How we met

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
Richie Sambora, 35, is the guitarist in the rock band Bon Jovi. He joined the band in 1983 when he was a session musician, and his guitar playing on the Bon Jovi single Living on a Prayer inspired thousands of schoolboys to take up the guitar. As well asco-writing much of Bon Jovi's material, he has also recorded his own solo album, Stranger in this Town. He lives in New Jersey.

Jon Bon Jovi, 32, is the lead singer of Bon Jovi. The band's albums, which include 7800 Degrees Fahrenheit, New Jersey, Slippery When Wet, Keep the Faith and Cross Road, have sold 45 million copies worldwide. He also recorded the soundtrack for Young Guns 2, a film in which he also played a cameo role. He is married to Dorothea Hurley, and lives in New Jersey.

RICHIE SAMBORA: Alec John Such [now Bon Jovi's bass guitarist], was in my band. When I left to go to Los Angeles to audition for the band Kiss, I said to him: ``I don't know when I'm gonna come back, so you guys can go and do whatever you wanna do.'' So Alec went to work for Jon. We kept in touch, and when I got back he said: ``Why don't you come down and see us play?''

I went there and I thought Jon was so charismatic. It was just magic. I went backstage and gave him a verbal resume. I had certainly never done anything like that before - gone down on my knee and said, "Here I am!'' - so it was quite interesting, that power he had. I said: "I have made some records before and I'm a pro and I'm not full of baloney. We should get together and try something.'' He was kinda, "Hey, uh, who is this guy? What's going on?'' But about a week later I got a call, inviting me to arehearsal.

By the time Jon got to the rehearsal I had whipped the band into shape. He came in, listened to it, and said: "You're hired."

Later on that day, Jon and I went back to his mother's house - we were all living with our families at that time - and we wrote a couple of songs that were on the first record: "Come Back'' and "Burning for Love''. We knew there was a good chemistry. We were both sincere about being good people and about being successful.

When you're in a band you want to work with people you respect on many different levels, as performers, as business confidantes, and as a gang. It's like: "This is my posse!'' You start to do everything together. You hang out with the guys in the band, their girlfriends hang out with your girlfriends, your best friends come into the circle and it just keeps growing.

Immediately, I thought he was very smart, a great frontman, a very talented musician. He's a very dedicated guy, very focused. He always had a good heart, always took care of the people in the band. It's very important for everybody to take care of each other, especially the band leader, and Jon's clearly the band leader. He looked out for us.

The relationship's gotten stronger because of going through everything we went through. There was the amazing success of having one of the top 20 records of all time[WHICH??], the excitement of writing and producing number one records. And we've taken vacations together. We still do: we were just in Mustique together for a while.

Even when we were broke, around 1985, it was cool. When we were doing the Fahrenheit record, we were all living in the same apartment in Philadelphia, sleeping on the floor when it was 12 below zero outside, the heating wasn't working well, and there wa sn't a lot of food in the refrigerator. Even then, we never stopped having fun. That's the kind of thing that bonds you, high points, low points, everything. I never, ever thought that Jon wasn't there for me. And vice versa. That's what makes a great band, I think.

We're not afraid to disagree with each other. We are individuals and we're allowed to have our own opinions. But it's safe to disagree. Songwriting itself is a debate: it's batting ideas back and forth. In a good relationship you have to have a safe atmosphere for conflict. Since Jon is the front-man of the band, he has to love what he's gonna sing about, so I tailor my stuff for him. I know my role. I couldn't do what Jon does. The press would love me to say: "Grrr, oh yeah, that bastard, I can do thatbetter than him." But I can't.

If you make solo records, they're rewarding in another way, but there's no one you can say to: "Hey! We did this together.''

The low point in our relationship came at the end of 1989. On top of number one records, you're dealing with your friends changing, and your life changing - and it's all going by so quickly. You're travelling, you're doing press, and just working your tail off. In a three-year period we were on the road for all but five months, so you can imagine how beat up we were. The walls went up. We had so many bad feelings hidden that if someone disagreed with you, you didn't deal with it, you just stuck it behind a wall. We knew we had to break down those walls just by talking and airing our views. So we did.

I'm really happy that we survived. It got dangerous, but we made it through. Now we're happy with our place in this industry, happy with who we are. The whole band's married to each other. The mothers hang out and have their motherly lunches, the dads g olf, we have barbecues, at Christmas there's a big dinner. It's a family. I don't think that anyone else could have a better life. Believe me, anybody who wants my job can't have it, because it's my job, and I'm having a great time.

JON BON JOVI: I was working in a recording studio in 1983 when I finally got to make a demo of a song I'd written, called ``Runaway''. But the record companies didn't want to know. Eventually, a radio station took a liking to the song and sponsored me toplay some club shows. The other guys on the demo all had commitments to other bands, so I had to form a new band. It was supposed to be just for a couple of weeks, not for 11 years.

When I was putting this band together, our bass guitarist Alec was in another band with Richie. I'd gone to a Ray Charles show one night, and then I went to see these guys open for Joe Cocker, so I was bluesed out that night. I remember thinking that Alec was great, but I didn't think Richie was right for what I was doing.

So Alec joined my band, and later Richie came down to see one of my shows. Afterwards he made a point of meeting me and saying: "I'm the guy. I'm what you need.'' The guitar player I already had was a friend of mine, but I had no intention of keeping himin the band, so I listened to what Richie had to say. I thought he was a little crazy because he was so forward, but I liked him as a guy, so we just hung out for an afternoon and tried writing together to see what became of it. We wrote t wo songs. They weren't the best songs we've ever written, but from the start we could see that we were compatible. More importantly, we got on as friends. We had a similar upbringing and a similar focus on the future.

He was very outgoing, very happy-go-lucky. He's still the same way. He's always got a smile for everybody. He always sees the sunshine even though it's raining, so it's pretty hard not to like him. He's the kind of guy you can count on.

There are definite opposites in some of our personality traits. I'm up early, running, exercising, doing things from seven or eight in the morning. Richie gets up, he says, "when the sun is warm'', but then he likes to stay up until four or five the nextmorning.

Before the album Keep the Faith in 1992, we weren't in any great hurry to start another record. We'd done Slippery and New Jersey and two tours, and it almost killed us. You don't need to run off and do that again. But when you decide to take a break, the Press starts to speculate and pit you against each other. But we were living down the street from each other all that time.

Around that time, we went through a stupid phase: blowing money, crying over the money lost. I bought a house, and Richie bought a house too. Those were the days of going down to the Mercedes dealer and buying several cars at a time for people. But all that's done; you really get over it.

The reason I wanted to get back with the band, even after the success of the Young Guns record, is that I missed the camaraderie. I had living legends playing on the Young Guns record, and it would have been an amazing thrill to ask Elton [John] or Jeff [Beck] to play a couple of shows at the Royal Albert Hall. But all we'd have had in common was the moment. A band proves itself to you time and time again.

But I certainly don't keep these guys around for business reasons. I don't need Richie to help me write songs, or make money. I've written hits on my own, I've made a lot of money. But I couldn't imagine Keith Richards not looking at Ronnie Wood every night. It's love and camaraderie. And that's what Keith and Mick Jagger have. They've known each other since they were four or five years old. How could Keith play for any other singer? He couldn't. They're one and the same.