[Prince's Note: My friend and collaborator Brandon Patton has written a guest post so insightful and funny that I'm convinced he could be my understudy in Jukebox Stories, in case I ever have an emergency. And now that I've admitted that publicly, I live in fear. Will Brandon Patton try to push me down a flight of stairs one day in order to steal the spotlight?]
Ah, summer. In New York City, where I live, summer is that special season of heat waves, construction disasters, brownouts, baseball controversies, free concerts and movies in the park, giant street festivals, and Coney Island freakshows. But summer, in New York or anywhere else in America, is really about one thing. Weddings. And weddings are not about love or family or trying to scam kitchenware—they are really about the power of cheesy pop songs. You see, one of my many odd jobs is playing bass in a wedding band, and I have not only witnessed this power, I have wielded it. And this power has a name. And that name is...Bon Jovi.
Drop "Living On A Prayer" at the end of a wedding party, and people fucking FREAK OUT. Seriously, when that song comes to the key change, people become telepathically controlled mind-slaves rapt in a freakish worship to the power of anthemic stadium rock. (Check out the original music video here.)
It's just so damn hopeful. And not "Don't Worry, Be Happy" hopeful, which sounds like the special "happy" place you go to inside your mind when denial is the only thing left that will prevent you from suicide. No, hopeful with the acknowledgement of struggle! It's an earned hope, a striving, an eternally thrown Hail Mary pass, a never-say-die kind of hope, mixed with love and devotion and gratitude that makes "I Got You Babe" seem like an insipid Hallmark card.
Tommy's got no income coming in, so he just pawned his guitar. Gina's supporting them both by working at a diner and is fucking miserable.... But they've got each other, and that makes everything okay. Because when Gina has night terrors, Tommy is there to rub her back, talk her down off the cliff just get her through one more night, and remind her that it doesn't even fucking matter if you make it or not. That's love, baby.
I don't pretend to understand it, but that song just kills at weddings. And if you see me outside of a wedding context, please never mention this song. I have heard it and played it way way way too many times. Besides I'm more of an "I've got reservations about so many things...but not about you" sort of guy (see: Wilco). It's because I'm Minnesotan. We just don't like to get too emotional.
1. Prince has said that "Asian mother guilt is a force so strong that it could crush Godzilla's nuts with its bare hands." "Living On A Prayer" is a force so strong that it can channel the indomitable will of the human spirit into a group-mind reaction of supernova proportions. So, which is more powerful? (Measure force in Newtons, and show your work.)
2. How would the meaning of the song change if you learned that a.) Tommy put his six-string in hock because Gina insisted he come up with 50 bucks for rent by Tuesday or else she was throwing his stuff on the sidewalk, or b.) Tommy is a shitty musician and is really doing the world a favor getting rid of his guitar.
3. European soccer fans frequently sing part of "Seven Nation Army" by the White Stripes at soccer games. American baseball fans often sing "We Will Rock You" or "Kiss Him Goodbye" or "Whoomp! (There It Is)." Would "Living On A Prayer" be a good song for a sporting event? Why or why not?
4. Stevie Wonder's song, "Living for the City," also mentions struggle. Which would be better: Stevie singing "Living On A Prayer" or Bon Jovi doing "Living for the City"?
5. Compare the portrayal of women in "Living On A Prayer" and in "Living Loving Maid (She's Just A Woman)" by Led Zeppelin. Which song is easier to imagine being sung by Helen Reddy?
6. Research what Madonna and Duran Duran have written about prayer. Based on their lyrics, what do you think are their positions on prayer in public schools?
7. A human being cannot survive without water for more than three days. How long would Tommy and Gina survive if they were literally only living on a single prayer?
[Visit Brandon Patton's website.]