Back in the days when Bon Jovi was beautiful the song Blood On Blood was the unofficial anthem to not just the band’s relationship to one another, but to lead singer Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora’s union as songwriters and talented stage bookends.
Who can forget Richie Sambora edging his way over to Jon’s microphone in the timeless music video, loyally looking into his foil’s eyes, breathing deep, blowing his hair out of his face with a gust from his lower lip and then standing up on his toes to harmonize the top vocal lines of the chorus?
"Blood on blood
One on one
We’d still be standing
When all is said and done
Blood on blood
One on one
And I’ll be here for you
Til Kingdom come"
Now, over 30 years later, Kingdom Come has visited the reverberations of its’ destruction on the very pair that sang that blood oath so long ago; mightily signaled by Sambora’s sudden departure from the band’s Because We Can tour this past April.
While the Bon Jovi tour has soldiered on without him, photos of Sambora as well as news interviews with fashion designer Nikki Lund discussing Nikki/Rich fashion styling show him looking slim, fit and trim and in fine humor.
With this as a backdrop to all the gossip, rumor and he-said-she-said around Sambora’s escape from Joviland comes his newly released single, Come Back As Me.
Released within days of Bon Jovi’s semi-triumphant return to New Jersey for shows that should have been a celebration rather than a series of whispers and sighs of what could have been if only ‘what’s his name’ wasn’t filling in on guitar, Come Back As Me is a musical declaration of emancipation.
Fans could well consider it Richie Sambora’s musical version of Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous civil rights speech mantra, “Free at last, free at last…thank God almighty I’m free at last!”
Easier said than done for some fans, but if any proof was needed---beyond photos of the Cool Slim Duke looking rested, happy, joyous and free---that Mr. Bluesman’s ‘personal reasons’ for ditching the Jovi Juggernaut were because of re-growth and not relapse---then the world need only listen.
Like Sambora himself says before a scorching hot guitar solo, “Turn it up, baby”, because this song isn’t just good, it’s a revelation; a personal one that Sambora has unselfishly chosen to share with the world.
Whether a new work from his detour from the endless highway of rock n’ roll touring with Bon Jovi or a leftover gem from his solo Aftermath of the Lowdown sessions, he proudly draws a line in the sand and celebrates life after Bon Jovi.
While everyone else is stuck in neutral, Richie Sambora is moving on.
He serves notice that while opinions are like assholes---everyone has one---Sambora is no longer interested in the strong, negative opinion of a powerful controlling few: he’s doing so fine on his own that he’d come back tomorrow in this very skin, thank you very much.
Sambora isn’t asking if you want to know how he’s doing, he’s telling you.
This gritty M-80 of a song opens with a scorching guitar chop that explodes like a tornado siren as it heralds a news flash to anyone within earshot.
Those who want to judge, accuse and cajole can go ahead but Richie Sambora knows better than anyone of his own failings be they real or imagined, and nowadays he is no longer buying into blame games forced upon him for sins he didn’t commit.
You want to pick up the stick of guilt and recrimination and beat me with it then fine, go ahead...but I' ain't using it on myself anymore.
“What do you want me to say
I’ll tell you anything you wanna know
You wanna know about disappointment
Baby, I haven’t watched that show
I been up, I been down
You seen me crawlin’ with my face on the ground
All this pain, this pride
I carry around like a knife in my side”
That knife in his side took him by surprise; perhaps it pierced him while he was down wielded by a hand he never expected to be raised against him in so stealthy and so cruel a manner.
Through vocals that are at once angry and celebratory, he is stronger, standing atop a mountaintop of his own vanquished demons and tattered relationships all the while smiling through a pain that can only come from letting himself down.
But when he re-assembles his own shorn pieces, he sees that though the comradeship that defined him all these years is now corrupted and possibly gone forever, Richie Sambora likes who he is right now.
"In spite of it all
For all that you see
If I died tomorrow
Id come back as me
Rewind and press play
I’ll burn up the screen
If I die tomorrow
I’d come back as me."
Then Mr. Bluesman launches into lyrics that many a Bon Jovi fan interprets as being a veiled message to what was once his rock n’ roll better half, Jon Bon Jovi for over thirty years.
"Hey what do you want me to say
I gave her everything I could give
But everything just wasn’t enough
So I just let live and let live
I got lost, I got found
Break my heart but it don’t make a sound
Hard times, bad luck
I’ve had my share but it’s turnin’ around
Grateful for the burden, even before it felt good
So here’s my revelation, won’t be misunderstood"
The revelation Richie Sambora speaks of is his realization that he is so much more than a second-rate guitar foil for rock’s most egotistical front-man since Mick Jagger.
He’s toured nearly endlessly for thirty years; dropped plans for his own solo records in order to record and tour; let the life of a carnival roadie drive him inside the deepest of bottles searching for something from inside himself with which to fill them up when he had had more than his fill.
With a marching band strutting drum-beat layered with funky bass, distorted vocals and flaming guitar work that reverberates through slender knowing fingers like lightening from Zeus’ hand, Richie Sambora is following his own muse now; mining his own new treasure trove of songs that would never see the light of day without six degress of separation from Bon Jovi.
Here’s to hoping this is the first of many more to come.
Be sure to find and follow Glenn Osrin @wizardofosrin.