Charted on 21st October 1986 at No. 40. 'Livin' On A Prayer' became the group's biggest British hits to date when it reached No. 4 in early December as the follow-up to 'You Give Love A Bad Name'Hello again, rock music.
Over in the US, this was their second consecutive Number One single, unprecedented for a hard rock act. Here they didn't quite make it to the top of the chart (and still haven't, making them among the biggest acts never to have done so) but it was a substantial breakthrough for them. Of course, no less was expected when they called in co-writer Desmond Child to give their third album a more commercial sheen';- he'd previously worked with the shameless Kiss, co-penning their discofied hit 'I Was Made For Lovin' You' so he doesn't seem to be a big fan of the letter "G". 'Livin' On A Prayer' is one of his most enduring contributions and reportedly one of his more heartfelt: the characters Tommy and Gina are rumoured to be based on Child himself and his then-girlfriend Maria Vidal, as heard on Now 6.
There's obviously a lot to dislike about this record, a work of rather phony attitude that many erroneously think is "real" music. But it's a brilliantly clever record, combining elements of metal, classic rock (note the prominent talkbox guitar) and Springsteen-esque social commentary with enough of the edges smoothed off to make it an accessible pop song that was appealing to eight-year olds; though I admit that at the time I preferred 'You Give Love A Bad Name' because it had a louder chorus. They've spent over a quarter of a century since overplaying the same hand, but there's something undeniable about this track that makes resistance seem futile. It doesn't make a difference if it's any good or not.
In a sign of this track's enduring success, the BPI recently started awarding certification for singles and albums automatically based on sales since 1994 (which is the earliest raw data the current chart compilers have). 'Livin' On A Prayer' has been awarded a silver disc, which indicates sales of at least 400,000 copies on download, without ever returning to the Top 40. The single has also spent at least three non-consecutive weeks at the top of the Rock chart this century. I can understand that Bon Jovi fans might resent this track overshadowing the rest of the catalogue, but I'd be more sympathetic if it wasn't so richly deserved.
Also appearing on: Now 34, 47, 62, 64
Available on: Slippery When Wet (Special Edition)