On the first day of August, in 1990, the summer between my 8th-grade year and high school, Morgan Creek Productions released Young Guns II, a (perhaps) unnecessary sequel to Young Guns, which had been released two years prior. As a fan of Westerns, I was also a big fan of the original. I was anxiously awaiting the release of this movie, in no small part to the fact that the sequel was rated PG-13 (as opposed to the R-rating of the original), which meant that I could actually get into the theaters and see it.
Alas, I was unable to get to the theaters and see the film for many, many weeks into its theatrical release. And my anticipation for seeing the movie was at an “I’m about to burst” level of excitement by the time I actually did. Mind you, this had nothing whatsoever to do with anything I had heard about the film (in fact, many people had already told me that it wasn’t as good as the original– those people are wrong). It had nothing to do with the time I had spent psyching myself up for the experience with an interminable wait (it might have gone second-run dollar show before I actually found the time). My excitement for this particular movie was because the original soundtrack had been released and made available several weeks prior. It was awesome. And I had pretty well already worn out the cassette tape I had purchased from incessantly rewinding my Walkman just to hear “Bang A Drum” again.
The soundtrack album (entitled Blaze of Glory) was the first solo project for the lead singer of rock band Bon Jovi. At this particular stage in my life, my love for Bon Jovi had no boundaries. We didn’t really listen to rock music as I was growing up because my father was opposed to it. Radios in our home mostly played country and gospel. But, in 1984, my parents divorced, Dad moved out, and my mother, who was not such a prude about rock-and-roll (provided it wasn’t tasteless, or vulgar) broke out the good records. The things she liked: The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Journey, doo-wop from the 1950’s.
At this time in music history, pop metal acts like Bon Jovi were ubiquitious on the radio. There wasn’t a single radio station in town that wasn’t playing Bon Jovi. Or Def Leppard. Or “Oh, my God, look what the cat dragged in…”, a song which prompted pre-adolescent air guitarists to jump on the couch with arm pinwheels that would put Pete Townshend to shame. This music was popular. It was everywhere. It was Heaven.
I was in fifth grade when I fell completely in love with “Living On A Prayer”. I’m still not sure why, in retrospect. It’s not as if a ten-year-old really has the life experience to get a whole lot out of the anthemic blue-collar call to forget everything but love that this song represented. But that song caused me to spend meager allowances on a cassette tape of Slippery When Wet instead of comic books, and that was HUGE! In school, I actually now had a musical interest that my peers shared. All the boys liked Bon Jovi because they wanted the cute girls to talk to them. All the cute girls liked Bon Jovi because Jon was pretty (though I was privy many times to arguments that claimed Richie was the prettier one). I liked them because “Living On A Prayer” made me feel something that I didn’t yet understand, but somehow knew was important nonetheless.
New Jersey followed, and I bought that, too. I was now more interested in Appetite For Destruction, which was tasteless and vulgar and had to be enjoyed in secret, but I still had a soft spot for good ol’ Bon Jovi. I actually saw the tour for that record (my first rock concert in an arena) and witnessed with my own two eyes, a stage platform get jammed at the show’s beginning, causing Jon to fall backwards into a hole in the stage. He was suave about it. Just climbed right out and started the first notes of “Lay Your Hands On Me” without missing a single beat. It was the very definition of “cool.”
There have been moments when I have been accused, even by my own wife, of being a music snob. To that, I say: I own way too many Bon Jovi records to be considered a snob of anything. And so we’re clear: I do own every record they have ever recorded (including that shitty one they did after Richie Sambora left and they didn’t have a regular guitarist yet). I’ve seen them live six times. I can quote, at will and verbatim, every lyric they have ever put on tape. I. Love. Bon Jovi.
If you’re waiting for an apology, you have come to the wrong place. I will begrudgingly admit that falling into a hole and climbing back out again is a damn fine metaphor for Jon’s entire career, but it doesn’t change how much I adore Keep The Faith.
I seem to have digressed.
The point is: the soundtrack to this movie is awesome. It is my personal pick for the greatest single movie soundtrack of all time. I love the movie, but I’ve only watched it once or twice. I’m not compelled to watch it like other westerns that I love and watch repeatedly. That soundtrack, though? I keep it in my car. So that it’s always within reach, should the need to hear “Miracle” arise.
There are a lot of great soundtracks. The soundtrack to The Crow comes immediately to mind. Pulp Fiction. Empire Records. Some of these soundtracks are even better than the movies they represent (like the Tom Petty soundtrack for She’s The One). But Blaze of Glory actually transcends the movie. A great honor since most of the record’s tracks don’t even appear in the film. This soundtrack does what others cannot: It functions as a great album when separated from the film. It simultaneously doesn’t sound like anything else Jon Bon Jovi has ever recorded while still managing to perfectly capture what Bon Jovi would sound like if they just said “to hell with this rock and roll nonsense, we wanna make concept operas about cowboys”. I do believe that, with enough repeat listens of this record, you don’t have to watch the movie at all. This soundtrack captures the movie and its spirit effortlessly.
It cannot be argued that a great soundtrack, the exact perfect choice of song in a particular scene or moment, can make even the most mediocre movie memorable. And I am aware that an entire discussion could be had on moments in movies like that alone. “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)” in The Big Lebowski. “Stuck In The Middle With You” in Reservoir Dogs. “Time Is On My Side” in Fallen. “In Your Eyes” in Say Anything. All I’m saying is that, for me, this soundtrack does it better than most.
If I’m watching Young Guns II and I don’t sing “Well, I’ve seen love come/I’ve seen it shot down/I’ve seen it die in vain” right along with Jon, then it’s because the kids are sleeping and my TV is on mute.
About this author
Aaron walks these streets. A loaded six-string on his back. He’s playing for keeps, because he might not make it back. He’s been everywhere. He’s been standing tall. He’s seen a million faces and he’s rocked them all. He’s a cowboy. On a steel horse he rides. And he’s wanted, wanted, dead or alive.