Everyone, gather ’round! It’s time for you to hear the story of the legendary jukebox hero.
This story was born before I began ds106, but when I saw the Audio Bank assignment “Create a story using music”, I knew the world deserved to hear the tale. The assignment had only two sentences of description: “Create a story using old music along with more current songs. Be creative!” That was all I needed.
I’ll give more explanation below, because it may be a little difficult to follow along.
Since Soundcloud wouldn’t allow me to upload this due to copyright, I’ve added the file to my Google Drive—click here to listen!
These are the lyrics that I put in my audio creation*, with the most crucial parts bolded. They are side by side so that you can easily compare them and connect the parts of the story as a whole.
“Sk8r Boi” by Avril Lavigne
She turns on TV
Guess who she sees
Skater boy rockin’ up MTV
She calls up her friends
They already know
And they’ve all got tickets to see his show
She tags along
And stands in the crowd
Looks up at the man that she turned down
He was a skater boy
She said, “See you later, boy”
He wasn’t good enough for her
Now he’s a super star
Slammin’ on his guitar
Does your pretty face see what he’s worth?
“Livin’ On a Prayer” by Bon Jovi
Tommy used to work on the docks, union’s been on strike
He’s down on his luck, it’s tough, so tough
Gina works the diner all day working for her man
She brings home her pay, for love, for love
Tommy’s got his six-string in hock
Now he’s holding in what he used to make it talk so tough, oooo, it’s tough
Gina dreams of running away
When she cries in the night, Tommy whispers “baby, it’s okay, someday”
We’ve got to hold on to what we’ve got
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
Woah, we’re half way there
Woah, livin’ on a prayer
Take my hand, we’ll make it I swear
Woah, livin’ on a prayer
Livin’ on a prayer
“Juke Box Hero” by Foreigner
Standing in the rain, with his head hung low
Couldn’t get a ticket, it was a sold out show
Heard the roar of the crowd, he could picture the scene
Put his ear to the wall, then like a distant scream
He heard one guitar, just blew him away
He saw stars in his eyes, and the very next day
Bought a beat up six string, in a secondhand store
Didn’t know how to play it, but he knew for sure
That one guitar, felt good in his hands
Didn’t take long, to understand
Just one guitar, slung way down low
Was a one way ticket, only one way to go
So he started rockin’, ain’t never gonna stop
Gotta keep on rockin’, someday gonna make it to the top
And be a juke box hero, got stars in his eyes
He’s a juke box hero
He took one guitar (juke box hero, stars in his eyes)
Juke box hero, (stars in his eyes) he’ll come alive tonight
In “Sk8r Boi”, the titular character becomes a rockstar. The lyrics explain that he plays at shows, and it’s evident that he is quite popular. Even the girl who rejected him goes to his concert, tagging along with her friends who got their tickets early. By the end of the song, the sk8r boi has found love with Avril (or her character), and they’re happy together going on tour and recording music.
“Livin’ On a Prayer” is a classic rock song, and it tells the tale of Tommy and Gina, who are struggling financially yet determined to face their trials together. The lyrics state “Tommy’s got his six-string in hock / Now he’s holding in what he used to make it talk so tough.” On Genius lyrics, one person commented that this means Tommy had to sell his six-string guitar to a pawn shop because he and Gina needed the money, and now that he’s lost his form of self-expression, he isn’t opening himself up anymore.
This brings us to “Juke Box Hero”. We meet this character at the very beginning of the song, when he is experiencing disappointment due to being unable to get into a concert. The artist playing is most likely someone he looked up to—someone well-known (based on the fact that the show was sold out). The jukebox hero, pre-hero era, hears the scream of the guitar and is awed by it. The next day, he goes to a second-hand store and buys a six-string guitar. The music he had heard the night before had inspired him, and so he decided he wanted to pursue learning guitar. The instrument he picked up felt right to him (that reminds me of Harry Potter, how “the wand chooses the wizard”…anyway, I digress), and it didn’t take him long to learn how to play. He continues to practice with the dream of becoming a juke box hero, and he begins playing shows himself.
Now, how do these three intersect? You may already be able to connect the dots.
The sk8r boi is the artist who was playing at the concert the jukebox hero couldn’t get into. It makes sense that the show could be sold out, because it is implied that the friends of the girl who rejected the sk8r boi bought the tickets early, and the sk8r boi is on MTV, which means that he is very successful. Additionally, the lyrics for Sk8r Boi mention that he is “slammin’ on his guitar”, and loud electric guitar has a very distinctive sound, so it is feasible that the jukebox hero could have heard the “distant scream” of the sk8r boi’s instrument. Then, the jukebox hero is entranced, and he decides to pick up guitar himself. He goes to a secondhand store, and that store is the same pawn shop that Tommy sold his six-string guitar to. The jukebox hero has these dreams of success and rockstar status, and by the end of the song he is playing his own shows.
And that is the story of the jukebox hero.
There are other versions of this story; for example, when I explained the first three songs separately to my roommate, she had come up with a different direction: The jukebox hero heard the guitar outside the show, and then he bought his own six-string guitar. He worked hard to learn his instrument, and he became the sk8r boi. Then, he fell on hard times, and he had to sell his six-string guitar in order to make ends meet—revealing that the jukebox hero, the sk8r boi, and Tommy are one and the same. The story was about the “rise of his dream, leading to the fall that a lot of celebrities […] go through.”
I thought it was fascinating that when we heard the three songs as a story, we thought of different ways it could play out: hers was an overarching idea, and mine was based on events from each song. I will probably always think of the three songs as the story I presented in this post and in my audio track, but this goes to show that each person will interpret content differently to form various stories. It connects to our theme “What’s your story?” not only because of the actual story I created with the songs, but also because each person will live out a unique story and will think of and feel and create things in ways that no other person will be able to replicate. I think that’s pretty amazing. (If you’re reading this and you thought of another way these three songs could be connected, comment below! I’d love to hear others’ ideas.)
Before I discuss how I created my audio track, I need to explain the history of my version of the story. In the summer of 2019, shortly before I started my freshman semester at UMW, my mom, my sister, and I took a trip to New England to visit some colleges for my sister. We’d been enjoying listening to “Juke Box Hero” and “Livin’ On a Prayer” recently. One day while we were driving, I put some Avril Lavigne songs on, and all of the pieces fell together in my mind. If I remember correctly, I first connected “Livin’ On a Prayer” and “Juke Box Hero”, and then I thought of “Sk8r Boi” in relation to the other two a little later.
I used Audacity to edit these songs together. It was easy to add transitions between the songs, and “Livin’ On a Prayer” and “Juke Box Hero” were straightforward in terms of the clips I chose. However, “Sk8r Boi” gave me a lot of trouble because I wanted to start the audio partway through the second verse, and I also wanted to keep the guitar intro at the beginning of the song so that I didn’t start the audio track abruptly. What I ended up doing was keeping the intro, snipping a tiny clip from between the first chorus and second verse, and then adding in a final chunk starting partway through the second verse that ended with a chorus. It took some work to line them up correctly, but I’m very pleased with how it turned out!
Below is a screenshot of my edits for “Sk8r Boi” in Audacity.
*the exception is the first verse of “Living on a Prayer”; I included it in this post in order to show the extent of Tommy and Gina’s situation.