teenage friends that I was born in New Jersey, so Jon and I were practically related. We went to the New Jersey shore with my cousins, and I bought a T-shirt emblazoned with “Jersey girls … best in the world.” It was no wonder that every lifeguard on the beach stopped me to talk. I was giddy with naive visions of popularity, not having any idea what the T-shirt really suggested at age 15. I grew up with a cheeky mother who wore a shirt with a cartoon of two sets of feet sticking out of the back of a van with the slogan “Do it in a van” (oh, those fantastic ’70s). So she wasn’t any help.
I sat, mesmerized, every time “Livin’ on a Prayer” played on MTV. That hair! Those frosted highlights! Richie’s hat! Tico’s soul patch! And they could fly. They were long-haired superheroes.
It wasn’t long before a Jon Bon Jovi poster was tacked up on the wall in our hallway. The catch was: Neither my sister nor I put it there. It was my 5-foot-tall, super-cool mom who wanted to ogle Jon every time she stopped by one of our bedrooms.
I had to buy the article of clothing of the year: the denim jacket with white fringe. I wore the hell out of that jacket, and it showed up in a lot of photos that year. OK, maybe two years. Fine. Three years. And my mom may still have it in her closet.
The string of hits this album generated seemed never-ending, at the time. “Livin’ on a Prayer,” “You Give Love a Bad Name” and “Wanted Dead or Alive” brought out our inner karaoke singers before karaoke was cool. Every school dance included some air guitar and our hands in the air, shouting “Whooa-o! We’re halfway there!” I still know every single verse by heart; I don’t even have to think about it, the words just fly from my mouth.
By the time I got to college, my Slippery When Wet cassette was worn out. The New Jersey album was going strong, and “I’ll Be There for You” was on my lips as I left my childhood friends behind in 1989. This was the year my parents finally decided to get cable, incidentally. Thanks a lot, Mom and Dad.
My new friends were a mixture of clean-cut sorority girls and friends who loved the hair band genre as much as I did. When I joined the rowing team my freshman year, the word spread that I was a head-banger and spent my evenings going to concerts at Bogart’s on Vine Street. A senior rower decided that my crew nickname would be “Megadeth” in honor of my musical tastes, and it stuck. To this day, my friends from the rowing team call me “Mega.” It does sound better than “Bon Jovi” as a nickname, I suppose. Then the novices would have thought my name was “Bon” instead of “Megan,” as they often did. Long story, I would say, without much more explanation.
The boys I dated looked a little like Jon Bon Jovi in my early college years. Well, if you squinted and looked at them from afar and just noticed that they had long hair, they looked a lot like him. Hair bands were riding high, and my best friend and I made it our mission to see and meet as many long-haired rockers as we could. I have photos with Enuff Z’Nuff, Dangerous Toys, Mr. Big, Skid Row, Danger Danger, and other various, obscure one-hit wonder bands. No, I’m not going to show them to you.
In the early ’90s, Nirvana came along and wrecked my rock music … uh … nirvana. Grunge replaced metal, and brother bands to Bon Jovi, like Cinderella and Winger and Extreme, died a quiet death. Most of those bands still tour, by the way, for middle-aged metal-heads like me.
My 4-year-old son prefers country above all, living in Texas, but every once in a while a song I’m listening to catches his ear and he starts to dance. While he likes particular songs by AC/DC, Motley Crue and the Honeydrippers, the songs “Beth” by KISS and “Patience” by Guns N’ Roses are his favorite lullabies.
I promised my husband I wouldn’t hang a Jon Bon Jovi poster in the hallway, though.
This essay first appeared at Midlife Mixtape.