You find Jon Bon Jovi sipping a chilled red wine ("All wine — ALL wine — should be kept at 54 degrees") in his spacious Manhattan crash-pad. An ear-popping 28 storeys up, overlooking Central Park. Liam Neeson is a neighbour while US 'shock-jock' Howard Stern occupies the penthouse.
Pressed for a purchase price, he shrugs, "A couple of million," like it's pocket change. Which of course, it is. But, while the location is suitably ostentatious, the decor — all gold-brushed mock panelling, jasmine scented candles and ill-fitting MDF doors — is pure Changing Rooms.
There are precious few nick-nacks for someone who has spent 17 years on the sharp end of stadium rock. Two large lacquered photographs — one of some kind of donkey, the other of a man with wings wearing a nappy — dominate the room, gifts from Elton John. Framed photographs of his two children, his wife Dorothea and his band — with whom he releases a new album, Crush, this month — cover the remaining wall space. One shows him and Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora in a creaky boat on some faraway river with a native guide, though even here the fret-happy sidekick clutches a white Stratocaster. Elsewhere, behind a snap of the singer with a bemused Chuck Berry, sits a glass block inset with a shot of him with Bill Clinton, having played the libidinous president's 50th birthday. "You were terrific. Elvis and Conway are up there thinking of you," reads the scribbled message.
In Elvis' thoughts he may be, but there is no sign of The King around Jon Bon Jovi's modest hi-fi system. However Conway Twitty's The Final Recording Of His Greatest Hits Vol II is visible underneath an unopened copy of Introducing Gorky's Zygotic Mynci. At the bottom of the pile lies A Rock 'n' Roll Christmas, a stocking-filler for the AOR die-hard containing "I Wish Everyday Could Be Like Christmas" by Jon Bon Jovi. He runs a hand through aggressively jelled hair. He counts none of these amongst his favourite albums. These though, he really likes...
Elvis Costello — My Aim is True
"I loved the punky feel, yet he still wrote great songs — still one of my favourite lyricists. I used to play Alison with my first band. Actually, he covered "Bad Medicine" on one of his tours and he said it's the perfect pop song. That was cool because when I write, I try not to take liberties for the sake of a rhyme scheme, so it'll read like dialogue. I've had discussions with Joe Elliott about this like, "Joe, what the f**k are you saying? Pour some sugar on me?" He's like (adopts an accent from somewhere between Coventry and Bangladesh) "Doesn't matter, it's just a rhyming scheme.."."
Tom Waits — The Asylum Years
"This was when Tom could sound like Billy Joel — he had no rasp in his voice. This is a "Best Of..." Collection with all that very early stuff that I wore down because I had it on cassette. It's got (Looking For) The Heart Of Saturday Night, Martha ... I met him on the last tour and I was like a kid. It was great. Was he a fan of mine? He was very kind, very complimentary, though I don't know how much of my music he's actually listened to."
Bob Dylan — Desire
"Am I a big Dylan fan? Sure. He once told me how much he liked Wanted Dead Or Alive. I think the first record I ever bought was a Dylan record. I remember — now that everyone in the world knows who Hurricane Carter is — when the record came out I played it to death. Rahway State Prison was right next to where you got your car inspected and I'd stare at this penitentiary thinking that the lyric of the song was about a man in this building. That was my first realisation that songwriting was so powerful. From that I learned who Van Morrison was, and from there I learnt who Bruce Springsteen was."
U2 — Achtung Baby
"I envy Bono as a vocalist — ha can really wrench a lyric. This was such a leap forward for them after the Joshua Tree and all their organic early work — I love stuff like "Pride" and "Sunday Bloody Sunday" — but Achtung Baby was bigger that life. It was unique. A song like "One" was beyond ridiculous. I liked "The Fly," the performances, even the artwork was great — Anton Corbijn outdid himself. Did I like their last record? No, I didn't care for that at all."
"The Strangest Record I Own"
Patsy Cline — Crazy
"I think people would be surprise to learn that I listen to this. Crazy was written by Willie Nelson — I don't know if everybody knows that or not. Beautiful songs, beautiful singing, beautiful production. Twelve great tracks that I put on around the house to catch the odd idea. Why would people be surprised that I listen to this? I guess they wouldn't imagine that I'd listen to a 40 year old ... 50 year old record of a country and western singer who has no roots in rock 'n' roll."
Queen — A Day At The Races
"What about the rock? Well, there's a combination of the obvious — Aerosmith's first album, Alice Cooper's Welcome To My Nightmare, Thin Lizzy's The Boys Are Back In Town, Jailbreak, all that period... Queen. If I had to pick one? Queen. I was a big Queen fan. I remember that period in the mid-70s when I bought all those records. The white one was Night At The Opera, the black one was Day At The Races, right? Day At The Races I think was even more... "Tie Your Mother Down," learning how to play that riff in your basement... A-G ...D.C.A..."
Dire Straits — Making Movies
"I once loaned Mark Knopfler my copy of this when I was at Power Station Studios. I've listened to this a billion times and I'm jealous I didn't write it, especially "Romeo and Juliet." Sure, "Expresso Love" and "Les Boys" aren't so hot, but "Tunnel Of Love" is a really great song. There's one or two songs on Love Over Gold that I wish were on this record, like that really long one. "Telegraph Road"? That's it! I've ripped that off successfully."
Meat Loaf — Bat Out Of Hell
"I saw him play with Jim Steinman on piano at Rutger's College in Jersey when I was a teenager. He actually played in a gym where he'd faint and have to take oxygen and he wore that tuxedo with the big handkerchief. Bat Out Of Hell was a real opus — all the songs have great memories for me of those years and the little girlfriend I went with back then. Back Into Hell? No, no, no. "I'll Do Anything For Love But I Won't Do That"? What? It's like the Backstreet Boys. "I Like It That Way." What way? What does that mean?"
Prince — Purple Rain
"This was more like a book or a movie. It had a beginning, a middle and an end. There's every emotion from the ballads to the rocker, all the influences were evident from Hendrix to Chic. He put it into a film too and made something more of it — I enjoyed that immensely at the time, although I only saw it in foreign countries with subtitles. Sign O' The Times was great too. I didn't buy the last record though. A professional loony? It's not focussed any more, is it? It's the same with guys like John Mellencamp. It feels to me that he just records the first 11 songs he writes."
"The One Record I Couldn't Live Without"
Bruce Springsteen — Born To Run
"If you want to talk about records that changed my life, this made me want to be in a rock 'n' roll band because those songs were about things I could look out of my window and see. He's talking about Route 9, driving down into Kingsley, trying to get a drink — these were places I knew. That was huge. My cousin, who's a few years older than me, turned me on to it. I used to scream those lyrics at the top of my lungs at the top of our stairs because there was a bit of reverb in the hallway, trying to hit the high notes on "Jungleland" and "Backstreets"."