Desmond Child has written an enviable stack of hits for Bon Jovi, Alice Cooper, Cher and many others. But he’ll be the first to acknowledge that his success as a writer didn’t happen overnight. His eventual career found him taking on an unexpected role with bands like Aerosmith as a collaborator, but also at times, as peacemaker.
Aerosmith’s “Dude (Looks Like a Lady)”:
Their A&R guy, John Kalodner, he was an admirer of the work I’d done with Bon Jovi. He called me to produce Cher. I started working on songs, producing songs for Cher. I worked with her for two albums. In the midst of all of that, they had done an album called Done With Mirrors and it was kind of beneath their expectations of how it should go.
John said, “I want you to write with Steven [Tyler] and Joe [Perry].” They were not for it. They had never written with someone outside of their group. They had maybe co-written something with one of their producers, but they never had a relationship with a real professional songwriter. You know, the very first day, I was flown there. I show up in this car that brought me from the airport right to this big warehouse. It was huge with giant doors like an airplane hanger. They had their whole stage set up in there. On the floor were rows upon rows of guitars.
There was every kind of Gibson, Fender [guitar] with glitter, tiger, leopard, sparkly [designs]. Acoustics, every single kind of guitar. They were arranged very neatly in rows, so that Joe could go and pick out a guitar that he wanted to play. The microphone had all of the scarves on it. I walked in and the door opens with the shaft of light, I’m coming through it. Steven approaches me with this big smile. Because he’s a very charming guy. I think they had thought, “Well, we’ll just meet the guy. Whatever. Then we’ll send him home.”
They were working on this guitar loop and Steven started to sing, “Cruisin’ for the ladies.” [Child sings the lyrical pattern]. Joe was there kind of looking at me sideways already. Then, all of the sudden, [Tyler] sang “Cruisin’ for the ladies” a few times. They stopped and said, “What do you think of that?” I said, “I think it’s really bad.” Those were my very first words to them. Joe crossed his arms and really got [serious] with his head back, looking at me sideways. I said, “What is that? The top down, down Sunset Strip, with babes hanging out of the car, or jumping into the car? What are you talking about? Cruisin’ for the ladies, really?”