And the earth was last night's bed
Jon Bon Jovi took his own lyrics seriously when filming the video for "Blaze of Glory." He and his crew camped out for two nights high atop a remote butte in the desert outside Moab, Utah.
Video director Wayne Isham came up with an ambitious vision for the "Blaze" video, filming in a setting that mixed the rugged scenery of the prototypical Western film with images of an abandoned drive-in movie theater.
The entire set had to be constructed atop a flat-topped outcropping of rock, with thousand-foot cliffs dropping down to the desert floor on all sides. Everything involved in the shoot—from food and water, to the rusted hulks of old automobiles, to Bon Jovi's tight pants—had to be flown in by helicopter. So, that took about 100 flights. (Source)
Filming stretched across three days, with the star of the shoot insisting on roughing it through the nights in a makeshift on-set campground rather than flying down to a hotel. (Source)
I'm a devil on the run, a six-gun lover
The six-gun—the Colt Single Action Army handgun, better known as the Colt .45—was the iconic weapon of the Old West.
The Colt .45, a six-cylinder revolver, was chosen by the U.S. military in 1873 to serve as its standard-issue sidearm. By the time the army adopted another, more advanced Colt handgun as its standard in 1892, nearly 150,000 of the affordable, reliable Colt .45s had been manufactured.
The weapon became the favorite of famous real-life gunslingers like Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson, and was later immortalized in Hollywood Westerns. Of course, for Bon Jovi to describe himself as "a six-gun lover" could also be heard as just a bit of a double entendre.
A candle in the wind
Bon Jovi's choice of metaphor for a life too short comes from an Elton John song.
Elton John's "Candle in the Wind," originally released in 1974, was a musical tribute to the famous actress Marilyn Monroe. The song was rewritten with new lyrics in 1997 to honor Princess Diana, who had just died in a car crash. Both versions of the song were huge hits.
Perhaps surprisingly, considering his hard-rocking image, Jon Bon Jovi grew up idolizing Elton John. Incidentally, Sir Elton was one of several high-profile guest stars to appear with Bon Jovi on the Blaze of Glory album.
Well they tell me that I'm wanted
The lyric here nods at another Western-themed Bon Jovi hit, "Wanted Dead or Alive" off the megaplatinum 1986 album Slippery When Wet.
It was "Wanted" that got Bon Jovi his gig writing the soundtrack to Young Guns II. Screenwriter John Fusco had frequently listened to "Wanted" for inspiration while writing the first Young Guns film, which was a minor hit in 1988. When Fusco began working on the sequel a few years later, he hoped to play "Wanted" during the closing credits.
Bon Jovi, a fan of the flims, was flattered but worried that that lyrics to "Wanted"—which are really about the outlaw lifestyles of modern-day rock stars, not Old West cowboys—weren't quite appropriate to the film's subject matter. He offered to write up a new song, he later recalled, that would "be in the vein of 'Wanted' [...] but with lyrics that fit their movie" (source).
He produced exactly that in "Blaze of Glory," a song that sounds almost exactly like "Wanted Dead or Alive" but with lyrics about Billy the Kid.
I'm what Cain was to Abel
What Cain was to Abel, of course, was bad news.
In Genesis, Cain and Abel are the first and second sons, respectively, of Adam and Eve.
In a fit of jealousy, Cain kills his brother, becoming the first of far too many murderers in the long story of human history. The story of Cain and Abel is one of the best known and most influential of all Biblical parables.
Call me young gun
Jon Bon Jovi wrote "Blaze of Glory" specifically for the 1990 film Young Guns II.
The Young Guns movies sought to update the tired Western format for a new generation of fans.
The films starred a who's who of Brat Pack talent: Emilio Estevez in the starring role as Billy the Kid, backed by his real-life brother Charlie Sheen, Kiefer Sutherland, Lou Diamond Phillips, Christian Slater, and other teen heartthrobs of the day.
Both films were modestly successful; Young Guns was the 22nd most popular film at the box office in 1988, while Young Guns II was the 31st most popular movie of 1990.
Shot down in a blaze of glory
Jon Bon Jovi's brief cameo appearance in Young Guns II ends with his character shot down in, well, a blaze of glory, just moments after first appearing on the screen.
Bon Jovi traveled to the film's New Mexico set to get final approval for his music's inclusion in the screenplay.
While he was there, he and lead screenwriter John Fusco decided to take on bit parts in the film. Both men played prisoners briefly freed from their confinement in the Lincoln County Jail by the gang led by Billy the Kid, played by Emilio Estevez.
Bon Jovi appears for just a few seconds before being shot through the heart. "Don't go for popcorn in the first twenty minutes," the singer said in a 1990 interview, "'cause I'm dead already." (Source)
Let this boy die like a man
Staring down a bullet
Let me make my final stand
In real life, Billy the Kid died under considerably less romantic circumstances.
In 1881, the wanted killer William H. Bonney—a 21-year-old outlaw better known as Billy the Kid—was shot and killed by Sheriff Pat Garrett in Fort Sumner, New Mexico.
But Billy wasn't shot down in a blaze of glory so much as he was shot down in an ambush. He never got a chance to stare down that final bullet or make that final stand. Instead, Garrett hid in the dark and blasted Bonney into oblivion before he ever had a chance to draw his weapon.
Billy the Kid's last words were reportedly, "¿Quién es? ¿Quién es?" That's Spanish for "Who is it? Who is it?" (Source) He never got a chance to learn the answer. Adding insult to injury, it was Pat Garrett who posthumously turned Billy the Kid into a celebrity by publishing The Authentic Life of Billy the Kid one year after he killed its protagonist.