Some people might argue that Bon Jovi’s best song is either “You Give Love a Bad Name” or “Wanted Dead or Alive.” I disagree. In my humble opinion, “Bad Medicine” is the group’s crowning achievement.
Now, look. I’ve had my gripes with Bon Jovi before. On one hand, I always felt they sat on the foppish end of the pop metal spectrum. However, time has borne them out to be somewhat charming and nowhere near as insufferable as Poison — or at least The Artist Known As Bert Miracles. Despite the fact that his perfect teeth bother me (Can you really trust someone with perfect teeth?), it’s hard for me to dislike Jon Bon Jovi. To be fair, the guy’s done a lot of good with his charity work, so I’ll put some of that age-old bias from my teen years on the shelf.
Plus, the band has had a lot of good songs, arguably the best of them being “Bad Medicine.”
To test the (pop) mettle of the song, I decided to wedge in my earbuds, crank up the volume, and listen to “Bad Medicine.” On repeat. For a full hour. I mean, what else did I have to do? And if you can’t experiment with yourself in strange ways like this, then what’s the point of living, right?
The song lasts 5 minutes and 16 seconds. Breaking it down, it meant I was going to strap in and listen to this bad boy 12 times in a row during the span of an hour. No breaks. No interruptions. Just a 60-minute Iron (Wo)Man match with me vs. Bon Jovi’s “Bad Medicine.” Would I last? Would I crack like a pair of cheeks on a prison bunk bed? Would I discover things about myself that I never thought I would under these bizarre conditions?
Let’s find out, shall we?
Ohhhhh, shiiiit. You know business is about to pick up the second you hear the drumsticks click against each other. They ain’t fuckin’ around with that voice modulation, either. Buh-bye tenor, hello baritone letting us know we’re ready for a dose of “Bad Medicine.” Scratch that. JBJ lets out a squealing “yow” before Richie Sambora’s guitar starts squealing in turn. Well, shit… There’s even some piano on the outro. How about that!
Okay. This drum beat is sexy. Dare I say it, Tico Torres’ drumming is doing more of the driving on this song than Sambora’s guitar — which is nothing to sneeze at. Alright. I
see you hear you tremolo bar. Nice. I think I’m listening more to the instrumentation here than the lyrics.
Okay. Now I’m starting to listen to the lyrics. They’re a little cheesy. A little hammy. Like a pop metal Charlton Heston minus the NRA membership.
Back to the music. Damn. Sambora’s really sustaining that note. And now with the bass kick drum here as we’re creeping toward the finish. It’s still good on the second consecutive listen, but even before JBJ starts winding up with his “Wait a minute, wait a minute… I’m not done” second wind like James Brown getting ready to throw off his cape, the song’s starting to overstay it’s welcome.
Here we go again. I wonder what it’s like to be Bon Jovi and actually play this song night after night? I mean, Christ, this song was released in 1988 — over 32 years ago. These guys have been playing it for longer than some people I know have been alive. That said, the song still holds up really well.
“I got lots of money / But it isn’t what I need.” Fine, Jon. Just flex on everybody.
That’s some serious bass work at the 3:20 mark here.
Damn. Sambora’s doing some interesting guitar fills here. I gotta tip my hat to all of the band members. Each of them are doing a bang-up job with all of the different things going on.
I bet this is the first time someone’s ever worked the word “paramedic” into rock lyrics. Not as good as Warren Zevon managing to work “brucellosis” into a song, but pretty impressive considering these guys are from New Jersey. For chrissakes, they named the entire damn album after New Jersey, so they’re not even subtle about that. (Note to self: “Florida Man” would be a great name for a band.)
Well, hot diggety! More solid bass work around the 2:30 minute mark. Poor Alec John Such. Never really got the credit he deserved.
I’m not sure what JBJ is saying on some of these lyrics. To be fair, there are a lot of words to cram into the measures. It sounds like, “I need an escalator ’cause I’m running out of breath.” It’s probably “I need a respirator ’cause I’m running out of breath,” but using an escalator when you’re winded also makes sense.
Also, I realize JBJ previously mentioned in the song that he’s “got lots of money,” but would like to point out that generic prescriptions are often as good as the brand formulation. I hope he thinks about that the next time he sings, “When you buy your medicine / you take what you can get.”
In either case, I’m too lazy to look up the lyrics to confirm. It’s probably better this way.
Side note: This is probably one of the few times someone (from New Jersey, or anywhere else, for that matter) worked either “escalator” or “respirator” into a song. Well-played, Bon Jovi. Well played.
Whoaaaaa! Halfway there! (See what I did there? *ah-wink*) I’m at the midway point of this hour-long journey and mishearing lyrics all over the place as the words are blurring together.
“That’s what you get for falling in holes?” Is that what he’s saying on the pre-chorus? Maybe I need to get back to listening to the instrumentation.
Nah. Fuck it. I’m committed to the lyrics now. Or maybe I’m just going to be committed to an institution for metal health. Shit. That’s Quiet Riot. I hate mixing ’80s hair metal metaphors.
“Who’s bad?! Who’s bad?!” I’m bad! I’M BAD, YOU SON OF A BITCH! I restrain myself from crushing my plastic water bottle on my forehead to prove just how much of a fucking bad ass I really am. Ohhhh, maaaan…. Just let me at that acid washed denim, goddamnit! I’m mere seconds away from rifling through my old trinket box to dig out my old, heavy-ass pewter handcuff-and-hand-grenade earrings I bought at Spencer’s back in the day. I manage to stop myself because I need to see this Herculean task through to the bitter end.
“I’ve got all the symptoms / Count ’em / 1, 2, 3.” Jon Bon Jovi’s right. I do have the symptoms. (Not Covid! Shouldn’t say that too loud!) No. I’ve got all the symptoms of Imposter Syndrome. Who am I kidding?! I’m not bad. I’m not tough. All of that bravado from the 7th listen is spiraling down the shitter like much-coveted toilet paper in the early days of the pandemic.
I’m starting to lose my grip. Like JBJ himself, I’m “on my knees” begging this emotional agony to stop. Sweet mother of mercy. I beg you.
Jesus Christ. He’s “not done” and doing it “with feeling.” Again.
What the fuck did I sign up for?!
As I’m listening to the song for the 10th time straight, I’ve realized that this is what happens when you take shit too far — an apt metaphor for most areas of my life.
You know, you learn a lot about yourself when you listen to the same song over and over again for an hour. “Bad Medicine” is indeed making me face some hard truths.
Also, my head hurts. And I want some multigrain tortilla chips with salsa. Two more rounds and maybe I’ll treat myself.
Damn. I’m breathing pretty heavy right now despite sitting down. Is this song really an exercise in psychosomatic suggestion with all that talk about “respirators” and “running out of breath”? Great. Watch people misinterpret talk about breathing problems and I get “cancelled” for being an insensitive twat during The QuaranTimes.
That Little Imposter Syndrome Voice In the Back of My Brain pipes up to say, “Please, bitch. You actually have to be more than America’s fore-least essayist first before you’re even worth cancelling!” The little voice is right. But on a positive note, if you just own the fact that you’re trash, you become un-cancellable. The Tyrion Lannister Principle: “Wear it like armor and no one can hurt you.”
Holy shit. Jon Bon Jovi is like a damn prophet, bringing about all of these self-revelations and universal truths. Thanks, JBJ!
Welp, I’m in the home stretch. I haven’t started screaming and howling wildly at my neighbors or writing the remainder of this blog in excrement on my wall like the Marquis DeSade, so I got that going for me.
You know what would be really funny? If I just quit right now. Right before the very end.
Nah. I’m actually really enjoying this now. In fact, I’ll be a little sad when I take the earbuds out and prepare this missive for publication. Who knew I’d be so full of doubt at the midway point and now I’m enjoying the hell out of this. Maybe it’s Stockholm Syndrome. Or maybe it just goes to show you how little you know until you actually try. It’s certainly been a roller coaster ride.
Either way, I’m done and going to get some chips and salsa now.