As Kid Rock mused in Bon Jovi's recent rockumentary: "...put livin on a prayer on [in a club] the crowd's singing it word for word; you cut the mixer off and woahh we're halfway there...". The 1986 superhit that rocketed Bon Jovi to superstardom (ironically, the very same hit that Jon originally wanted to leave off of Slippery When Wet) is still, as Kid Rock says, 24 years on, being played in clubs all over the world and still rousing fans and haters alike into drunken singalongs. The song itself, arguably an anthem for 80's hair metal that has stood the test of time, has had its fair share of 'fiddling' and re-releasing on Bon Jovi's part, and I'm going to briefly explore the different creations in this post.
The Demo. 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can't Be Wrong - Boxset
If you step back in time to circa 1985, this is the oldest offering of Prayer although probably the most recent to have been released. The core of the song is clearly there, but Richie's iconic talkbox and guitar solo are but a distant dream at this stage.
The original. Slippery When Wet.
Prayer's most popular version. Whether you're 'Living' or 'Livin' on a prayer, even the most ardent of critics couldn't fail to pull their cowboy hats low over the brows and join in with the world's greatest singalong chorus.
The alternative. Prayer '94 - Crossroad.
This version of the song really captures the passion and similar melodies Jon and Richie explore when singing the song acoustically (remember a barefoot stripped down performance of Prayer and Wanted started the whole MTV Unplugged program). In my opinion it's a semi-favourite, although many diehard Jovi fans would I'm sure disagree. I just love the alternative drum part, different solo, Richie's presence in the vocal department and the overall feel and emotion that the song evokes.
The hated one. This Left Feels Right.
'Don't mess with our hits and our memories'; the horrified cries of Bon Jovi fans alike on listening to the band's sideways step of re-writng all their classic songs. And although the song still has a nice feel, the emphasis of the lyrics and the entire feel of the song switches and falters. And Oliva D'Abo's shared lead-vocals aren't totally my cup of tea; her style of singing is very much a 'marmite vocal'. Suffice to say, most disliked this one a lot.
The Crowd's Favourite. Live.
Nowadays, Prayer features in every show the band play, sitting in the final encore spot on their current Circle tour. As he did on the Lost Highway tour, the song starts with Jon singing the pre-chorus a cappella, stomping his foot in time as the entire audience join in with a soaring, and quite moving, unified vocal on the chorus before David brings in the breezy synth and the band starts the song as it should be, as it was intended to be. My favourite. Alonside tens of thousands of fans, the high notes suddenly not that high anymore as you're singing on autopilot and it just sounds incredible.
So there you have it! If you're a fan of the band or the song, I hope you've enjoyed my collection of different versions :)