The QT

Saturday 15 June 2024

Boxing Clever – Thank You, Goodnight: The Bon Jovi Story

Every week, Michael Telfer – aka Mike TV – recommends a box set to crack open. This week’s choice is a firm family favourite in his household.
Thank You, Goodnight: The Bon Jovi Story
Thank You, Goodnight: The Bon Jovi Story
Thank You, Goodnight: The Bon Jovi Story

The first single I bought was Bon Jovi’s Keep The Faith, and my first concert was Bon Jovi at Gateshead Stadium in 1995, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the first music documentary (or rockumentary if you will) I’m recommending is Thank You, Goodnight: The Bon Jovi Story which landed on Disney Plus on April 26.

Some may question the merits of this choice. What about the recent and critically acclaimed The Beatles: Get Back, Peter Jackson’s intimate peek into the creative processes of one of the biggest band’s the world has ever seen?

Not for me thanks. I’ll take guitarist Richie Sambora recounting how the lyrics to Bad Medicine literally fell out of him one morning over the now famous footage of Paul McCartney quietly composing the song Get Back out of thin air while John, Ringo and George indifferently shoot the breeze.

Thank You, Goodnight tells two stories. The first is a bombastic and colourful retelling of Bon Jovi’s  40 year history, from humble New Jersey beginnings to global success, superstardom and entry into the Rock Hall of Fame. The other strand of the show details lead singer Jon Bon Jovi’s current day battle to save his famous voice as he wrestles with whether to have surgery on his long abused vocal cords.

The narrative weaves between archive material, interviews with band members and fly on the wall footage from behind the scenes at the 2022 concerts that brought Jon’s vocal issues to a head. We also follow Jon as he tries all manner of complementary and alternative therapies from lasers to chiropractors in his battle to hit the high notes again, and the even higher standards he sets for himself.

The original Bon Jovi line up: David Bryan, Alec John Such, Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora, Tico Torres

The lead singer famously sports a Superman tattoo on his bicep, and he comes across as every bit the superhero and relentless driving force behind Bon Jovi’s ascent from a jobbing New Jersey band with one ‘pop song’ to global rock stars in the 1980s and 1990s.

That he willing to be so vulnerable and open with the production team about his fears and reflections provides a striking juxtaposition that elevates Thank You, Goodnight beyond the vanilla ‘Bon Jovi Story’ it could have been.

Jon Bon Jovi in 2024

The documentary covers the coming and goings within the band over the years, including the sackings of bassist Alec John Such in 1994 and lead guitarist Richie Sambora in 2013 for issues that might generously be described as ‘rock and roll related’.

To his credit Sambora is a key contributor, and happily tells it how he sees it on both the good times and the not so good. He certainly makes no effort to hide his distaste of the band’s breakthrough song Runaway or several of their later albums.

But make no mistake this is very much the Jon show, and always was. Even at 60 his smile still has the wattage of a stadium floodlight and he bounces round like somebody a quarter of his age. He is impossible to dislike, with a work ethic that would make the Duracell bunny blush and the humility and patience of a Dalai Lama. On several occasions we witness him limp off stage after a 4 hour gig, but still take the time to thank and fist bump every crew member he sees before he crashes onto a sofa.

If I had one quibble with Thank You, Goodnight it’s that it’s probably an hour too long across the four episodes. No album goes unmentioned, despite some of the more recent releases being pretty forgettable.

A flyer for the 1995 Crossroads Tour

Hopefully Bon Jovi still have one more world tour left in them, and if they make it back to the UK I’ve already promised my daughter we’ll be first in line for tickets. Until it’s announced all I can do is keep the faith.

What next?

If you enjoyed Thank You, Goodnight: The Bon Jovi Story you should try out the following box sets:

The Beatles: Get Back (Disney Plus)

Peter Jackson’s documentary of the making of the Let It Be album is a fascinating insight into the creative processes that gave the world some of its most treasured songs. We get to witness the moment a change in chord transformed a jumble of strums on Paul’s bass into Get Back.

We also get to witness lots of less than magical moments, or “aimless rambling” as John famously dismissed the footage as. At eight hours long Get Back makes Thank You, Goodnight look like a trailer

By the end when all the squabbling and sniping has been done, the Fab Four find themselves with enough material for an album and a half, and the footage of the famous roof top concert is just about worth the wait.

The Last Dance (Netflix)

The Last Dance follows the final play-off winning season of the legendary Chicago Bulls team of the 1990s, but also tells the story of its ascent and all the rivalries and dramas along the way and echoing the dual narrative structure of Thank You, Goodnight.

It is brilliant television regardless of whether you have any interest in basketball or not. Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen are the Jon and Richie of the team, and when they were on tune nobody could live with them on the court.

The Comic Strip Presents… (Channel 4)

The Comic Strip were a group of young comedians in the 1980s including Adrian Edmondson, Dawn French, Rik Mayall, Nigel Planer, Peter Richardson and Jennifer Saunders, who were then at the forefront of alternative comedy, and The Comic Strips Presets… was their TV show on channel 4.

Episode 4 of the first series took the form of a mock rockumentary that followed Bad News, a fictional British heavy metal band, on an ill-fated and unsuccessful one show tour of Grantham. It mercilessly lampoons the genre and all of its clichés, many of which it should be said are warmly indulged in Thank You, Goodnight.

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