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From page 23 of Classic Rock Magazine March 1999
Some say RICHIE SAMBORA is a better singer and songwriter than Jon but that he sacrificed his own solo career when he realised he was onto a winner with Bon Jovi. DAVE LING investigates.
R ichie Sambora walked into John Bongiovi's life in 1983 when the pair met at an Aerosmith show. At the time, both were struggling to make an impact on the East Coast scene: Sambora's band, Mercy, was signed to Led Zeppelin's Swan Song label. But success had not followed and by the time he met John he was playing in Joe Cocker's backing band. Legend has it that Richie, aged 24 at the time, was eventually to collar Jon, then 21, after a New Jersey club gig by The Wild Ones already featuring Tico Torres, Alec John Such and David Bryan (then still known as David Rashbaum) and tell him,"I'm going to be your guitarist. I should be in this band. I feel like I'm the missing link." And so he proved to be.Together, Jon (as he later became) and Richie have become a world-beating team, the guitarist's musical experience adding weight to the singer's occasionally fanciful lyrics. "When I met Jon I thought he was very smart and very determined,"explained Richie in 1993."I had my bands and I was trying to get my shit together, and it didn't seem like anyone I was working with was keeping up with me; he was having the same problems. So when we met it was like,'OK, this is someone I can definitely go to the top with." Tellingly, although Richie has become an internationally renowned musician with Bon Jovi, genuine solo success has proved elusive. And when varying levels of acclaim did finally come his way, the all-powerful influence of the mothership could always be seen as a contributory factor. "My first album,'Stranger In This Town', was a big artistic success, but not a huge seller," he acknowledged last year. "Did I get a gold disc for it? No, I didn't receive any awards. But there were no singles
released and it was hindered by the usual record company boardroom changes; the stockholders were telling me I had to get back to Bon Jovi." Despite his considerable contribution to the Bon Jovi sound, the guitarist has now, he says, reconciled himself to the public perception that Jon Bon Jovi is the band.
"To a layman, whenever they hear a solo LP by Jon they automatically assume it's a Bon Jovi record," he says."If you're a fan, it's a whole other thing, but on the business side it pisses me off. I'm a junior partner. I go,'Hello? Wasn't it me who co-wrote a few of those songs?' So now it's time for me to carve my own niche, With my second album,'Undiscovered Soul; my main aims are to prove my value as a lead singer and that I can escape from the shadow of Bon Jovi." Frankly, there was little chance of succeeding in the latter of those ambitions, yet Richie has certainly achieved the former.Various critics even claim that the guitarist is a more gifted vocalist than his boss. Richie gratefully accepts such compliments but, for obvious reasons, does not like to make a big deal about them. However, on the subject of how the pair's songwriting partnership works, he's a little more forthcoming. "Sometimes we stand there and yell at each other to outsiders it can be alarming, but there's no malicious intent," Richie explains. "Right now I have some little crumbs of ideas for the next Bon Jovi album, but I don't walk into the room with a finished song. Jon and I sit down and write something together, or one will alter what the other has written."
The importance of that last sentence should not be underestimated especially when you bear in mind the inconsistencies in the pair's solo careers. Ask Richie's opinion of Jon's 'Destination Anywhere' album and the normally verbose guitarist becomes unusually reticent. "Er... I felt it was brave. Um... I thought that it had some good songs," he replies somewhat falteringly.
It sounded like he was trying to cross over into a new market.
"Um... yeah.Taking it to a different place..." ...But?
"That's it. Uh... some good songs and it was brave to try to do something different.That's it." Says it all, really.