Almost no band that started after the 1970s has been more successful than Bon Jovi. They have sold a reported 130 million records and packed just about every stadium in the world many times over. Their songs are inescapable on classic-rock radio (not to mention karaoke bars) and their last four new albums hit Number One on the Billboard 200. Despite all that, they only appeared on a single Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ballot before finally getting in this year, nearly a decade after first becoming eligible. Frontman Jon Bon Jovi shared his views on why that happened with Howard Stern last year, but presumably all is forgiven now that they are finally in. We spoke with drummer Tico Torres and keyboardist David Bryan a couple of days after they heard the big news.
How did you first hear you were in?
Tico Torres: Jon called me. It’s something that’s iconic in a sense. A lot of my friends are in it. It’s pretty prestigious. The fact that it covers all types of music is a beautiful thing. Of course, there’s so many other people that have yet to be in there like [John] Coltrane. Elvin Jones was my drum teacher for God’s sake.
How about you, David?
David Bryan: The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame carrier pigeon dropped by my house and delivered the note. [Laughs]
What were your first reactions?
David Bryan: It was great. There’s a lot of people that are in it. There are a lot of people that aren’t in it and deserve to be in it. There’s a lot of people that are going to be in it. It’s a nice recognition of 25 years after 1984, which is when our first record came out. We’re what I call a current classic. We still have a Number One record and we’re still out there touring the entire earth and selling out stadiums everywhere, and yet we’re still a classic. It’s a great thing.
Tico Torres: And we’re old!
Did the news surprise you at all?
Tico Torres: I was elated. It was nice to tell my mom and my son. He was the first one. He’s 13. I told him right away. I had to tell my mom. We grew up annoying our parents, making noise and having band practice. For me, it’s been going on since ’67. If anyone deserves the first mention, it would be my mom. Our parents.
David, what does this mean to you on a personal level?
David Bryan: When you look at it, its almost a journey of your peers. You’re in with people you grew up with. They were my heroes, the reason why I play rock & roll. It’s an honor to be amongst them. It’s a nice nod from the industry. We’ve been eligible since 2009, so it’s nice to be recognized.
Did it ever bother you that it took this long?
Tico Torres: There’s only so much room. Again, David mentioned this, there’s a lot of people that should be in before us that have since passed, like Joe Cocker, guys that made statements in life that we grew up with. It’s an ongoing adventure of music. It also brings to light a lot of music of people that gets passed to younger people, people just getting into music. They can actually go backwards and research and learn from it.
David Bryan: We were at the inaugural, way before the Hall of Fame was built, we played that concert in Cleveland. We had Eric Burdon with us. There were so many greats that night, from Al Green to Little Richard to Jerry Lee Lewis. It was a pretty special event and it’s wild that this many years later we’re amongst them and there’s a building now. It’s all good.
They’re taking in the two of you, Jon, Richie Sambora and Alec John Such. Do you think those are the right ones? Did they miss anybody?
Tico Torres: That pretty much covers the band when we started.
David Bryan: That was us guys living the dream, getting on a bus with no guarantees in any way shape or form or anything. It was, “Let’s go out and make this happen.” And we actually did. For me, it’s a Christmas miracle.
Tico Torres: It’s funny. You grow up listening to these great musicians and then you get a certain status in your environment as a musician where you actually get to play together and meet each other and jam. You always think, “Gee, I was born too late.” But then you get better and better and fall in line and you’re almost in the same schoolhouse even though you’re younger. You get to hang out and play with your peers.
It’s going to be you guys, the Moody Blues, the Cars, Dire Straits and Nina Simone. There tends to be an all-star jam at the end of the night. Can you think of any song that would work everyone?
David Bryan: That has to be the hardest part of the night because everyone has great songs. You can do a standard blues song or something. I don’t know. I guess we’ll figure it out when we’re in the room.
Bands usually get three songs. Can you take a guess at which three songs you’ll do?
Tico Torres: I guess we’ll figure that out. It’s kind of new to us. You have to include the songs that got us to this point. It’s a hard pick. We’ll figure it out.
David Bryan: We’re trying to wrap our heads around it now and figure it all out.
Bands often play with former members at the induction ceremony. Are you down to play with Richie Sambora and Alec John Such that night?
Tico Torres: Absolutely.
David Bryan: Yeah. Why not?
Tico Torres: They are a huge part of us. We’d love it if they played with us.
Do you keep in touch with Alec?
Tico Torres: Honestly, he’s a mystery sometimes. The hard part is finding him.
David Bryan: Alec is definitely a moving target.
He played with you guys in 2001. The fans are always very curious about him. He’s the mystery man of Bon Jovi to so many people.
Tico Torres: He’s always been the mystery man of Bon Jovi, even then he was like 007.
Do you think he’ll show up?
Tico Torres: I think so.
David Bryan: I would hope so. The idea is that it’s a celebration of what we were and what we are, so that was definitely what we were and we are what we are now. I think its a celebration of both those things. You’ll see the current lineup and then see the original. It should be a fun night.
Many people will argue that Hugh McDonald should be inducted since he’s been there for so long.
Tico Torres: He’s a big part of the band. They should acknowledge that.
What are the future plans for Bon Jovi?
David Bryan: We’re going to keep touring. That’s what we do. We love to make records and we love to tour. We did a handful of shows this year down in South America and played a bunch of big stadiums and Rock in Rio. Next year, we’re putting plans together and we’re going to do some shows, do what we do.
So few bands are able to play those soccer stadiums you guys headline.
Tico Torres: The hardest thing about those soccer stadiums is trying to find room in the soccer schedule since that takes precedent. We’re lucky in South America that there wasn’t much soccer that time of year. But it’s incredible to still fill houses. A lot of it is because we try to stay current. We come up with new material and songs and try to reinvent ourselves. It’s a journey of a lifetime. I’m glad we’re able to do that as a band and keep creating and expanding our limits.
I think a lot of fans in America don’t realize that you’re just as popular overseas, filling stadiums in Asia, Europe – it’s a real global thing.
David Bryan: The fans realize the hell out of it. It’s been something we always set out to to from the beginning, which was play the world. We’d go out and play 50 countries. We’ve done 50 concerts 30 times. They’re familiar with us and we’re familiar with them. It’s a big world out there. One of the greatest things about our band is that we bring the American dream to the world. Here’s a bunch of kids that were living in nowhere New Jersey and we made it through a lot of practice and a lot of work and a lot of luck. It shows the world, “If we did it, you can do it.” It’s that whole dream of “you can make it” that we bring to the world.
David, you’ve won Tony Awards. The band has won Grammy Awards. How does this compare to those honors?
David Bryan: Any honor is an honor. You can’t really say which one is better than the next, but it’s always wonderful when you’re honored by your peers for your work. There’s the Tonys and the Grammys we won and were nominated for. The Tonys were an amazing evening and this will be another amazing evening. It’s wonderful to be recognized by our peers, and the fans. This was one of the biggest fan votes. Almost 2 million fans voted for us, which was huge.
I’m sure the night will be very emotional.
Tico Torres: For me, I live in the present, in the moment. It’s one of those experiences I look forward to without a preconceived notion other than I’m excited.