Bon Jovi's Richie Sambora: what The Beatles mean to me

Seeing The Beatles made Sambora dream of becoming a rock star
Seeing The Beatles made Sambora dream of becoming a rock star (Image credit: Scott McDermott/Corbis)

"One of my earliest memories was sitting cross-legged on the floor in the living room of the house I grew up in and looking up at the black-and-white TV set and watching The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show.

"I was five years old and I remember thinking, 'Wow! That's what I want to do.' I know it sounds absurd - most five-year-old boys say they want to be firemen or policemen or baseball players, or even the president. Not me. I wanted to be one of The Beatles.

"They were the most incredible thing I ever saw. I couldn't put it into any kind of historical context at the time - I couldn't rank it with the Kennedy assassination or anything like that - but I knew, even at that young age, when I barely knew anything about anything, that I was witnessing something truly life-changing. And not just for me, but for everybody as well.

"Of course, they were just fun, too. Seeing The Beatles on TV was the biggest blast there was. Every one of their Ed Sullivan appearances was a major event. All those girls screaming and going batshit crazy - I guess the same thing happened with Elvis, but he was before my time. But seeing the kind of reaction The Beatles got from girls…hey, what guy wouldn't say, 'That's what I want!'?

"I always knew I wanted to be a rock star, and The Beatles set that in motion."

"My whole family was into them. I remember other kids' parents wouldn't let them watch The Beatles or buy their records; they wouldn't let them grow their hair. My parents weren't like that, thank God.

"I think it's because my parents were dancers - ballroom dancers - so there was always a lot of music in the house. They got The Beatles right off the bat. There was no age gap between me and my folks as far as The Fab Four were concerned. I was really lucky in that way. Other kids had to sneak around to listen to Beatles records, which I guess made it more of a taboo thing for them.

"I could never see The Beatles being considered off-limits, though. It's like banning great works of art just 'cause there's nudity or something - why would somebody want to do such a thing? The whole thing's crazy.

"I didn't get a guitar and join bands till much later - not till my early teens. But in my heart, I always knew I wanted to be a rock star, and The Beatles set that in motion. I used to stand in front of my bedroom mirror and play their records, doing air guitar before anybody even knew to call it air guitar."

"I don't think I had a favorite Beatle. Whoever sang a particular song, that was the Beatle I wanted to be. If it was a Help!, I was John. If it was Michelle or Sgt Pepper, I was Paul. I was probably George during all the guitar solos. And I think I even fantasized about being Ringo, too, whenever he sang or did something extraordinary on the drums.

"The Beatles mirrored the times, but they also defined the times - they did things first and everybody followed.

"Beyond that, they did something even more important: They made people feel good. They gave people hope. They brought people together. Forty, almost 50 years later they're still doing it. Don't they give out Nobel Prizes for that sort of thing, and how come The Beatles haven't gotten any?

"Picking a favorite record? Impossible. If it's a desert island where I can only have one Beatles record, then I refuse to go to that island.

"Beatles albums are weird, beautiful things: they seem to change when you're not looking. You can play The White Album, then you might put it away for a few months. When you come back to it, it's like a whole new record and you hear all these different parts that you never heard before. That just doesn't happen with other bands.

"How did they do it? It's such a mystery, how these four guys came up with such a body of work in such a short period of time. I've had conversations with George Martin and Paul McCartney, and even they can't tell me how they did it. Believe me, I've tried to find out the secrets!

"Genius just happens, I guess. It can't be explained or duplicated, only appreciated."

Richie Sambora is a guitarist, songwriter and singer for the band Bon Jovi. The group's newest album The Circle will be released on 10 November.