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Desmond Child

If you grew up on hard rock music from the late seventies to the mid 90’s, you need to listen to this podcast on Desmond Child. He’s one of this songwriters behind the biggest hard rock songs.

He formed a band called “Night Child” and changed his name to Desmond Child. He was in the band “Rouge” and Paul Stanley saw em live after seeing the flyer on a telegraph post in NYC. No other connection, just a flyer. After the show, Stanley and Child spoke and agreed to write a song together, which became “I Was Made For Loving You”.

Child turned up to SIR studios. Kiss are rehearsing. The other band members break for lunch and Stanley and Child sit around a grand piano and the shell of the song is written. Then Stanley took it and finished the song with Vini Ponica. In between writing it and before it came out, Child had no other contact with the band until it came out. And when Child heard it, it was better than what he ever expected, which goes to show how a band performance can take a simple demo and make it sound like Kiss.

Like it or not, it’s the most played song from Kiss on Spotify and for me “Dynasty” is one of those albums I had on LP and played to death and really like.

“Heavens On Fire” was the song that hooked Jon Bon Jovi, which Jovi sort of rewrote and called “In And Out Of Love”. Think of the Chorus “In and out of love” and “feel my heat”. Paul Stanley also told Child to write with Jovi and Sambora because Jovi was opening for Kiss and they are good guys. Again, if you grew up in the 80’s there was no escaping these songs.

In between this period, he did an apprenticeship with Bob Crewe (a song writer behind massive 60’s and 70’s hits) for 2 years, sort of like how all the great painters and composers from the past did apprenticeships with the great painters and composers before them. And Crewe told him, you cannot start writing a song, until you have a KILLER title. And then you write the lyrics to the Chorus first. Because that would tell you what the verses would be like. Child and Crewe wrote 38 songs together but nothing came out of them and he got a deal with Epic Records as a solo artist which fizzled out.

But before he started to work with Jovi, Child got a call from Jim Steinman who was working with Bonnie Tyler, and he wrote a song called “If You Were A Woman And I Was A Man”. The song was only a hit in France and Child was pissed that it wasn’t a worldwide hit because he new he had a hook and an awesome riff verse.

Child was still living off the royalties from “I Was Made For Loving You”.

So Child goes to Richie Sambora’s parents house in Jersey to write with Richie and Jon in the damp and musty laundry room.

And Child walked in with a killer title, “You Give Love A Bad Name”. He told the guys the title, and Jon Bon Jovi, delivered that million dollar smile. Jovi was sold on the title and he mentioned to Child how he had a song called “Shot Through The Heart” and the hook was good, so he wanted to reuse it. And like that, Jovi said “Shot through the heart and your to blame” and all three of them said, “You give love a bad name” in unison. The vocal melody is the same as the Bonnie Tyler cut and the verse riff is the same as the Bonnie cut.

That was the only song written that day and another session was organised in NYC where “Livin On A Prayer” was written, along with “Edge Of A Broken Heart” and one more. They also wrote a song called “We All Sleep Alone” which Jovi said was more of a feminine song and it ended up with Cher. Child mentions how Bruce Fairbairn’s production brought the songs to life and he knew they had a good album with good songs, but no one knew how it was going to translate commercially.

But he did mention how everyone from band management, label reps and distributors and MTV were all on board and aligned to push this album.

After, he started getting calls to write songs for other artists, but he couldn’t get a producer gig and he wanted to write songs and produce the song/record. It’s how he got the Alice Cooper “Trash” record. Alice Cooper’s team wanted the songs, Child stuck to his guns and said if you want my songs, you also hire me as a producer and Alice Cooper did and was back in the charts. He started working with Aerosmith because of the one and only John Kalodner. The “Done With Mirrors” album was a commercial dud, and Kalodner wanted an outside writer.

Tyler and Perry played him a guitar loop and Tyler sang the hook, “Cruising for the ladies”. Child told them it was terrible. Then Tyler said, when he was originally singing that hook, it was “Dude Looks Like A Lady” and all cylinders fired for Child, because the title had that sense of irony he was used to from his Bob Crewe days. And Vince Neil is that dude who looked like the lady but that was already old news. “Angel” was the next song written and Child was one of the first outside writers to write with Aerosmith.

But Child still wanted to be the star. He made an album called “Discipline” in 1991 but it did nothing and he felt it was because he wasn’t honest with himself.

Child did a catalogue sale in 1996 to Polygram Publishing, who now “own” the bulk of the songs he wrote from 1996 and before.

For Child, it was hard to find work at this time, as most of the bands he worked with were doing best off records and Child was basically broke. Imagine that, the co-writer of the biggest songs in the last decade was broke.

And then he got an offer to sell his catalogue. So Child sold, the writers and publishers share to Polygram and kept the performance royalty. The money from this sale allowed Child to pay off his debts, build a studio, start the next phase of his career, produce bands and take risks with other songs and to this day he still has money left over from that sale.

There are a lot of stories. And there was a period that if I saw a song on an album with Desmond Child as a co-writer, I would buy it. Because the dude had proved himself, over and over again.

The whole pod cast is 2 hours long. Here is the Spotify link.

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4 thoughts on “Desmond Child

    • I’ve been trying too. I guess everyone is trying to find that killer title. Child mentioned how he went for opposites, like Love is meant to be nice and the word Bad is opposites. Or Like “How Can We Be Lovers If We Can’t Be Friends” or “Loving You Is A Dirty Job”.

      I remember watching the making of the Black album and how James Hetfield kept a list of song titles that him and Lars would pick from..

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