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July 15, 2006

Asbury Park Press Online 20060714

Whose team are you rooting for?
According to the tabloids, "Team Heather" and "Team Denise" T-shirts have been flying off the shelves of West Coast boutiques, ever since Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora took up with actress Denise Richards after splitting with his wife, actress Heather Locklear, Richards' (former) close friend.

Despite stardom, Bon Jovi is still working for a living


Whose team are you rooting for?
According to the tabloids, "Team Heather" and "Team Denise" T-shirts have been flying off the shelves of West Coast boutiques, ever since Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora took up with actress Denise Richards after splitting with his wife, actress Heather Locklear, Richards' (former) close friend.

Pretty sexy stuff for Sambora, who grew up on a dead-end street in Woodbridge and is known in his hometown state as an all-around nice guy who never forgot his roots or his old friends, even as he embraced a glitzy California lifestyle.

Sambora and Co. are scheduled to return to New Jersey next week to perform three shows at Giants Stadium. The stop is part of a world tour promoting Bon Jovi's latest album, "Have a Nice Day."

It will be interesting to see what the T-shirts in East Rutherford say.

Flash back to the '80s, when I was covering Bon Jovi's Giants Stadium debut on the band's "New Jersey" tour. Playing the stadium was "a dream come true," Sayreville's Jon Bon Jovi (now of Middletown) told me during a telephone interview before the show.

The concert was also a big deal for the audience, which included the band's friends, neighbors and families. Some of the T-shirts worn in the hospitality room at Giants Stadium that night — June 11, 1989 — were homespun and charming.

"Richie Sambora's Aunt" was the proud statement on one woman's T-shirt.

"The Sambora Family Rocks With Bon Jovi" was another.

These memories lead me to doubt there will be many "Team Heather" or "Team Denise" T-shirts at Giants Stadium next Tuesday.

Unlike the West Coast's tabloid nation, here the consensus has always been "Team Bon Jovi."

I guess you could say it's a New Jersey kind of thing.


Despite stardom, Bon Jovi is still working for a living

Bon Jovi is one of the few survivors of the hair-pop metal era of the '80s. Led by Middletown's Jon Bon Jovi, the Jersey-based band remains commercially viable while peers from its salad days live on past hits.

Bon Jovi, whose members also include guitarist Richie Sambora, keyboardist David Bryan and drummer Tico Torres, is touring behind its ninth studio album, "Have a Nice Day,'' which debuted at No. 2 in the U.S. and the U.K. when it dropped in September. The band, which will perform Saturday at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia and Tuesday, Wednesday and July 29 at Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, may have abandoned the teased bangs of yesteryear, but it still clings to
the anthemic rock that helped launch the act more than 20 years ago.

Bon Jovi, 44, recently took some time out while relaxing in Newport Beach, Calif., to discuss the relevance of his band, his well-publicized off-stage endeavor as owner of the Philadelphia Soul football team and what he has had to sacrifice in order to become such a success.

Q: So many of your peers are doing package tours and riding the nostalgia wave.

A: It is all nostalgia for them. We're not that. We're as happening and current as we've ever been.

Q: You're headlining stadiums on your own, while showcasing new material.

A: We're proud of that. We work really hard for it. But you take the good with the bad. We've had our up years and down years. I never thought that we wouldn't be big, because every kid has a chip on his shoulder about his band, but I never thought in 1984 what I would be doing in 2006.

Q: During your salad days, your sound was pervasive. Today, it's not as typical. Fewer young American bands craft, big, anthemic songs that you can sing along with.

A: I didn't think of that. It's true. We're just being as true to ourselves as we can possibly be. We've never strayed from what we know. Obviously, some people still like our style of music.

Q: Over recent years, angst-ridden tracks have become ubiquitous.

A: But we're still positive. I think that's starting to change. I think there is more eternal optimism now than there was 10 years ago when the Seattle scene was happening. Now that's long gone. There are bands now that are out there trying to turn it around and make something positive out of those choruses. I can't cite examples other than the band Creed.

Q: But they broke up two years ago.

A: But they tried that and it seemed to be good for them.

Q: Were you ever tempted to jump on a trend like David Bowie and a number of other veteran recording artists have done?

A: No. We've never been about getting a hip-hop guy for a track. You stay true to who you are and people will stay with you. It would be very funky for me to be up there with scratchers and rappers. But it's not what I do. I'm not going to do something to make a few extra bucks.

Q: You've taken considerable shots from the press over the years.

A: We've taken our lumps and survived it. Some people don't like us. But we know there are people out there that like what we do.

Q: Keith Urban has cited you as an influence.

A: I can see why that's so for Keith Urban or Dierks Bentley and Rascal Flatts. They have more in common with me than Patsy Cline or Willie Nelson. They all have the pop element in their music.

Q: Elvis Costello has not only noted that he loves "Bad Medicine'' but he's also covered it.

A: It's great because Elvis has always been one of my favorites. It's quite flattering. It's also flattering that "Wanted Dead or Alive'' is going to be used in a new (forthcoming) John Travolta movie ("Wild Hogs,'' which is slated for 2007). I was just asked for permission for the film to use the song. During a scene, Travolta, Tim Allen and Martin Lawrence sing it. And that guy (Chris Daughtry) sang it (on "American Idol'') and made national headlines. It's amazing whenever that stuff happens.

Q: What made you decide to co-own an arena football team?

A: I would get really depressed after the (NFL) football season ended. I'm not into baseball, hockey or basketball until the playoffs come around. It's a fun league and I get to do things for the community under the guise of something I love.

Q: Your team is the Soul and that's exactly what's missing in rock music. It's easy to be cool. It's easy to strum a guitar and look the part but to be truly soulful and vulnerable . . .

A: That's hard to do. I don't think you teach somebody soul. They either have it embedded in them or not It reminds me of when I was a kid. I was told, "Forget your influences. Find out who your influences' influences are.''

Q: Who impressed you the most growing up in Asbury Park?

A: Lance Larson, The Bangs. The Shakes. It was the little guys. Of course, everybody waited for the moment Bruce (Springsteen) had a beer in his hand to come in. (Southside) Johnny (Lyon) produced some of my very first demos. They were the big guys. They were making records.

Q: Do you still go back to Asbury Park?

A: It looks like a war zone. It's got a long way to go before it's going to come back. They're trying. The downtown has some shops and restaurants I like to go to. The community being built there is fabulous. But as far as the Fast Lane and the Pony and all the clubs that used to be there, that era is 25 years ago. That era is folklore now.

Q: You're leading the picture-perfect life. You're married to your high school sweetheart. You have four kids. You're a rock star. You own a football team. What's your secret?

A: It's hard work. It's not easy. Having a family and juggling a life and a career is hard work. It's not as hard as any of your reader's lives out there working for a living. My vocal cords are shredded. My body is exhausted. I was flying all night. I just got up. I got to get it together and do it all again tomorrow. It's tough. You miss birthdays. You have sick kids at home. You're missing holidays. You re missing your kids growing up. The sacrifices are big. Other dads get to go home and see what their kids look like. I get pictures. But that's life.

More about Jon Bon Jovi: Working class and working hard

Jon Bon Jovi is like any typical dad with four kids under the age of 12.

Except that when he leaves home in Middletown to go to work in New York City, he takes a helicopter.

But that has more to do with the singer's busy schedule than it does with him living a decadent lifestyle.

"I live in Jersey. There's no Joneses to keep up with,'' Bon Jovi said while driving his BMW to fetch his son. "I'm not out mowing the lawn, but I am picking up my kid and then hopping in the chopper and flying up to New York. My time is so busy, that's the only way.''

Bon Jovi, this Jersey dad's group, has been one of the top-selling rock acts for nearly two decades, following the skyrocketing release of its breakthrough 1986 album "Slippery When Wet,'' which has sold more than 25 million albums worldwide. They have played on almost every continent and have toured relentlessly. But it was all in the name of getting their music out to the masses, according to the act's namesake.

"We earned our living playing live and we weren't afraid to go places like Africa, Asia and South America - the old adage was, "if you don't have electricity, we'll bring our own,' '' he said. "That's how we built our reputation and sold 100 million albums.''

On top of that, their song, "Who Says You Can't Go Home,'' from Bon Jovi's 2005 release "Have a Nice Day,'' landed at No. 1 on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart in April. Country? It was a first for any rock band. Ever.

"It's pretty neat and groundbreaking,'' Bon Jovi said with a nod of modesty. "I appreciate that because ultimately it's a testament to a good song that defies formats.''

The song shot to the top thanks in some measure to a smart collaboration with country singer Jennifer Nettles, who fronts the country band Sugarland. Initially, Bon Jovi and his bandmate and writing partner, Richie Sambora, shopped the video to Country Music Television to see if they could make it fly without any associated promotion. Then they approached Nettles and ultimately made history.

Making history is becoming commonplace for the band, which also includes Tico Torres and David Bryan. A few years ago, Bon Jovi (the man, not the band), purchased the Philadelphia Soul, an Arena Football League franchise. What set this team apart from others in professional sports is their willingness to give back, not only money but also manpower, to their community.

The Soul is now the top-rated team in the league with their philanthropic work serving as a model for the AFL, according to Bon Jovi.

He's accomplished a lot. But even with his larger-than-life persona, Jon Bon Jovi still sees himself as a regular guy involved with his family and his community.

Just like any other dad. Who happens to be a rock star.

"I guess the joke is that everyone wants to be a rock star,'' he said. "I got to be one.''

Posted by riesambo at July 15, 2006 06:37 AM