The album was recorded very shortly after the Slippery When Wet Tour, because the band wanted to prove that they were not just going to be a one hit wonder. The album was initially planned to be a double album; however, this idea was rejected by the record company because they were skeptical about the higher price point and decided they would only release a single album. One working title for the album was Sons of Beaches, which parodied the title of their previous album, Slippery When Wet.
When the Slippery When Wet Tour ended in October 1987 the band were inactive for about three to four weeks. Then Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora began making demos for 17 songs which would make up the first batch of songs written for the album. However, they began to feel a high level of pressure because they did not feel as though they had "the amazing song." Jon Bon Jovi said that "I really wanted to do it again, not for monetary reasons - I have plenty of money - but it was such an amazing feeling to have done what we’ve done. There was a real fear of not being able to write You Give Love A Bad Name again." Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora sat together and wrote the song "Love Is War" but Jon Bon Jovi wanted to write a song that would prove to be just as successful as "You Give Love A Bad Name" so desperately that it came out with exactly the same chord progression. They later started on the second batch of songs and they wrote "Born To Be My Baby" and "Bad Medicine" with Desmond Child. "Born To Be My Baby" was originally recorded acoustically, however the producer Bruce Fairbairn persuaded them to re-record it with electronic instruments in a harder rock style. Jon Bon Jovi has since said that he believed the song would have made #1 on the charts if it had been released in its original form. This song has a similar theme to "Livin' On A Prayer," as it's about a young working class couple struggling to make ends meet.
Although the glossy production and anthems from Slippery When Wet remained, the band wished to show a level of diversity on the album. The album is much more experimental with a long, atmosphere-building intro on "Lay Your Hands On Me", harmonica and organ duels on "Homebound Train" and a flamenco guitar intro on "Wild Is the Wind". "Ride Cowboy Ride" is a short song functioning as an introduction to "Stick To Your Guns" and was recorded in mono. The song is credited to "Captain Kidd and King of Swing", the nicknames of Bon Jovi and Sambora. "Love for Sale" was also recorded when the band were drunk during a party in a place called Chalet Sound in New Jersey.