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Anorak | How Bon Jovi created that Slippery When Wet album cover

How Bon Jovi created that Slippery When Wet album cover

by | 15th, April 2018

Mark Weiss was Bon Jovi’s tour photographer during their 1980s pomp.  “I was 13 years old when he got my first camera. I was a kid growing up in Matawan, New Jersey, a suburb an hour outside of New York City,” he tells me. “We were a middle-class family – my mother worked in public relations and my father was a door-to-door salesman selling aluminum siding. It was my dad’s experience that helped me in my lawn-mowing business. He taught me: ‘Make them like you. If they open the door you have a chance. Connect with their eyes, then introduce yourself and be sincere. Always let them think you’re there to help make their lives better.’ And that’s just what I did.”

 

Jon Bon Jovi and Mark Weiss, July 1986 in Red Bank New Jersey

Jon Bon Jovi and Mark Weiss, July 1986 in Red Bank New Jersey

 

It gave him an introduction to photography:

“Soon I had a steady list of five customers a week. Still, I was always looking for more. One day I knocked on the door of a neighbor with a seriously unkempt lawn: ‘Hi, my name is Mark. I live down the street. I noticed your lawn is a bit long, can I help you by cutting it?’ The man told me that he cut his own lawn. I quickly responded, with a smirk, “It doesn’t look like it. Is your mower not working?” He gave me a smirk back and told me if I mowed his yard for the whole season, he’d give me a camera. Then he went back inside and came out holding a Bell & Howell Canon FP. It looked to me like it was worth a million bucks. I said, ‘Sure,’ and after a few cuts, he gave me the camera.

Now that I had it, I wanted to learn as much as I could about how to use it. My 8th grade year was ending. There was a photography class with a darkroom at my school and I asked the teacher if he could give me a crash course in developing and printing film. Everything looked so cool to me in that darkroom—entering through the magical, cylinder-like door, it felt like I was being transported into another dimension amid red lights, trays filled with chemicals and glow-in-the-dark timers. I watched in disbelief as a piece of blank paper transformed into an image before my eyes. The whole process was magical.

“Once the school year ended I was bummed that I wouldn’t have a place to develop and print photos anymore. Then on my 14th birthday – June 15, 1973 – my dad took me to Fishkin Bros. in Perth Amboy, the coolest photo store in the area. It was half hobby shop and half camera store—I used to go there to buy model cars and rocket ships. This time I was looking at studio strobe lights and cameras displayed in the glass cabinets. It felt like Fort Knox to me. My dad bought me an enlarger, and with the money I saved from cutting lawns I bought the trays, chemicals and paper. At home I used the bathroom as a darkroom. I had a new hobby!”

 

 

Fast forward to the 1980s. Mark is with Bon Jovi. The band’s album Slippery When Wet needed a cover:

“The album was done. Three-hundred-thousand copies, with Angela in her provocatively cut wet t-shirt clinging to her 34DD breasts, had already been released in Japan. Everything was ready to go in the US. But this was 1986, and the PMRC was in full swing. Record stores were telling the labels to ease up on the explicit content and imagery or they wouldn’t sell the products. Polygram knew they had a smash album on their hands, and they didn’t want to jeopardize that success. They also knew the music stood on its own, so we went back to the drawing board to come up with another cover. Mercury destroyed nearly 500,000 copies before they ever left the warehouse to be distributed in the U.S.

“Jon Bon Jovi had issues with the Angela cover as well. Only in his mind, it was more about the color of the border around the photo than the actual photo itself.

“Recently he told Howard Stern that his thinking was, ‘My career is over if we put out a hot pink album cover.’ But if the pink border was the problem, why not just take it out?

“I asked him what we were going to do and he replied: ‘I don’t know, but this is our last chance or the album gets held up.’ Jon arrived at my studio, walked inside and didn’t even say hello. ‘Garbage bag. Spray bottle,’ was all he said. I followed orders. I propped up the black bag and sprayed it with an oil and water mixture. Then Jon wrote the words SLIPPERY WHEN WET. As he was leaving he said, ‘That’s it. That’s their cover.’ He didn’t even wait to see the Polaroid. The next day I delivered the photo, and the rest is history.”

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Posted: 15th, April 2018 | In: Key Posts, Music, News Comment | TrackBack | Permalink