Whenever I listen to this song, it reminds me an interesting experience in a motorcycle breaker.
‘Living on a prayer’ is one of the most successful songs by Bon Jovi. The song tells a story about Tommy and Gina, two kids working to make it on their own despite constant hardships. The characters in the song relate to the working class fans Bon Jovi played to. “Tommy” works on the docks, while “Gina” works in a diner.
My proper first bike was a small commuter, Yamaha RSX100. The bike was in red with a small bikin handlebar fairing. While I was studying and working in Bolton, it was my sole affordable transport that enabled me travelling back to see friends in Liverpool. At that time, I didn’t have full motorcycle license therefore I couldn’t ride on motorway. Each way would take about an hour and forty minutes. Still it was cheaper and more reliable than any public transport. Although the bike was very basic, I was very proud of owning it; it gave me mobility and made me think I could go wherever I wanted to go. Not long after, I started thinking of customise the bike. I wanted her to stand out from the crowd, as she wasn’t just any other bike that came off from a mass production line in Japan, she was special to me. With very little money and lots of imagination, I decided to paint the wheels in gold and I wanted to make it look like a full grown motor bike. The engine of the bike was very small, only 100c.c. any extra body work, such as a full fairing, would slow the bike down significantly, therefore a full fairing was out of question. A belly pan would do then! So I went to our local motorcycle breaker and looked for some used parts.
The shop was an old warehouse at the middle of nowhere (actually in Farmworth). Everyone who worked there seemed to be big, with some kinds of over grown facial hair and wear greasy jeans. It was a Saturday afternoon, the shop was packed. Some staff talked to customers about parts, some people looking at the bikes for sale that they were recovered from damage.
“What were you looking for, Kid” A big man asked me.
“I want to find a used belly pan to fit my bike” I replied.
“Is this your bike? Em..why do you want it? No one makes a belly pan for your bike.”
“Why not? I know it wouldn’t make it goes faster but it would look good when it stands still.” Yes, that was the main objective!
I thought I managed to convince him that this was a fabulous idea. As he looked at the bottom of the engine where a belly pan would fit, a song was playing on the radio and someone turned up the volume. What happened next was true but utterly comical, just like one of the old American MTVs.
Everyone stopped, they nodded their heads in tune of the song as if they were in a rock concert. Not just the staff, but the rest of the people in the shop too! Then everyone sang together:
She says: We’ve got to hold on to what we’ve got
‘Cause it doesn’t make a difference if we make it or not.
We’ve got each other and that’s a lot for love –
We’ll give it a shot.
Oh! We’re half way there. Oh! Livin’ on a prayer.
Take my hand and we’ll make it I swear – Livin’ on a prayer.
What a crowd, what a song and what a scene. I was completely gobsmacked by the whole thing. When the song finished, everyone returned to what they were doing before as if nothing ever happened.
“What was it? I mean the name of the song?” I asked.
“Remember this, Kid. Living on a Prayer, it is a biker’s song. By the way, I’ll make you a belly pan that will fit your ‘little’ bike. Just wait here.”
Having been riding for nearly 20 years, I can see why bikers love this song. Most of us used to own bike as a form of cheap transport, it was a transport for working class people. ‘Bikers’ are different to ‘motorist’. We have a coherent set of principles and a bigger inclination to fight for what we think is right. Perhaps the song connects many of bikers’ thoughts that as long as we strong believe something, it will happen somehow. Today people carry many baggages: career, debts, relationship and family etc. When was your last time believing of something, decided that you would make it happen without a second thought and you stick with it? Perhaps it’s time to inject this pure and simple energy back to life.
So what happened to Tommy and Gina? You can find out what happened to them in ‘It’s my life’, a song over a decade later.
I did have the belly pan fitted, it looked absolutely gorgeous. It attracted lots of attention as she was one of a kind, truly a special. Our happiness was short lived; later she was stolen outside my home.