1984 signaled the birth of glam rock titans Bon Jovi’s artistic debut, with an eponymously-titled record that was full of rockers and headbangers. And whilst ‘Runaway’ was the only track that garnered much attention, the whole album is criminally underrated. The same thing happened just a year later, when the boys from New Jersey emerged from the studio with their second album, the appropriately-named 7800 Fahrenheit. Supposedly coming from the boiling point for rock (thus essentially meaning ‘American hot rock’), Fahrenheit gives us ten tracks of hard rock and metal-licking riffs, all packed with synths and big hair. It’s a quintessential Jovi album. But there were two things stopping it from reaching the recognition it deserved.
To begin with, the band’s first two albums are often passed over for their third; the one that made them. 1986’s Slippery When Wet was home to familiar hits like ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’, ‘You Give Love A Bad Name’ and ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’. It gave them tours, fans and success. To many it might as well have been their first release. And secondly, the band themselves have often rejected Fahrenheit, citing bad mental state of mind, rushed production and a poor choice of managerial direction for a poor record.
Which is a shame because, in case you couldn’t tell already, I really think 7800 Fahrenheit is a golden record. Possibly even better than the ones that followed, as sacrilegious to the big-haired rock star as that may be.
‘In And Out Of Love’ is pure Jovi, an explosive start to the album. The biggest hit of the whole piece, it tells of a girl who’s been playing, well, ‘in and out of love’. It’s nearly five minutes – ballsy for an opening number – but each second is packed with sound. Guitar, synth, Richie Sambora, what more do you want?
But the record only gifts us more, with ‘The Price of Love’ hiding a mean riff. The big, classically eighties group chants on this tell you it must be Bon Jovi, with each member contributing to a wall of vocals that will blow you away. ‘Only Lonely’ continues the trend. ‘I got this time bomb ticking in my head, this time I think she’s gonna blow…’ calls Jovi in a husky tone, before Sambora lets loose one of the best guitar solos the band have ever done.
‘King of the Mountain’ is one of the tracks that really made me delve deeper into this album. This is a prime example of Bon Jovi still finding their sound in the early days, with a tinge of hard rock/metal that set them apart from what would come later on down their musical path. ‘King of the Mountain’ has the egotistical lyrics of a band destined for greatness, and it sounds perfect. ‘I’m King of the Mountain! I’m king of the hill!’. Yes Jon, yes you are.
The first side closes with ‘Silent Night’, the only slower song or ballad, really, of the whole set. But even then, it sounds great, towing the line between album track and underrated gem. Where the first side closes on a softer note, though, the second picks up the pace once more.
‘Tokyo Road’ takes the medal for getting me into this album in the first place. ‘King of the Mountain’ cemented my curiosity, but this curiously Japanese track caught me off guard on my first trek into Jovi. With its deceptive music box intro to the crashing guitar and peal of drums, it’s a great track. At times it feels a bit generic, even for Jovi, but it’s a pure rock song. It’s tough to even call this one ‘glam’.
And then the album spits out possibly the best track the band have ever done. No, really. Many will disagree, preferring the bigger, more polished hits. Or argue that the ballads of ‘Always’ and ‘I’ll Be There For You’ deserve the real credit. Someone will claim that ‘Homebound Train’ is some secret goldmine of the band’s. But for me, ‘The Hardest Part is the Night’ wins hands down.
The opening guitar is so eighties, but by no means outdated. It fuses glam metal with hard rock in the most precise way, and the songwriting is incredible. Jovi weaves us the tale of how tough the streets are, where everyone knows your name and is out to get you. The song has this real fleeting sense of urgency and danger around every corner, but without all the despair. It echoes the struggle of cracking the music industry and offers us an insight into a great musical mind. But it also just rocks. I mean the riffs are electrifying, and the choruses embed themselves into your brain. Why this song especially never made the rounds on radio, I’ll never know. It’s glam rock, compressed into under five minutes.
‘Always Run To You’ is another great rock track, a tad unmemorable but a good headbanger nonetheless. The chugging, non-stop ‘(I Don’t Wanna Fall) To The Fire’ is another highlight of the record, showing once more the true hard rock colours that only Jovi could allude to.
‘Secret Dreams’ is a deceitful rock anthem. It opens with a dirty hook, picking up when the keyboards chime in. But as the song progresses, it only builds and builds and builds, with group choruses that rise like plumes of sonic smoke. It’s a really strong closer, which only consolidates the record’s power.
There are only so many times I can tell you that the first two Jovi records are some of their best stuff. But if it means anything, I probably listen to them in their entirety far more than Slippery… or New Jersey – And I love both those albums, believe me.
Whilst even the band may reject them – especially 7800 Fahrenheit – this fan could never. It’s pure 80’s glam rock, and I love it.