30 Years Ago: Jon Bon Jovi’s ‘Blaze of Glory’ Hits No. 1
Jon Bon Jovi scored the only solo No. 1 single of his career with "Blaze of Glory" on Sept. 8, 1990.
By this point, his band Bon Jovi had already achieved worldwide fame. Slippery When Wet (from 1986) and New Jersey (1988) were two of the ‘80s' biggest albums, combining to sell nearly 50 million copies worldwide.
Still, this success had come at a cost. The exhaustion of writing, recording and touring both albums back-to-back had taken a toll. In that time, the band had spent more than 16 months on the road, a grueling undertaking for even the strongest of rockers. The group delivered its final performance of the New Jersey Syndicate tour on Feb. 17, 1990. Weary, the members went their separate ways - never officially announcing a hiatus but all realizing the band needed to take a well-earned break.
While Bon Jovi recharged its batteries, Jon looked for other creative opportunities. It was at this point that his friend, actor Emilio Estevez, showed him a script for the movie he was about to shoot: Young Guns II.
Released in 1988, Young Guns had brought Estevez and his fellow brat-pack stars - including Kiefer Sutherland, Lou Diamond Phillips and Charlie Sheen - to the Old West in a story loosely based on the adventures of Billy the Kid. The film was a box-office success, spawning the 1990 sequel.
Reading the script to Young Guns II energized Jon Bon Jovi. Estevez explained that the Bon Jovi song “Wanted Dead or Alive” had often been playing on set during the filming of the first Young Guns. When the actor hinted that the tune should be used in the sequel, Jon suggested a better idea: He would write a new song specifically for the film.
In a conversation with Entertainment Weekly, screenwriter John Fusco recalled the moment he heard “Blaze of Glory” for the first time. Jon Bon Jovi had arrived on the film’s set in New Mexico and he just happened to bring a guitar along with him.
”Emilio introduced him to me and said, ‘Jon has something he wants to show you,”’ Fusco explained. ”We went into Emilio’s trailer, and Bon Jovi took out his ax and a crumpled sheet of notebook paper and started playing ‘Blaze of Glory.’ I loved it.”
Watch Jon Bon Jovi's 'Blaze of Glory' Video
The song’s lyrics were catered to the film, telling the story of a gunslinger facing his own mortality while lamenting the romance he was never able to pursue. Filmmakers were instantly enamored with the song, making it the musical centerpiece of the sequel. Jon even made his brief acting debut in the film, brandishing a revolver before getting killed during a shootout.
Jon Bon Jovi ended up recording an entire LP of Young Guns II-inspired songs, admitting that "one song turned into four, which turned into eight, which turned into 10, and I agreed to an album." Some big names appeared on the LP, with Elton John, Little Richard and Jeff Beck among the album’s guests. “We were having a great time with the musicians we were playing with,” guitarist Danny Kortchmar, who co-produced the album, recalled during an interview with Songfacts. “We were just having a ball in the studio.”
"It lent itself to such a new energy and excitement," Jon Bon Jovi explained of the project, adding that he had "two studios going 12 hours a day," finishing the 10-track LP in just seven weeks.
Still, the crown jewel of the release was “Blaze of Glory,” which spent one week at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The song’s success helped power Jon Bon Jovi’s LP, also named Blaze of Glory, to triple-platinum sales.
Watch Jon Bon Jovi Perform 'Blaze of Glory' at the Oscars
The track won a Golden Globe for Best Original Song and later received an Oscar nomination. Jon Bon Jovi would play the song publicly for the first time at the 63rd Academy Awards in 1991, though it lose to Madonna’s “Sooner of Later” from Dick Tracy.
Even as Bon Jovi reconvened, “Blaze of Glory” has remained a concert highlight. It’s the only Jon Bon Jovi solo track to regularly appear in the band’s set lists, getting played at more than 500 shows according to Setlist.fm.