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Flashback Video: 'Wanted Dead or Alive' by Bon Jovi

Ever since the dawn of MTV and Friday Night Videos, the music video has significantly impacted musical tastes and pop culture. It might not be as extreme as when the Buggles declared that "Video Killed the Radio Star", but there is no arguing that the music video certainly could make or break a song's popularity. So this regular Flashback Video feature will serve to remember some of the music videos from the great '80s decade that made an impact on me in one way or another. This issue we will cover "Wanted Dead or Alive" by Bon Jovi. It was released in 1987 as the third single from Slippery When Wet. The song peaked at #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart making it the third straight single from the album to reach the Top 10 on the U.S. pop chart. Along with "You Give Love a Bad Name" and "Livin' on a Prayer", "Wanted Dead or Alive" helped make the Slippery When Wet album a huge commercial success. It spent 8 weeks at #1 on the Billboard album chart (38 weeks inside the Top 5), was named the top-selling album of 1987 and has gone on to sell over 12 million copies in the U.S. alone. "Wanted Dead or Alive" has gone on to remain one of the band's signature songs for several reasons and one of those reasons is the music video. The music video was directed by Wayne Isham who directed all of Bon Jovi's videos and was awarded (with Bon Jovi) the MTV Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award at the 1991 Video Music Awards for that outstanding work. Isham also created many great music videos for Def Leppard, Motley Crue and more during the '80s and so many more since then. For "Wanted Dead or Alive", they wanted to capture the feeling of life-on-the-road that the touring rock band experienced (which was what was the inspiration behind the song). There were several shots of the exhausted band members, the traveling from city to city ("on a steel horse I ride"), the hotel rooms, the dressing rooms and the incredible crowds of fans that helped make it all worthwhile. It was all shot in black and white by cinematographer Derek M. Allen during their Slippery When Wet world tour including stops in Buffalo, Chicago, Denver, Pittsburgh and more. In fact, I was actually personally in attendance March 8, 1987 as Bon Jovi made their stop to play the MECCA Arena in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I still remember this concert well and remember them telling us that they were filming footage for the "Wanted Dead or Alive" music video and that we could possibly be in it. Now, I have watched the video hundreds of times and have never seen a glimpse of myself, but I have recognized some shots which possibly could've been filmed that night in Milwaukee. Here is the music video for "Wanted Dead or Alive" by Bon Jovi...

That song will always hold a special place for me because little 8th grade me was at that concert. Another reason for the song's relevance is due to a performance by Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora during the 1989 MTV Video Music Awards. For this memorable performance, it was just the two of them with acoustic guitars sitting on stools giving us an incredible "unplugged" rendition of "Wanted Dead or Alive" (along with an intro from "Livin' on a Prayer"). The popularity of that acoustic presentation inspired what would go on to become MTV Unplugged which debuted a little over two months later in November 1989. A pretty awesome legacy for this '80s hit.

Hope you enjoyed another trip back to the '80s thanks to Flashback Video!

1 Comment

Photog Smurf
Photog Smurf
Feb 17, 2021

I recall this song being such a big deal right around the time of the release of "Young Guns". It played on the radio so often, that a friend and I came up with our own version that was painfully tweenish... "Wanted, Dumb or Alive". LOL

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