For My Sunday Song # 199, we are going to discuss one of Bon Jovi’s most popular and famous songs, “Wanted Dead or Alive” off the band’s 1986 album ‘Slippery When Wet’. The song was the third single from this album and the third to crack the Billboard Hot 100 reaching #7. The band was on a roll and growing to become one of the world’s biggest rock bands thanks in large part to his song.
The song’s title was inspired by old western movies and Jon thought the lifestyle of a band was similar to that of the outlaws in those movies. Instead of horses, the band takes the tour bus (which is sort of a large steel horse) from town to town and raping and pillaging in each town…okay not really, but they were getting all the chicks and making tons of money performing, just not stealing it.
That whole cowboy vibe is felt in the music using acoustic guitars as well as electric. There was a western sound with a hard rock edge and when they do play this as full acoustic, it is drenched in that sitting around the campfire feel telling stories of the road (or old west). Richie Sambora’s guitar playing on this song spectacular and his background vocals mixed with Jon’s vocals takes this song to the next level. And Richie’s solo is one of the most memorable he has done and how well it fits in with vibe of the song is magical. Musically, according to Jon Bon Jovi, the song is inspired by Bob Seger’s song “Turn the Page” and if you listen to the song you hear that the slow driving tempo and groove and seriousness of the song and you can see why it was so inspiring.