#1 Bon Jovi talk strippers, the Queen and KISS von The-King-Of-Swing 08.12.2007 02:11


Bon Jovi talk strippers, the Queen and KISS
Before they sold 120 million albums, before they set the record for most top 10 singles from a hard rock album, before they released 10 studio albums (nine of which have gone platinum), before they toured the world (many times over), Bon Jovi were just a bunch of hot-blooded boys looking for a hit single and hanging out in Vancouver strip clubs.

"At the time, from where we came from in New Jersey, they didn't have nudity. So, the first time we walked into a go-go bar in Vancouver, and these girls took off all their clothes, well, you can imagine our amazement," guitarist Richie Sambora explains with a laugh. "We fell in love with that city very quickly and, consequently, I think that we are honorary citizens of Canada. We lived in Canada, up in Vancouver, through three records."

It was in Vancouver that Bon Jovi not only found appreciation for this country's talented dancing girls, but they also recorded their quintessential Slippery When Wet album, which propelled them to superstardom.

Prior to the band becoming a household name with that record, Sambora didn't have a home outside of his parents' house, was in debt to the band's record label for millions of dollars and didn't know if Bon Jovi would ever become the eclipsing project it is today.

"It was 'do or die' at that specific time. Sink or swim," he recalls. "Jon and I just hadn't got good at writing together, that was the thing. The band was playing great, we were a well-oiled machine. We just didn't have the proper material yet. The world was greased up, waiting for us to be successful. ... All we needed was a hit single, and luckily, we wrote it."

In retrospect, Slipper When Wet came dangerously close to never happening. In fact, one of its biggest hits, "Livin' on a Prayer," wouldn't have made the cut if singer Jon Bon Jovi had been left to his own devices.

"When we wrote 'Living on a Prayer,' I thought it was a monster and Jon used to tell this story on stage a lot about how, after we wrote it, he said, 'Ah, we're going to give it to a movie soundtrack or something.' I went 'No! That's going to be a great song for us,'" Sambora laughs. "And it was obviously our first big, big, No. 1 in all kinds of different countries."

And then there was the little matter that Sambora almost never ended up in Bon Jovi. Just before joining the band that made him a star, he had actually auditioned for a guitarist slot in KISS.

"They called. I was a session musician in New York and doing all that kinds of stuff," he begrudgingly admits, adding he's sure his life would be much different now if he'd taken that career path. "[My life would] be probably pretty salacious. Lots of make-up, things like that. I'm glad I didn't do it."

Thankfully, Sambora ended up where he belonged and, following the success of Slippery When Wet, Bon Jovi went on to become one of the most successful rock acts of all time, surviving decades of trends, never subsiding "nostalgic act" status and staying remarkably relevant on each of their diverse albums. Their latest album, Lost Highway, debuted at No. 1 and featured yet another twist on their classic sound, this time taking elements of country and weaving them into their Americana rock standards. But even after all these years, Sambora says he never really knows if what they are doing is going to resonate.

"After all these years, the fact we're still relevant and contemporary, obviously that really means the world to us. Especially this record, it really was an experiment, a departure for us," he notes. "It's like a hand grenade. We pulled the pin, threw it, then closed our eyes and waited to see what happened."

What happened was yet another explosive success. And Bon Jovi isn't just a hit with us common people - you can also count the Queen as a fan. On Dec. 3, the band headlined the Royal Variety Show in Liverpool, which was attended by the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh.

"She was really sweet. It was cool," Sambora says of meeting the monarch.

But the real question is: was she cool enough to throw her gunnies on stage?

"Uhhh, unfortunately, no," he laughs.

And what happened before Bon Jovi took the stage that night is almost as remarkable as their royal audience. The band decided to go by John Lennon's house, which is being made into a national monument, and, on a lark, knocked on the door to see if they could get inside.

"It turns out, they're making it a mini-museum, and they were [there] archiving the stuff. And I guess because we're Bon Jovi, they let us in," Sambora explains. "Lo and behold, I was sitting on John Lennon's bed in John Lennon's bedroom, right before I met the Queen -- the same way the Beatles played that show for Queen Elizabeth back in 1965. And then Jon and I did a finale [at the Royal Variety Show] on the same mic of [The Beatles'] 'Let it Be,' so it was kind of cool."

And after all this time, Sambora insists he's still not tired of playing their hits - new or old, to the Queen or to Canucks -- no matter how many times he has to noodle his way through "Livin' on a Prayer."

"I think if I were sitting in my room playing it by myself, I'd get tired of playing it. But the fact is, I'm playing it for 15,000 or 20,000 people on a nightly basis," he offers. "It's almost like having sex. If you do it too much alone, it gets a little boring. If you're doing it with 20,000 different people every night, it's actually pretty good."

And just because they're selling out arenas these days, don't think Bon Jovi has strayed too much from their roots. After asking Sambora if he and his famous bandmates plan on revisiting some of their favourite Vancouver strip clubs for a reunion, he says without hesitation: "Yeah, sure, man!"

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