Blaze of Glory

The suburban pop babes who have made Bon Jovi huge probably think that Apaches and cattle rustling are about as rad as Al Jolson or The Perils of Pauline — so why Blaze of Glory? Apparently, Jovi was "inspired" by Young Guns II, which, according to the film's screenwriter, was in turn "inspired" by Jovi's "Wanted Dead or Alive." The logic behind the flick itself is clear enough: The western genre is such a dead dog that you can skin the beast, throw the flesh on the backs of some brats and make a mil off myth. But Jovi has made a record, not a movie, and blown it by thinking they were the same thing.

Jovi's aspiration to the status of rock legend is obvious enough. Bob Dylan's soundtrack for Sam Peckinpah's Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid haunts Jovi almost as much as that film itself haunts Young Guns II (which xeroxes whole scenes from Peckinpah). Jovi dedicates "Blood Money" to Dylan, and I wish he had just covered "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" instead, because "Blood Money" has all the dark, allegorical power of a plot summary on the back of a video box.

Following the examples of folks like Roy Orbison and Robbie Robertson, Jovi also pulls the trick of surrounding himself with famous musicians: Jeff Beck, Little Richard, John Cougar's Kenny Aronoff, Tom Petty's Benmont Tench, even Elton John. Without the lead foots who usually punch out his tunes, Blaze of Glory sounds even better than New Jersey. The title track and a handful of others ("Billy Get Your Guns," "Bang a Drum," "Santa Fe") bubble with so many tight harmonies, rhinestone chord changes and buddy vibes that even lines as stupid as "You were lonesome as a jukebox" can't lessen their power. And while Jovi cops some of these moves from musical ancestors, he dresses 'em up with western sounds — Tex-Mex accordion, jew's-harp, fake Indian chants — in a manner akin to Christian Slater's appropriating a ratty coat, a Colt .45 and a three-day-old beard for the film.

But Jovi couldn't bluff his way west of Newark with these lyrics, and I can't see why he's trying, "Bon Jovi" the concept was already a myth, one the masses made out of their own desire, but on Blaze of Glory he's just kicking up dust in a cultural cemetery. Go east, young gun.

From The Archives Issue 822: September 30, 1999