Talking with an infectious and childlike excitement, Jon Bon Jovi’s eyes light up as he tells me about a car ride.
You wouldn’t expect much to impress one of the world’s greatest rockers who has sold more than 125 million albums. Certainly not hitching a lift.
But this was no ordinary motor. It was the Beast, Barack Obama’s armour-plated Cadillac.
Jon chalked up a unique double this year. Firstly, the out and proud Democrat was a guest on Air Force One, the President’s jumbo.
Protocol went out of the window when the White House gave the rock star a ticket to fly with the Commander in Chief from Washington to New York for a campaign fundraiser.
Thrilled Jon was savouring that honour when it was topped by an unheard of invitation to travel in Mr Obama’s bombproof limo in the White House motorcade back to the airport.
“I go to the Waldorf [Hotel] and sing and I go to the van with the staffers and the girl comes running up and says, ‘They want you in the Beast’,” recalls Jon, reliving the joy of his journey.
So I say ‘cool’ and I’m in the Beast with President Clinton and President Obama. Air Force One is cool but the Beast is cooler. Sinatra’s not done that.
“I wanted so badly to get my phone and take a picture. I wanted to press my face against the window as we went through Times Square so everyone could see me.”
Shortly after I spent time with Jon in London, his family were engulfed by Superstorm Sandy.
And when the storm hit, the megastar was desperate to return to the US to be with them.
He said: “I really need to get back home having spoken to my wife and kids who are stuck in New York.
“I need to be with my people. Thankfully my family are safe.
“There is no power or water. The devastation is off the charts.
“The President is in my home town in New Jersey because of the damage. It’s like Armageddon. Where my children surf, 80 houses burnt down.”
Last night Jon was home and due to join the likes of Bruce Springsteen for a benefit concert and telethon in aid of storm victims.
Jon – born and bred in New Jersey, one of the states worst hit by the disaster – is surprisingly down to earth for a rock god who’s the most influential and sexy in his business.
Fame and riches have not turned the head of a singer who has played 2,700 concerts to 35 million fans with the band he formed and named.
He’s not so much Livin’ on a Prayer as living an American dream that he realises deals millions of others a bad hand.
Jon, whose parents were US marines, has not forgotten his roots in small town Sayreville.
He was one of the philanthropists alongside chat show host Oprah Winfrey who featured in a Forbes magazine special on squillionaires with hearts.
Putting his money where his mouth is, Jon’s Soul Foundation funds all sorts of projects including houses for the homeless.
And his Soul Kitchen restaurant asks those with cash to give at least $10 while people who cannot pay eat for free in return for clearing tables or cooking.
Finding a generator to reopen the place in Red Bank, New Jersey, was a priority when he arrived back in the US as the storm had taken out the restaurant’s power.
“My background’s working class. My parents had to work to make ends meet. We don’t come from any sense of privilege.
“My grandparents both sides were working class. Nobody had gone to college,” he tells me.
“Is my life different? Really different… but I couldn’t understand a world I would live in that would be ‘us and them’.
“Unless it’s ‘we’, what are we going to be, Brazil and need armed guards to leave the compound?”
The belief that we should all be in this together, and recognition that we’re not, makes Jon a Democrat on the liberal or left-leaning side of US politics, playing gigs to drum up support for Mr Obama ahead of next Tuesday’s election.
Jon wouldn’t personally criticise Mitt Romney, the Republican challenger, but the rocker laughed like a drain when I asked how the globe’s most powerful nation could even think of electing a man who wondered why you cannot open the windows on planes.
Looking remarkable for 50, Jon is going on a huge world tour with Bon Jovi next year.
Antarctica is the sole continent where they won’t play. “The penguins can wait,” he laughs.
The Because We Can tour, with five British stadium dates confirmed and London shows to be announced soon, echoes the Yes, We Can slogan of Mr Obama four years ago in an era of hope.
Tickets are as cheap as £12.50 because Jon doesn’t want to price out fans on low incomes.
He’s certainly giving the fans plenty to get excited about.
Bon Jovi’s 12th studio album, What About Now, will be released in March, and he’s recorded tracks for an Al Pacino film, Stand Up Guys.
Married to childhood sweetheart Dorothea and with four children – eight-year-old Romeo is the youngest and the eldest is 19-year-old Stephanie – Jon appears content with his life.
He once described himself as a “recovering Catholic”.
The singer doesn’t go to church but says: “I pray every day, several times. It soothes me. I don’t ask for anything, except for health.”
Swigging from a bottle of water, he clearly likes discussing politics. He sees the funny side of a rock star mixing with political stars. And he tells me a story about why he thinks playing gigs is a better job than running a country.
Shortly after Bill Clinton’s stint in the White House ended, Jon flew with him by private jet to a horse race.
A businessman travelling with them asked Mr Clinton: “Which is the better job – yours or Jon’s?”
Jon recalls: “I replied ‘mine – because I get to keep the house and the plane’.
“President Clinton then says ‘Touché, but for eight years that house and plane were pretty good’.”
* Dates so far for Bon Jovi’s “Because We Can” 2013 British stadium tour
8 June Manchester Etihad Stadium
9 June Birmingham Villa Park
12 June Cardiff City Stadium
13 June Sunderland Stadium of Light
3 July Glasgow Hampden Park
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