Jon Bongiovi spent most of his adolescence ditching school to play rock & roll, usually in local bands with his friend David Rashbaum. Bongiovi's cousin Tony owned the famous New York recording studio the Power Station, which was where Jon hung out. He was hired as a janitor, and soon he was recording demos at the Power Station with several famous musicians, including members of the E Street Band and Aldo Nova. One of these demos, "Runaway," became a hit on local New Jersey radio, and Bongiovi formed Bon Jovi to support the song, recruiting not only Rashbaum, but also guitarist Dave Sabo, bassist Alec John Such, and drummer Tico Torres. Soon, Bon Jovi was the subject of a major-label bidding war, and the group -- or, according to some reports, just Bongiovi -- signed to Polygram/Mercury in 1983. Upon signing, Jon changed his last name to Bon Jovi in order to de-emphasize his ethnic background, and Rashbaum adopted his middle name Bryan as his last name. Before the group entered the studio, Bon Jovi replaced Sabo with Richie Sambora.
Bon Jovi's eponymous debut album was released in 1984, and "Runaway" became a Top 40 hit. Following its success, Tony Bongiovi sued the band, claiming he developed their successful sound; the group settled out of court. The following year, 7800 Fahrenheit was released and went gold. Despite the band's respectable success, Bon Jovi weren't becoming the superstars they had hoped, and they changed their approach for their next album, Slippery When Wet. Hiring professional songwriter Desmond Child as a collaborator, the group wrote 30 songs and auditioned them for local New Jersey and New York teenagers, basing the album's running order on their opinions. After ditching the original cover of a busty woman in a wet T-shirt for the title traced in water on a garbage bag, Slippery When Wet was released in 1986. Supported by several appealing, straightforward videos that showcased the photogenic Jon, the album eventually sold nine million copies in the U.S. alone, helping usher in the era of pop-metal. Two songs, "You Give Love a Bad Name" and "Livin' on a Prayer," reached number one, while "Wanted Dead or Alive" reached the Top Ten, and Bon Jovi were established as superstars.