How Bon Jovi and Desmond Child ‘Channeled’ ‘You Give Love a Bad Name’
Award-winning songwriter Desmond Child recalled how he, Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora wrote the Bon Jovi hit “You Give Love a Bad Name” within 90 minutes of meeting each other.
It was the first of a number of collaborations between Child and Bon Jovi, and went on to reach No.1 – as did “Livin’ on a Prayer,” the second piece they worked on together. Both tracks appeared on Bon Jovi's 1986 album Slippery When Wet.
“I went to this little wooden house in New Jersey,” Child told Entertainment Weekly in a new interview. “And down in the basement they had a little setup: a little electronic keyboard on a rickety Formica table that had been retired down there, and washing machines and space heaters and buzzing amps.”
When he arrived, he had the song title in his mind, so he suggested it as a starting point. “It was the first time I saw that billion-dollar Bon Jovi smile, those teeth,” he said. “He looked at me and lit up, and said, ‘Shot through the heart, and you’re to blame,’ and then the three of us said, ‘You give love a bad name.’ Then we had our first slap five, and then that song was written within an hour and a half. It was, like, channeled.”
Listen to Bon Jovi's ‘You Give Love a Bad Name’
Child recalled that “Livin’ on a Prayer” had taken two days to create after Bon Jovi wanted to write a song with a story. The songwriter recalled his earlier experience with Maria Vidal, the singer in his former band Rouge.
“She worked in a diner called Once Upon a Stove — they had singing and dancing waitresses and waiters — and her waitress name was Gina Velvet,” he said. “I suggested Johnny and Gina because Johnny is my real name. Jon said, ‘Well, I can’t sing Johnny because then I’d be singing about myself.’ I went, ‘Oh shit, right.’ I just found a quick soundalike, Tommy, and the story of Tommy and Gina was born.”
Child also discussed why so many of his song titles included the words “living” or “loving,” including Kiss’s “I Was Made for Loving You,” Joan Jett’s “I Hate Myself for Loving You” and Ricky Martin’s “Livin’ la Vida Loca.”
“Well, life and love, in our language, are such strong archetypes in and of themselves," he said. "They contain a magic quality because those words have soul, and they have hope. … As long as one of those words is in your song, you’re going to do okay.”