The Great Bon Jovi Debate: Is it time for Richie Sambora to re-join the band?

One of the most iconic and legendary rock bands of all time celebrates their 40th anniversary this year! Yep, it was back in 1983 that the keyboards to debut hit single ‘Runaway’ by Bon Jovi were heard over the airwaves for the first time.

Bon Jovi are planning a big year to celebrate. There are rumours of box sets, live recordings and maybe even another outtakes and rare or lost recordings release too. Maybe it will also dawn on the band that there is a massive desire to see all the VHS tapes and live DVDs that the band have released over the years re-formatted into something more downloadable or accessible for the streaming generation?

What isn’t on the cards is a new album, although historically, Jon Bon Jovi does like to write and record his songs in secret so you never know. Recent vocal problems on their last American tour, however, would suggest that without surgery, the band’s recording phase might well be coming to an end.

What isn’t on the cards, either, or at least wasn’t until this week, is the re-introduction of founding member, songwriter and legendary guitarist Richie Sambora to the band. Sambora famously walked out on Bon Jovi during a tour in 2013 citing personal reasons and a need to be a better parent to his daughter, Ava. Jon and the rest of the band, however saw it a different way. “Professionally, I’ve survived trends that have come and gone, and I’ve even had to mourn the loss of a bandmate who just couldn’t effectively keep up anymore. And that was tough,” he told USA Today.

Sambora’s battles with alcohol and drugs had become detrimental to the band and it seemed like he was using the ‘personal reasons’ as a way of walking before he was pushed. The tensions between the band members have been palpable in the years since. An entente cordiale was reached in 2018 when the band were inducted into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame and Richie appeared onstage alongside Jon, Tico, Dave, new guitarist Phil X and sadly, now deceased, original bassist, Alec Jon Such but as late as 2021 Sambora was still dropping clangers or pushing back in public interviews. Like the one he did with Nile Rodgers where he said his job in the band was to literally “shut the fuck up” when it came to taking credit for songs.

All that changed this week.

In the UK for a stint on the Masked Singer as Jacket Potato, Sambora has been doing the rounds of press to hype up the buzz about his forthcoming solo album. An appearance on Absolute Radio put the cat well and truly amongst the pigeons when he said that “We’re talking about it,” he told Absolute Radio“I don’t think there’s any reason not to at this point.” WTF? There are actual talks going on between Sambora and JBJ right now? C’mon. The Bon Jovi part of Twitter has literally erupted at this news, if ‘news’ is actually what it is. I smell something fishy. Like ‘We’re talking about it,’ could actually mean, ‘I’d like to talk to about, and this is my very public olive branch.”

He went on to say, “Jon [Bon Jovi] was having a hard time with his voice a little bit there and he needed to take a little bit of a breather” he added. “I don’t know when Jon’s going to get his voice together and [when the reunion is] going to happen, but we have to get out there and do it for the fans, really. I feel a second obligation.”

OUCH! That’s gonna hurt and piss of a singer and frontman who is notoriously private when it comes to any secrets or dirty laundry. Bon Jovi, the man, has Italian heritage and they closely guard their families. The Bon Jovi organisation referred to themselves as the ‘Brotherhood’ back in the day and for tour after tour in the 80’s and 90’s, what happened to people in that organisation and the things they did, stayed in that organisation. Jon will be fuming that Sambora has aired his vocal issues out there for all to hear. I mean, anyone with access to Youtube during Bon Jovi’s last American tour could see the problems JBJ was having with his breathing, his pitch and his delivery. There’s a reason the much-rumoured 2023 European tour just has not happened but for Sambora to be saying this to the media is a huge mis-step on his part.

So, is Richie Sambora re-joining Bon Jovi? I don’t think so. Not yet, at least. This feels like the opening of negotiations or at the very least, Sambora putting out the feelings and trying to guilt the band into letting him rejoin, playing on the anniversary and the ‘let’s do it for the fans,’ kind of angle.

This is going to go one of two ways, and both those ways, I suspect, depend on how Jon Bon Jovi feels about his erstwhile partner in crime and King of Swing. There’s either too much baggage to get past in the way Sambora let the band down back in 2013, and Jon strikes me as someone who might well be capable of holding a grudge (it’s that Italian heritage, right?) or the 40th anniversary will bring a chance to put water under the bridge and go out on the road one last time to celebrate the legacy that this band has achieved. Without a doubt, one of the most creative, classy and impactful rock bands of all time, I have a little feeling that the Bon Jovi story isn’t quite done as yet. The ball, I guess, is in Jon’s court. What he chooses to do with it is anyone’s guess?

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