Desmond Child is one of the most successful songwriters to work across the rock and pop worlds with everyone from Ratt to Aerosmith, Ricky Martin, Kelly Clarkson, Cher, Kiss, Michael Bolton, Selena Gomez, Robbie Williams – and even Dream Theater benefitting from his expertise. So there's a lot to talk about in his interview with Produce Like A Pro's Warren Huart, and the subject of two of his songs released in 1986 that bear unmistakable similarities comes up.
It all began with producer and fellow songwriter Jim Steinman phoning Child. The former was piecing together the material for what would become Bonnie Tyler's 1986 album Secret Dreams And Forbidden Fire. "He had heard a song of mine called Lovers Again," recalls Child in the video above. "It was just a piano / vocal demo and he decided to cut it on that record." This led to Steinman asking Child to write another song, with very specific touchstones.
"He asked me to write a song, he said, 'Write me a song that has the verse like Tina Turner, the b section like The Police and the chorus like Bruce Springsteen. Can you do that?' I said, 'Yes I can.' And [he said], 'One more thing – it has to have something to do with androgeny.' That's all he said."
Child rose to the challenge. "I wrote this song called If You Were A Woman (And I Was A Man)."
If the chorus in Tyler's song in the video above sounds familiar it's by design. Child wasn't done with that melody.
"She cut it and it was a big hit in Europe and I think it went all the way to the top in certain territories, but nobody did anything with that here in the United States," he remembers. "And so two years went by and I was kind of disappointed because I knew that was a hit chorus.
"So then my very first day that I met Bon Jovi, I had a title in my back pocket; You Give Love A Bad Name," continues Child. "Then that's when Jon looked up at me [and smiled]… he had a song he had written because called Shot Through The Heart, so he threw that. So I said, 'Ok, shot through the heart and you're to blame, darling you give love a bad name'… so that was our first triple high-five with Richie Sambora.
"Then I said, 'Look I have this song that I wrote for Bonnie Tyler, and I really think the chorus is a hit song,'" adds Child. "The Bonnie Tyler kind of had that same [hums synth part from the Bonnie Tyler song] and it was a little bit like Billie Jean, or Eurythmics [Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This] so I said, 'Richie, play this' [Child hums the guitar riff that would feature on You Give Love A Bad Name] and he said, 'No man that's like Michael Jackson, man – we're a rock band.' I said, 'Play it on the guitar and chug it'."
The resulting song became a smash hit and key track on Bon Jovi's breakthrough third album, Slippery When Wet, on which Child would also co-write Livin' On A Prayer with Jon Bon Jovi and Sambora, along with Without Love and I'd Die For You. But Child's chorus melody's story wasn't over.
"Cut to present day and Ava Max and her team of nine writers came up with a song called Kings & Queens," he explains. "So then they came to me and they asked for an interpolation license For You Give Love A Bad Name. Because they thought they were different enough. I said, 'No, you've got to listen to the original song – If You Were A Woman And I Was A Man.
"I don't know if they'd ever heard the original, but that melody pulled them back to the original and that's the song that was interpolated in Kings & Queens. And my name is on the song as a co-writer."
The song topped the charts in Israel, Poland and Slovenia in 2020.
"It's my sixth decade of number-one hits," notes Child.