By Eliska Counce, TSB Columnist
Shot through the heart! And you’re to blame, Richie Sambora. You had one job. Sorry, folks. Let me back up a bit. I’m gutted this week, and I blame hair metal. Y’all know I’m forty-mumble, which means my heyday of music was the glorious 1980s. I embraced all music, both New Romantic, New Wave, and especially my beloved rock balladeers. Def Leppard, Poison, Motley Crue: if Tipper Gore blamed a band for turning teens into Satanists, it probably found its way into my (vinyl!) record collection. Oh, yeah. What a rebel. Funny to see in retrospect that Twisted Sister did not, indeed, ruin a generation. But grown ups worried about funny things back then.
I was super lucky, though, to have lived in a state college town in the 1980s, too, because I got to see a lot of really popular musical acts come through what was a tiny, tiny town without the college. Not much to do in Starkville, Mississippi. But whoever was in charge of booking acts at Mississippi State University had it going on. Every couple of months or so, it was time to camp out for tickets for the latest, cutting edge band making the college tour.
Tina Turner, The Go-Gos, Dio, Whitesnake, Cinderella. I saw some of the cheesiest, best, and thus most eighties-tastic bands on the planet during the zenith of the times. And in 1987? Be still, my hormone-infused teenaged heart: I saw Bon Jovi on their “Slippery When Wet” tour. I even remember what I wore: fringed boots and ripped acid wash jeans (it was 1987). What a show. At seventeen in 1987, if you had seen Jon Bon Jovi fly suspended, hair streaming, over a screaming crowd, you could say you had indeed then lived.
Flash forward to today. No longer a teenager, but I like to think I still have a little rock and roll in me. I frequent the occasional live music scene when I can. So imagine how thrilled I was when a good girlfriend of mine asked me a favor. Her husband refused to escort her to a Bon Jovi concert (read: would not consider being surrounded by shrieking middle aged women for the night), and she needed a date. Would I be willing to take the ticket? Oh, would I! A chance to howl along to such classics as “Dead or Alive” and “Runaway”? Sign me up, sister!
So plans were made. And as they say: the best laid plans of mice and men…this week, Richie Sambora, he of the bolero hat and star guitarist for Bon Jovi, announced on the band’s website he was withdrawing from the band’s ironically named “Because We Can” tour. Because…he could, basically. “Personal reasons” were quoted for his going AWOL on Bon Jovi. Effectively immediately and for the rest of the spring tour.
Now, Richie Sambora’s had rehab stints in the past. I would get it if you needed some leave for some medical help. But according to TMZ, there’s no substance abuse angle to the guitarist’s leave of absence. Photogs have captured him, instead, frolicking in Hawaii with his teen daughter for several days.
And I’m gutted, I say! Well, okay, I may be prone to hyperbole. But Bon Jovi just won’t be Bon Jovi without Richie Sambora there to play guitar. But Sambora, according to TMZ, is having, God forbid, some man-tension with Jon Bon Jovi. Classic rock and roll Mick/Keith shenanigans. They’re squabbling. And here’s where the Momma comes out in me. I want to knock their heads together and make them apologize and shake hands. Do they have any idea how many folks paid a pretty penny for their unique services? You play guitar for a living. It’s the greatest job in the world. You had this one job, Richie. You’re a rock star. You can stand on the stage for a couple of hours with the dude, for the love of Mike.
Oh, well. It’s still going to be a fun outing. I’m grateful for the night of music with a good friend. We will refuse to let Sambora’s absence keep us from rocking out as only perimenopausal women in a nostalglic frenzy can. I’m told local guitarists will probably replace Sambora, which is cool. But this situation, as all situations do, holds a lesson for me. This situation reminds me that I, like Richie Sambora, have made commitments, too. Commitments unto which I have freely entered.
I have a responsibility in my work and in my personal life to deliver what I promised. At the altar, to my work colleagues, to my community, to my family and friends, to myself. Other people are directly affected when we shirk, phone it in, or don’t think about how our actions, or lack of action, can impact or cost others. Or how these actions/non-actions can also subtly darken our own self esteem, if the narcissism isn’t too strong with you.
So, a wag of the finger to you, Richie Sambora, for bailing on the “Because We Can” 2013 tour. But thanks for reminding me the importance of really always showing up in life. To notice. It matters a lot to other people, and they’re counting on me. It matters to me. Maybe you’ll come to your senses before the Dallas show. C’mon, kiss and make up with Jon and play through the end of this tour. Do the job you promised. Keep your commitment to your customers, your fans. You might be surprised how much it matters to you, too.