Asbury Park Press 10/06/02
Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora remember well the night they met.
They were both aspiring musicians working in an early '80s music scene dominated by cover bands. Sambora, of Woodbridge, was a local guitar hero with a band here and there, and Bon Jovi, of Sayreville, was a front man in the making.
Some of Sambora's buddies were playing with Bon Jovi and urged him to check out the singer.
"Yeah, yeah," Sambora thought at the time. "When I get around to it."
He lost that blase attitude upon seeing Bon Jovi perform. Sambora approached Bon Jovi after the gig.
"I said, 'I'm your new guitarist,' more or less," Sambora recalled.
Bon Jovi was taken aback, but also intrigued.
"We went to his mom's house and wrote two songs that made it to the first album -- I can't remember which ones at this point," Sambora said. "There was very instant chemistry. We worked well together and we both wanted to make original music."
"We found we were on the same page pretty quickly," Bon Jovi said.
Richie Sambora was in and original guitarist Dave "Snake" Sabo was out, soon to move on to New Jersey's second-most successful '80s pop-metal band, Skid Row.
"When I first met Richie in '82 or '83, anybody could play," Bon Jovi said. "I mean, cover bands were making a fortune on the circuit, so there was no shortage of guitarists who had technical skills. What put it over for me was that Richie was different -- he made his own licks -- and that was more exciting for me than finding someone who could just play by numbers."
And, as Bugs Bunny would say, that was the beginning of a bee-yoo-tiful friendship.
Twenty years later, Bon Jovi still relies on Sambora for unique twists to a song. Sambora still finds himself impressed by Bon Jovi's versatility.
"We both write music and lyrics, it's a true collaboration," Bon Jovi said. "We'll discuss, in great detail, a point of view. A lot of ideas he had I would never've had, and vice versa."
They remain close friends, as well as bandmates. Bon Jovi lives in Middletown with his wife, the former Dorothea Hurley, and their three kids. Sambora lives across the continent, outside Los Angeles, with his wife, the actress Heather Locklear, and their 5-year-old daughter. But Sambora will fly to New Jersey for a week at a time to brainstorm with Bon Jovi.
"Richie and I typically get together with two acoustic guitars and the cheapest tape recorder we can find," Bon Jovi said. "When we hand the dubs to the band, they can't even figure out what keys the songs are in because the quality of the recording is so bad, but it doesn't matter."
Sambora and Bon Jovi were together the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, after a night of songwriting at Bon Jovi's home studio. Together, they tried to get in touch with Locklear in California and, together, they saw the smoke from Manhattan drifting over to Sandy Hook.
Until then, 2001 had been a charmed year for the band. The album "Crush" had spawned Bon Jovi's biggest hit ever, "It's My Life," and the band enjoyed a massive homecoming concert at Giants Stadium in July.
When the time came for the duo to resume songwriting, they knew they faced a challenge.
Tighter than ever
"We found ourselves on a particular roll before Sept. 11," Sambora said. "We were very, very tight, with the writing and recording and touring of 'Crush.' And then obviously, there was 9/11, which not only brought our country together, but we found ourselves brought together even more as friends.
"The only difference it made to our songwriting was it made it a little more difficult -- -- you had to be concise, you couldn't b.s. at all and it added some poignancy to the lyrics. We wanted to be very optimistic and we wanted to take the high road."
"One thing important to me was that it was not going to be a 9/11 record," Bon Jovi said. "Except for three songs, it's not. I wouldn't put myself in the shoes of a widow because it wasn't happening to me -- I felt it was thin ice."
So Bon Jovi and Sambora went from "Crush" to "Bounce," the title of the band's eighth studio album, due in stores Tuesday.
Each of the three Sept. 11-inspired tracks is optimistic, in keeping with Bon Jovi's happy-go-lucky style. The songs focus on lessons learned that day, and how the nation responded to the terrorist attacks.
"If anybody learned anything from all this," Bon Jovi said, "a guy like me, who lives on airplanes and is always thinking about the future, had to stop and think about living in the present. So that's where 'Everyday' came from."
"Everyday," the first single, picks up where "It's My Life" left off, both in melody and in spirit. Both are songs about making the most of life.
"Undivided" is Bon Jovi's tribute to the fellowship that emerged in the wake of Sept. 11.
"And the 500,000 people who were with us in New York City two weeks ago," Bon Jovi said, "that was 'Bounce.'"
The title track is about resiliency, both in the band's career and in New York's spirit. On Sept. 5, Bon Jovi performed in Times Square as part of a free concert to celebrate the beginning of the NFL season. The event, which also featured Eve and Enrique Iglesias, was trouble free, despite the huge crowd and the looming anniversary of Sept. 11.
Sambora and Bon Jovi are proud of their participation in that concert and are also pleased with "Bounce." The band begins touring in support of the new album in December, with concerts in Australia and Japan. The domestic leg of the tour is expected to begin in late January.
"We went back to back with 'Crush' and this, so it had to be a compressed period of time contained in the album," Bon Jovi said. "There was definitely more of a focus on our lives, post- that Giants Stadium show in July. But there were 365 days last year, not just one, so it was important to focus on other things, too."