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November 02, 2005

Soundcheck : Richie Sambora : Bon Jovi guitarist

ONE OF THE ONLY’80s arena-rock acts to sustain its popularity into the ’90s and beyond, Bon Jovi continues to be a hot ticket. Its new album, sarcastically titled Have a Nice Day, features a title track about “living in the world of broken hopes and dreams” that serves as a response to the last presidential election. It will likely join “Livin’ on a Prayer,” “Wanted Dead or Alive” and “You Give Love a Bad Name” as one of the band’s more popular anthems, something that’s not lost on guitarist Richie Sambora, who recently phoned from his California home.
— Jeff Niesel

Rock ’n’ roll’s been through so many phases. How is it that Bon Jovi’s been able to still pack arenas for all these years?

Well, I guess it’s called staying true to yourself. We’ve been a touring machine for the last 22 years. We’ve made sure that we always go back and keep that relationship going. It’s also a testimony to writing songs that connect with the fabric of people’s lives.

Do you think part of it is that songs such as “Livin’ on a Prayer” and “It’s My Life” help working-class people get through the day?

Absolutely. That’s what it’s really all about. It’s great to be that piece of people’s lives. I remember what I was listening to when I was making out with a girl for the first time when John Lennon got shot. These songs become like a sonic photos in a scrapbook. During the 9/11 concert, we did that acoustic version of “Livin’ on a Prayer,” and it took on a whole new life. It was updated and became about preserving the American dream. That’s what happens with good material, and that’s why Dylan and the Beatles stand the test of time.

The title Have a Nice Day is a response to the last presidential election. Were you as disappointed by the outcome as Jon was?

Yes, I was. I wasn’t that vocal about it. Here’s where two songwriters don’t have the same vision. For me, the title is more of a social issue. The country was divided by the election. That was surprising. It’s a Clint Eastwood-like “have a nice day.” The telltale line is, “when the world gets in my face/have a nice day.” The one other great privilege is traveling all around the world. People are more the same than different. Everyone is struggling and trying to find where they fit. At one point, you have to let it roll off your back.

I saw you play once with, I think, Don Was and Kenny Aronoff backing you up for a solo gig. Who’s been your favorite musician to play with outside of the guys in Bon Jovi?

Oh, so many. The perennials. Obviously, Bob Dylan. Paul McCartney. Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy. Elton John. I played with them all. One favorite is hard to pick. Jimmy Page, maybe. When we first became famous, everyone wanted to see the new kids on the block. If you showed up to see us, we forced you to play with us.

Where does Bo Bice rank?

I think Bo’s cool. Honestly, I had met him, and I do watch American Idol. It’s a car crash waiting to happen. My daughter is a big fan. I said to myself, “This guy is an enigma unto himself. He has a chance to do something cool.” A buddy of mine was producing the record. We got to be buds. I wrote a couple of new songs for him. I think he has a good chance. I like him as a person. He has a good rock ’n’ roll heart. And he opens his trap, and he sounds like David Clayton-Thomas from Blood, Sweat and Tears.

Your solo album, Undiscovered Soul, was pretty bluesy. Is that the kind of music you play in your spare time?

Yeah, I’m diversified. I like doing all kinds of stuff. Not only am I going crazy getting this [Bon Jovi] record off the ground, but God just hit the creative gas pedal on me. I just wrote 14 songs and plan to record soon.

Did you call your best of 100,000,000 Bon Jovi fans Can’t Be Wrong as a way of saying “***** you” to all the critics who have written the band off over the years?

No. It was more or less a thing for the fans. Those were concerts that we found. Fifty new songs no one had ever heard before. There will be more of those coming up and more b-sides coming up. Also, rarities for the fans. Maybe it’s a little bit of a push and shove for the critics, but we’re not making records for the critics.

I’ve tried to find a Richie Sambora sex tape but have come with nothing. Doesn’t one exist?

Unfortunately, no. If they did exist, it’s from when I was single. I tell you one thing. I was good back in the day. I was heavyweight. You could go 15 rounds with me.

Posted by riesambo at November 2, 2005 01:20 PM