It’s been a long time coming, but Bon Jovi will finally be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2018. For founder, frontman and namesake Jon Bon Jovi, Wednesday morning’s news came with many emotions.
“It’s good news for everybody,” he tells Variety. “For the band, for the people who support us, for our families. A lot of people are very happy and proud. Some of us are even relieved!”
Wednesday morning’s induction announcement — which will see the group inducted along with the Moody Blues, the Cars, Dire Straits, Nina Simone and gospel singer-guitarist Sister Rosetta Tharpe — is a validation for the New Jersey rockers, who missed out in a previous run in 2011. Bon Jovi credited the band’s supportive fan base, who came out strong with a dominating public fan vote of 1,162,146 votes, 214,000 ahead of The Moody Blues.
“The last time we were nominated there wasn’t a fan vote. There were a lot of people wondering why we didn’t get in that year. It was very closed and questions were never answered,” he says. “But after that and as a result, they have this fan vote. The Hall has recognized that it’s the people’s Hall, and we are really grateful to have the support that we didn’t have the benefit of last time.”
The last time Bon Jovi stepped foot in the hall was when the group performed as part of the opening ceremonies in 1995, standing alongside “the company of legends.”
“We were in the company of all the legends,” he recalls. “Chuck Berry was there, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash. We played with [Animals singer] Eric Burdon, who is obviously one of my huge influences,” he says. “That night is still very much alive in my memory. That is the only time I was ever there.”
And in answer to the question that seems to be asked about at least one inductee every year, Bon Jovi says everyone will be invited to the ceremony — including former bassist Alec John Such and estranged guitarist Richie Sambora.
“Richie and Alec are both going to be a part in all of the festivities,” he says. “Al came to see the band at [MetLife] Stadium, and it has been five years since we’ve seen Richie. Time flies! We are welcoming them both, and inviting them to come on[stage]. It’s just a joyous celebration. Come and participate — both of them!”
As for the set list? That’s a bit trickier, because the group has had four Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 hits — and Jon had one with his 1990 solo single “Blaze of Glory” — and a typical Hall of Fame set is three songs.
“I am toying around with some ideas — you want to represent a whole catalog of music and not just be on one or two albums,” he says. “We could just do [the late ‘80s hits] ‘You Give Love a Bad Name,’ ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’ and ‘Wanted Dead or Alive,’ but there is a lot of other music. ‘Bad Medicine,’ ‘I’ll Be There for You,’ and how do you not play ‘Always,’ ‘Bed of Roses,’ ‘Keep the Faith’ — it goes on and on. Start with ‘Runaway’? I don’t know!”
As for who might induct the band, Bon Jovi would only say that the Hall has its own rules.
The induction is just one of many milestones in Bon Jovi’s personal journey. He was inducted along with Sambora into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and the group was inducted into the UK Hall of Fame in 2006. But there are many more in the band’s history.
“The first that comes to mind is playing Times Square after 9/11, and doing the telethon and launching the NFL season to half a million people in Times Square to say ‘We’re here and we’re back as a country, and not afraid to be out in public,’” he says. “The intimacy of that telethon, or the [Hurricane] Sandy telethon, which was five years ago yesterday. We have had too many to remember.”
The story isn’t over. Bon Jovi is already in rehearsals gearing up for a 2018 tour, and two new songs are ready to be released as part of a re-release of 2016’s No. 1 album, “This House Is Not for Sale.” One song, “Walls,” represents what is going on in the country.
“In light of this crazy world in which we live, it has taken me a year to process some of it and be able to write it into lyrics,” he says.
The other, “When We Were Us,” is the more personal story of the band. “One is from column A and one from column B, just to get the new material out, let it be a little more diverse and be two tracks worth,” he says.
He says the songs represent the latest evolution of the band’s sound, which he considers the key to its longevity.
“The last thing you want to do is chase something that is popular just to chase it,” he says. “The prerequisites for being in the hall is that your music had to have made an impression on the culture and stood the test of time. If you are chasing something instead of becoming something who you are naturally, it’s hard for me to think that we would be here talking today.”
As for his fellow inductees, Bon Jovi has one specific hope for the evening.
“I really do hope Dire Straits gets back together for it. I think it will be awesome. Everybody that was on that list is great and we could have easily come up with five more that you would have thought were automatics and everybody on it was deserved,” he says. “It’s not easy being on the other side of this, but just to say to all the other nominees: you’re great.”