• The Axeman Cometh

The Sum and the Hole in its Parts

Updated: Jul 26, 2018

(First published 2013)

I am, of course, much cooler and hipper than my parents were at my age. I do not use the expression 'new-fangled' and can adapt reasonably well to new technology; I understand much of the modern patois of the current crop of adolescent creatures; it's not yet too loud and ipso facto, I'm not (yet) too old; I can use words like 'cool' and 'hip' ironically and therefore with ennui and a world-weary style; I italicise with flair.

Nevertheless, there is a yawning generation gap opening before me. I vaguely sensed it before now, in the same way one has an inkling that, when the bedside alarm goes off, it should have done so an hour ago. Little things, small but acute, like a horsefly bite or a bout of unexpected nostalgia. The worst part is- it's not between me and my kids. At five, three and one, I'm still something of an epic, god-like figure to one of them. The other two are starting to suspect that I'm a major bluffer and a bit of a clown. No, the chasm is between me and my wife....

She's ten years younger than me you see. Don't get me wrong, she's wonderful and we have, on balance, bonded seamlessly. Our age-appropriate maturity levels coincide exactly and she keeps me abreast of the latest developments in 'Heat', 'Closer', 'Now', 'Holby City' and something called a 'Kardashian'; while I endlessly impart indispensable knowledge on the finer, delicately-aged, vintage aspects of life (MT USA, vinyl, 'Lord of the Rings', 'Three's Company', 'Diff'rent Strokes' and so on). This however, is where the cracks are starting to appear.

It all started when we discovered that Ritchie Sambora had pulled out of the European leg of Bon Jovi's current tour. To my wife, this was a mere inconvenience, a minor disappointment. After all, it's all about the songs right? And anyway, Jon's the main man no? They're still Bon Jovi aren't they? When you get right down to it. Essentially.

Me? I went spare. This was an outrage! Jon without Ritchie? A Dodge without a Charger? A stallion without a cowboy? Unthinkable. I contacted Citizen's Advice wondering was this a breach of contract under the trades' description act. I rang hotlines, helplines, care-lines, The Samaritans, Denise from 'This Morning'.... I even bought a trilby, took it off, threw it onto the ground and jumped up and down on it.

In Bongiovia, back in the '80s, there were two distinct tribes- the Jonoclasts and the Ritchivites. I was firmly in the latter camp (I suspect this is a very appropriate term). Ritchie was a darker, more dangerous yin to Jon's wholesome, all-American yang. His sallow skin and smouldering glare provided the perfect antidote to Bonner's toothy, albeit infectious, mugging. The growling backing vocals, the outrageously catchy riffs.... And as for his conch-band cowboy hat and full-length crystal-encrusted trench coat.... He was, and is, the man. The very idea of Bon Jovi, the band, without him was ludicrous. It was bad enough when Alec John Such did a John Deacon and vanished off the face of the planet. Aliens probably. But this?

No, the point of a band is the band. Key figures are an essential part of the whole. It's a question of loyalty you see. Solo artists engender a particular type of devotion- more focussed and often veering toward the obsessive. Bands, especially rock bands, are comprised of individuals- each having their own personality, style and image. Inevitably, fans of a band gravitate towards one (or more) member(s). Sometimes for very specific reasons. Drummers, guitarists, bass-players identify with their respective musical counterparts. Singers are a little different, of course. Instrumentalists usually tend, at first, to imitate in the hope of learning the tricks of the trade (or in the case of bass-players, whether to hold the pointy bit or the other end). Singers arrive perfectly formed, omniscient and with (as yet) undiscovered mega-star potential. Owning, as I do, a guitar or two, a few of my own favorites include- Smith, Slash, May, Gilmour, Satchel and, in this case, Sambora. A band, a truly great band, is the sum of its parts, and no one member is greater than the whole.

And so, when I discovered that, without comment or explanation, 20% of Bon Jovi (40% if you include Alec) was going to be absent without leave, I was pretty upset. To lose one member may be considered unfortunate, to lose two is careless. Especially when one of them is so iconic and neither of them are dead. I saw 'Thin Lizzy' recently in the O2. As a Lizzy cover band, they were great. It was a thrill to see Brian, Brian, Eric and Scott again but without Phil? Really? The frontman, (I want to say Ricky Warwick...?) was gallantly attempting to put his own stamp on the songs and did an admirable job but in reality, this is like trying to finger-paint the Sistine Chapel. No disrespect to the chap, just a very tall order. Queen and Paul Rogers? Hmmm.... rather like swimming and knitting- great on their own but a bit soggy when combined.

Perhaps I'm being unfair. After all, there's no attempt to deceive us here. And, in most cases, the missing links are no longer operating on the corporeal plane. Mind you, I'm lead to believe that a recent holographic Tupac performance left many of his fans feeling distinctly uneasy. I can't have it both ways I suppose.

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