If you bought any records from KISS, Bon Jovi, or Aerosmith and read the songwriting credits, the name Desmond Child always popped up.
Desmond Child has been the man behind the scenes writing hit songs such as Aerosmith “Angel,” KISS “I was made for lovin’ you, Bon Jovi “Living on a prayer.” He has had a career now spanning five decades and numerous hits and number one songs. Desmond Child has no plans of slowing down anytime soon. Last October, he released a live album Desmond Child Live. He has finished writing his biography Livin’ on a prayer Big songs, Big Life to be released later this year, and has plans on putting out new music and do live shows. It is good to be a Desmond Child fan these days with a lot of things to look forward to. I had an opportunity to talk to Desmond Child about everything from writing with Paul Stanley to details about his book and the live album.
Angel Alamo: How did you come up with the idea to do the live album (Desmond Child Live) that you just released?
Desmond Child: Desmond Child Live. After many, many years of not performing, because the last time I was performing was with my group Desmond Child and Rouge back in the late ’70s. I decided to do a show of my own. Which was actually the first time I’ve ever done a show that was me, a solo show. It’s the first time I was ever performing, and I wanted… I’m back in New York City, where I started out, and I found this gorgeous little club called Feinstein’s/54 Below. Which is underneath the original Studio 54, but I think down there that was kind of like orgy room or where everyone took drugs and stuff originally. But now it’s a very chic club, and I brought together a lot of my friends and musicians that I had played with during the years and Desmond Child and Rouge with Maria Vidal, Miriam Valle, and Diana Grasselli.
Desmond Child: I had a ball. We performed over three nights. Lena Hall sang her jazz song, “I Hate Myself for Loving You” and Justin Benlolo, a young, new talent, he’s 22 years old, sang some of the songs that were too high for me to sing. Like, “Dude (Looks Like a Lady),” and “You Give Love a Bad Name,” “How Can We Be Lovers?”. He did the heavy lifting, and I sang more like the ballady kind of songs, and we just had a ball. I’m very proud of the record. Turned out great. And we also did a version of that show on PBS; a show called Live at the Kate, so I had some different guest artists on that. Deborah Cox and Amanda Gonzalez from Hamilton came up and sang. I’ve just been getting out there with music. After this live album, I’m going to be releasing singles on BMG, which is my label, that are duets stars that I’ve worked with. My first ones with Alice Cooper.
Desmond Child: We’re going to be putting that out in April, and I’m just going to keep dropping music. And the whole music business has had a system where it’s like, you make an album, and then you release it, up-tempo songs, your first single. Hoping it’s catchy and then maybe leads people to buying the record. And I think all bets are off now because the way the Spotify space works, you can record a song that day and release it that night, and it’s very egalitarian.
Desmond Child: I love that, and it’s a very different world, and you don’t have to worry about genres and this and that. You can just put out your music and make your own genre, make your own market. And so it’s been very exciting to be free of the way it used to be. That’s why I waited so long; it was so daunting to get a record deal, then you wait a year for finally your record to come out, and then if it doesn’t test well, then you’re dropped from the label. All of that stuff. I think the way it is now, artists can just grab their careers into their own hands and make things happen.
Angel Alamo: What do you like better? Being in the studio or performing on stage?
Desmond Child: I think I prefer being on stage. A shorter amount of time. Being a studio rat, you could be working at a song for weeks, just the one, the same song. Playing it over and over again, making this little adjustment, that little adjustment. Because you can, with the technology, continue tweaking until it’s perfection. Sometimes one can go over something, and it sounds completely weird and dead, but that’s a whole other art form. I love connecting with people. I love telling stories. I love making people laugh. I love being a clown. I love making people have tears, you know. So I love that. And so I hope that to be able to do it more, but that’s very expensive because clubs usually make you pay to play.
Desmond Child: Yeah. That’s just how it is. And you can fill a room, and they’ll just give you a tiny bit. That’s the only way they can survive. It’s a career to itself. To be a performer, to be an actor. My sons going to be going to NYU. And so my husband and I decided, okay, now we’re going to go travel the world. I’m going to go do masterclasses. I’m going to do performing but that it’d be out there and you know. Well, guess what? We’re the ones flying away.
Angel Alamo: How did John Kalodner contact you to work with Aerosmith?
Desmond Child: I have had big success with Kiss, “I Was Made for Lovin’ You.” Paul Stanley of Kiss introduced me to Jon Bon Jovi. And I started writing songs with them. We right away did “You Give Love a Bad Name” and “Livin’ on a Prayer”. John Kalodner noticed me and asked me if I would work with Cher because they had asked him to oversee signing Cher and who hadn’t made a record in eight years. I always loved Cher. When I was little, I had posters of her all around. I didn’t know if I wanted to be her or sleep with her, I couldn’t decide. That’s how I got into the world of rock because he was also A&Ring their record.
Angel Alamo: Aerosmith, they have a song on the Pump album called F. I. N. E, which is one of the coolest titles that they have released. How did that song come together, and who came up with the title for that song?
Desmond Child: Steven set the title, F. I. N. E. Fucked up, insecure, neurotic, and emotional.
Desmond Child: I just had such a great time. The first song we wrote together was “Dude (Looks Like a Lady),” and then next one, “Angel.” Then I wrote a song called Heart’s Done Time.”
I wrote three songs on that record (Permanent Vacation). I wrote “Crazy,” “What It Takes,” and other songs like “Flesh,” and “Hole in My Soul”. Through the years.
Angel Alamo: How did you get the job to produce Ratt Detonator album, and what was it like working with Ratt?
Desmond Child: It was a difficult time for them, and they had a lot of problems, emotional problems, and drug addiction problems, and the band wasn’t really getting along with each other. I just worked with Warren DeMartini and Stephen Pearcy together, and I was the executive producer of record, and my engineer produced it.
Angel Alamo: That album is still a great record.
Desmond Child: Yeah. I mean, that song “Loving Is a Dirty Job” and that’s just such a great song. It’s classic. And for me, it’s all about the message. They weren’t really telling stories like the kind of music I was writing with Bon Jovi and with Aerosmith. It was more balls-out, rocking, macho. I don’t know what did they call that? Chauvinist? At the same time, the hydrogen bomb on everything was Nirvana, and that brought in grunge music and this whole Seattle sound. All these other bands that came out of there. Those are the bands They really struggled. They went from playing like huge venues too like kind of club shows. Legacy acts.
Desmond Child: It was like from one day to the next. It was like, “Oh, my God. The era is over”. Because those other bands were way insular, they didn’t co-write. They didn’t do out world songs that were meant to entertain and make people have fun. They were very introspective. We call them shoot lasers. They tend to have hair in their face, and they look down because they were like three cords. They weren’t even like musicians; they were like are med students. The whole thing was like very artsy, but those songs made no sense. They would put out, and it was completely opposite of the kind of music that I had been making.
Angel Alamo: When you work with Bon Jovi on These Days album. On that one, you wrote “This Ain’t a Love Song” and “Something For the Pain.” How did those songs come together and was the band thinking about this is what’s going on now with grunge? Because it turned out to be a great album, but just with more dark lyrical themes compared to their previous albums.
Desmond Child: I think that what was happening was Jon was growing up. When he was 22 years old, it was like, “Go out there and shake your ass.” He became much more educated, having seen the world more introspective and mature, becoming more melancholy and spiritual and deeper perspective. Until this day, he’s writing a lot of songs with social justice themes and all of that because that’s who he is, and that’s what he cares about. He’s very honest about who he is. He’s not overwriting a gratuitous song, because he thinks that it might fail. That’s never been the way I’ve written. He has integrity about what he does.
Angel Alamo: I’m a big fan of the These Days record. And I think that’s why it turned out to me to be really good because he wasn’t trying to sound like raunchy was still writing the way that he does.
Desmond Child: Yeah. He can only be him, and he has his own market. I was over at his apartment in New York last night, and he’d played me his new album, and it’s a masterpiece. I mean, it’s just fantastic and the sounds and just physical lyrics. And I didn’t pull that on the record. I’m just very proud at the work that he’s done. And I think his team, and co-writers, John Jackson, Billy Falcon, they’re very unified in the message. If he goes out and he can do worldwide tours, he’s very successful. And politicians go to him for advice and endorsements and all of that kind of stuff; He’s a huge influence on the culture, the world. He’s just consonant artist. I just love everything about him.
Angel Alamo: You worked on the comeback album (Trash) for Alice Cooper. That was called, at the time, his comeback album. Was there any pressure on you as a producer on working on that record?
Desmond Child: Not really. I didn’t really think of it as a comeback up. I didn’t know anything about him really, except that I had gone to see Alice Cooper concert with my friends, in the makeup and the black tears and all that stuff. I’d always been a fan, and honestly, he invented heavy metal; there would be no KISS if it had not been for Alice Cooper first. He really understood the character that he plays in. When I got together with him, he explained, “Look, I was Alice Cooper, the character.” When he first came up with Alice Cooper, that was the name of the band, and his name had been Vincent Furnier, and then people start saying he’s Alice Cooper.
Desmond Child: It’s kind of fun because it’s a female name, it’s androgynous. But when you say Alice Cooper, you don’t think of it as a girl. But I think that’s what made the brand so intriguing. And he was very kind of creepy and androgynous. But the thing about Alice Cooper is he’s the son of a preacher man and his father was a minister. He’s very spiritual and a normal person in spite of how he lives because he’s forming a society in a way because we have a dark side. We love seeing the dark side played up on the stage or in a creepy movie or something like that. This way, it gets out of our system, and we don’t have to be creepy. If Alice Cooper punched the head off of a doll, he has to be punished for that.
Desmond Child: Then, by the end of the show, his head goes into the guillotine, and it gets cut off. There’s always a price you pay for being bad. And so we wrote the album called Trash as a kind of opera, rock opera. It has all these different stories and movements. And then we got all of our friends Bon Jovi, Aerosmith, Joan Jett, Kip Winger, Kane Roberts. Everybody just jumped into the record. I was going to say it was instead of a barn raising. It’s like a barn burning. It was one of the most fun records ever. We made it up in Bearsville studios up in Woodstock, and the musicianship was incredible, and the sounds were fantastic. I loved it. And then, unfortunately for whatever reason, I didn’t get to take to make the next record, even though he went from selling, I think 18,000 records to four and a half million. We’re still very good friends, and he’s my first artist on my new music that he and I are doing. Things happen. I think he was influenced by his A&R guy that was kind of upset that he wasn’t invited to co-write. Then he pushed me out of the way, and then he’d co-write the next record, and then, of course, he wasn’t as skilled as me and that particular kind of thing. That record didn’t sell. So then the label dropped him. And so he continues making records. I’m not sure what label he does, but I’m hoping that he calls me back and says, “Let’s start writing hits again.”
Desmond Child: I’ve only been writing for 35 years, but that’s okay.
Angel Alamo: You can say that you’ve been very patient. (laughter)
Desmond Child: I’ve been very patient, and by the way, I went to see his show with his recent show out. It’s stunning with his musicians. Incredible. And Cheryl, his wife, is in the show now and so it’s like mom and pop show in a way. Because their kids all grew up and they’re out there and they really the audiences are just singing every song. He put a song that we had written on trashing into the show called bed of nails. And I don’t think he had ever really performed it and he put it in the show, and it’s like a show stopper. People loved it. I just admire him so much because he never gives up. He’s just out there, and I loved him in Jesus Christ Superstar. He played Pontius Pilate or one of those songs. Who is the King? Did you see that? It was, I think, John legend played Jesus, and they had Jesus Christ Superstar Live.
Desmond Child: Wasn’t it Pontius Pilate? I’m not sure. He’s the one that sends Christ to the cross. And he came out looking like Louis the fourteenth. He looked amazing with the skull on his cane. He’s a true entertainer. He’s an American legend. I think we should put his face up next on Mount Rushmore.
Angel Alamo: Who else would you put up there?
Desmond Child: Exactly. I think it’s his turn next.
Angel Alamo: Theater rock of incorporating that into the rock music.
Desmond Child: I learned a lot from him because he’s got a very fun way of looking at things. He just shows up. He does his best. He doesn’t have huge expectations. He just keeps growing, and everything’s okay. He golfs. He really takes care of himself, and it’s so beautiful to see him with his wife. They’re just so in love, and they’re such a beautiful family. And he’s a true success. I love him for that.
Angel Alamo: Because he’s one of those musicians that he’s still out touring with almost no plans to stop. He hasn’t announced the next tour is going to be the farewell. He could still go on with no plans in sight to stop, really.
Desmond Child: Why should he? He loves performing. He loves his fans, and they love him.
Angel Alamo: You worked on Kiss, “Heavens on Fire.” How was working on that song, and I guess just a title because the title is something that no one would come up.
Desmond Child: Well, I think one of the things that I learned from my mentor Bob Crewe we wrote a bunch of songs the four seasons and co-produced. I worked with him for a couple of years. I wrote 38 songs with him, and he wouldn’t start a song unless he had a killer title. And he also targeted the irony of having opposites in the title. And that’s how I came up with a thought of like, you give love a bad name, so love and bod are things that go together, they’re opposites. I hate myself for loving you. How can we be lovers, but we can’t be friends? There’s always a kind of irony, and once you have a title that has irony, then it’s easy to write the song. Everything just flows right out of it. “Heaven on Fire” was one of those titles.
Desmond Child: Heaven. Fire. Heaven’s associated with hell, not fire. Heaven’s on fire. Double on tontra, actually. Meaning something very sexual. I’ve always just co-written with Paul; I’ve never co-written with Gene. And I think that because they tour a lot together and they’d have a lot of business together and all that. It’s like too much togetherness. So they go off to their own corners and go out with other people and bring the songs to the table. And then, may the best songs win. Same thing with I was made for loving you; that’s when I was in my group as a Desmond Child and Rouge.
Desmond Child: He used to come and hang out, and he said, “Hey, why don’t we try to write a song together”? At that time, I was experimenting with the little tiny time machine, and I started getting the idea that why should dance music or disco music, just be all R&B? Clean guitars and all kind of stuff. What about being with head rock guitars? And so I hoodwinked it, trying that concept. And it’s still to this day biggest international hit. And Gene still hates the song, but it’s in the show. So he must not hate it that much.
Angel Alamo: I think because of how fast he (Gene) kind of has to play with the baseline.
Desmond Child: Yeah. He has to work on that. Extra effort (laughter)
Angel Alamo: Well, that’s an awesome song. Everybody still goes crazy. I still listen to it. It’s on my MP3.
Desmond Child: I’ve written about 20 songs with Paul Stanley through the years. One of my favorite songs that we wrote was called “Live to Win.” South Park did a parody of that song, which I just love so much.
Angel Alamo: You’re going to be releasing your bio this year is that correct?
Desmond Child: Yes. It’s called “Livin’ on a Prayer: Big Songs Big Life” with David Ritz, my coauthor. It’s a story of my life. Still putting finishing touches on it actually. I started saying, “You know what? Maybe, I shouldn’t tell that story.” I’m still tweaking it, but I’m definitely putting it out this year.
Angel Alamo: You’ve actually written songs with Diane Warren. How is it, like I said, writing with my brain today, how is it writing songs with her, with Diane Warren?
Desmond Child: I first heard the song she wrote called, “Don’t Lose Any Sleep” that was recorded by John White and produced by Rick Nowels. And I heard the song, and I went, “Oh, my God. That sounds like my music. It’s like something I would write.” And so I tracked her down, and she wouldn’t answer my calls. Then my song, “You Give Love a Bad Name,” went to number one. And then she called me back. She said, “Hi, this is Diane Warren. Welcome to the number one club.” Then we became fast friends and wrote a bunch of very cool songs. “Love on a Rooftop,” which is on my album, Desmond Child Live. Actually, this is a funny story, and I’ve been writing with Paul Stanley, and we’d go back and forth, kind of singing titles of songs, and I’d been typing it into my computer. So it wasn’t working or whatever.
Desmond Child: I wasn’t marking whose title was whose. When I went to write with Diana, she loved “Love on a Rooftop.”. We wrote the song “Love on a rooftop. I produced it; it was my first production that I did with Ronnie Spector I called up Paul (Stanley) “I’m so excited. I produced my first record. It’s called “Love on a Rooftop”. There was silence, dead silence. That’s my title, Oh my God! That is so messed up, so of course, he’s a co-writer on the song.
Angel Alamo: The song, “Does Anybody Really Fall in Love Anymore,” was supposed to be on the (Bon Jovi) New Jersey album? How did the song, how did Cher and Kane Roberts end up getting that song?
Desmond Child: Well, I think we wrote that song for New Jersey, and there was another song called “We All Sleep Alone,” and I was producing Cher. I pitched it to her.
Desmond Child: So then, he (Kane Roberts) cut it. I was an executive producer on that record. In those days, if a song wasn’t a single then, just pitch it to the next one. There’s this great song that I wrote with Paul Stanley called “Hide Your Heart.” And I was producing for Bonnie Tyler, and I was looking for songs for her. Which by the way, I found the song called “Simply the Best,” and I had written, “Just Like Jesse James,” that ended up being on Cher’s record. We were just like throwing the songs around like “Simply the Best” and “Hide Your Heart” is one of my favorite songs. And so then I tried it again with Robin Beck.
Desmond Child: Different artists would interpret the song their own way, and it was played because after a long period of time where people had to write their own songs. The way, it’s like when I co-wrote with Kiss, it was like, “I Was Made For Loving You.” It was unbeknownst to me, creating a career, because then they saw the success, so they started hiring me. Usually, it was forbidden. That bands would co-write with an outside writer; maybe they’d co-write with a producer. But then once I started doing that, then a lot of other writers started jumping on the bandwagon. Like Mark Hudson and all these people who worked like independent in a professional songwriting starting co-writing with bands and it was more allowable.