In addition to penning hits for their own platinum selling albums, Jon and Richie have written songs for other artists including Cher’s “We All Sleep Alone,” Loverboy’s “Notorious” and the song they wrote and produced, “Peace in Our Time” on Russian band Gorky Park’s new Polygram lp. Paul Young, Ted Nugent, Alice Cooper and others have also solicited material from Bon Jovi and Sambora.In addition to penning hits for their own platinum selling albums, Jon and Richie have written songs for other artists including Cher’s “We All Sleep Alone,” Loverboy’s “Notorious” and the song they wrote and produced, “Peace in Our Time” on Russian band Gorky Park’s new Polygram lp. Paul Young, Ted Nugent, Alice Cooper and others have also solicited material from Bon Jovi and Sambora.
The duo first began writing for other artists about the time they were working on Slippery When Wet. “Richie and I had two gold albums,” Jon says referring to Bon Jovi’s first two lps. “We wanted to write for other people. It was at the time when [Bryan] Adams was doing stuff for Tina Turner and a lot of that was happening. So we wanted to write with other people. That, to us, was your peers saying they liked your music.
“So we sat with Des (Desmond Child who co-wrote “You Give Love a Bad Name” and “Living on A Prayer”) who did that for a living so he could shop the songs because we were in the process of writing the ‘Slippery’ album. He said Loverboy was looking for songs. We got excited and the first song we wrote was ‘Bad Name’ and said ‘we think we’ll keep this one.’ And a year later Paul Dean came down and spent some time with us in New Jersey and we wrote “Notorious.”
Their status in the industry doesn’t make them immune to some of the problems all songwriters face – like having a tune changed after it leaves their hands. Jon says the song Loverboy recorded is completely different from the song he co-wrote.
“There’s five writers credited on that song. There were only three in the room, me, Paul and Richie,” Jon recalls of the original writing session that produced “Notorius.” “It was a rock song when it left my house. It turned into I don’t know what when it got to Canada. They rewrote it lyrically. The only thing they kept was the chorus and a couple of the key lines in the lyric…The song changed from an AC/DC free vibe to Loverboy which was different. We were disappointed because the song reached the top 40 but not much higher. It was a much better song we felt when it left us.”
Jon and Richie enjoy producing records on the songs they write for other artists because it allows them to have a song recorded the way they envision it. Richie says having the chance to produce as well as write a song enables them to extend their creativity and provide the song with an arrangement that infuses it with the feeling they had in mind when they wrote it.
However, Jon admits their schedules keep them from producing many projects. “We’ve dabbled in it now twice,” he comments, “but compared to Bruce Fairbairn we’re still very much kids. No, we’re very much still artists is the proper quote.”
“Though they may not be extremely experienced as producers they’ve proven they have the necessary skills to achieve success. “We All Sleep Alone” is a tune they wrote and produced for Cher on her comeback lp. The song was a hit and helped the veteran songstress reestablish her musical identity. Jon and Richie also have a cut on Cher’s current album, co-written with Diane Warren and Desmond Child, “Does Anybody Really Fall in Love Anymore?”
Richie explains how they began working with Cher. “She was coming back and putting out a record and nobody wanted to work with her, no one wanted to write with her. When Jon and I heard she was looking we said ‘we’d be honored.’ She’s such a legend.”
Jon says when they are approached by artists looking for material, they sometimes give them songs that didn’t make it onto their current album and they also sit down to write with them. On Paul Young’s new project they did a little of both. Paul took a song leftover from New Jersey called “Now and Forever” and they also met with Young in Atlanta and the three penned “If You Were in My Shoes.”
“The best part about me wanting to work with someone else is that they never think that they’re the main inspiration. If I’m writing something for our records it’s never going to be with Desmond coming in and saying to us, ‘I’ve got an idea.’ It just wouldn’t work because we’ve got to play it and I’ve got to sing it. So when we sit down to write it’s either my idea or Richie’s because it’s a Bon Jovi record,” he explains. “When we’re writing for Paul Young or Alice Cooper though we felt strongly about certain ideas, they were the singers, they were the artists. So we would give in a lot easier, which doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better, but we’ll do things to cater to their needs.”
There’s no denying that Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora have one of contemporary music’s most prolific and successful songwriting partnerships. In talking to the writers, it’s easy to see they have a chemistry that keeps them churning out hits like a well-ailed machine.
“I think basically a songwriter’s job is communication,” Richie musis philosophically. “These days a lot of artists tend to forget why they try to write which is to either show people how they felt or to lyrically say something to a mass of people like we try to do in our songs. There’s a positive message in our songs.”
When asked what advice he’d give other songwriters Sambora replied, “You have to analyze the marketplace, visualize the direction where it’s going to be by the time you finish your song and get it to an artist. That’s the business side of it. The musical side of it is to always make sure it’s from your heart and it comes from a pure place and it’s something you believe in.”
Sambora said he also feels it’s very important to listen to a wide range of music. “Records are like books that you read with your ears instead of your eyes,” he says with a smile. “So it’s important to go to a library which is your record store and listen a lot.”
Jon is a little less philosophical about writing songs. “I don’t know that it’s so scientific that it’s a craft,” he says. “It’s just sort of a gift you nurture. It’s just like anything else practice makes perfect.”
As far as offering advice Jon comments, “When you write a song it better be as good as the greats. It better be as good as the Stones. It better be as good as the Beatles. You better believe it’s as good as the Beatles. Don’t ever take the attitude ‘well this is a good first record’ or ‘this is good enough, these two songs are good enough to get me a deal.’ It’s got to be a great album. I think the attitude of being satisfied means you lose. You know there’s always another rung to climb.”