You Give Love a Bad Name Original
In 1986, American songwriter and producer Desmond Child wrote “You Give Love a Bad Name”. It was a song about a woman who jilted her lover. “You Give Love a Bad Name” became Bon Jovi’s first hit. It propelled the band to stardom and gave rise to the “hair metal” scene. However, Child write the “You Give Love a Bad Name” original for Bonnie Tyler. It had different lyrics and a different title, “If You Were a Woman (And I Was a Man)”. Rather than being a song about a woman leading on a man, this unknown original was about Tyler wanting to swap gender roles with her male lover. Less than three months after the release of “If You Were a Woman (And I Was a Man)” came the release of “You Give Love a Bad Name”.
If You Were a Woman (And I Was a Man) Release
Music producer Jim Steinman worked with Tyler on her hugely-successful fifth studio album, 1983’s Faster Than the Speed of Night. This album contained the megahit and karaoke favourite “Total Eclipse of the Heart”. For her sixth album, Steinman wanted Tyler to sing a song about androgyny.
I want a special song. The verses have to sound like Tina Turner, the B Section has to sound like the Police, U2 or Hall & Oates, and the chorus has to sound like Bruce Springsteen.”Jim Steinman
In May 1986, Columbia Records released “If You Were a Woman (And I Was a Man)” as the third single from Tyler’s 1986 six studio album Secret Dreams and Forbidden Fire. It followed the release of the internationally successful “Holding Out for a Hero”, originally released in 1984 on the Footloose soundtrack.
“If You Were a Woman (And I Was a Man)” did well in Europe, particularly France where it sold 250,000 copies. It reached number 77 on the US Hot 100, but was Tyler’s last hit single in America.
You Give Gender Roles a Bad Name
The video clip accompanying “If You Were a Woman (And I Was a Man)” is interesting for its time. It received six nominations at the 1986 Billboard Video Music Conference: Best Conceptual Video, Best Special Effects, Best Audio, Best Costumes, Best Choreographer (Edmond Kresley) and Best Set Designer (Stephan Roman).
“If You Were a Woman (And I Was a Man)” has a lot of that 80s synth sound. In the video, Tyler is transitioning from the feathered hair of “Total Eclipse of the Heart” to the spiral perm popular in the late 80s. In fact, her hair is similar to Jon Bon Jovi’s in the “You Give Love a Bad Name” video.
Tyler’s husky voice is as powerful as ever. I think she puts on a great performance for this song. The video is full of “gender bending” imagery like women cheering on male mud wrestlers, armed women cornering a man, and a Rambo lookalike transforming into a Marilyn Munroe lookalike.
Tyler went on to re-record “If You Were a Woman (And I Was a Man)” for her 2004 album Simply Believe. This album also includes a French-English rearrangement of “Total Eclipse of the Heart” called “Si Demain… (Turn Around)” which Tyler sings as a duet with French musician Kareen Antonn.
I really liked “If You Were a Woman (And I Was a Man)” and thought it deserved more attention. It’s a song about gender differences and communication barriers in relationships, topics that are still very relevant today.
You Give Love a Bad Name & the Original Hair Band
Bon Jovi formed in 1983, although the band’s lead singer, Jon Bon Jovi, had performed live music since he was thirteen. The band’s first two albums enjoyed moderate success but hadn’t really broken through. Polygram Records executive, Derek Shulman, thought Bon Jovi needed a song with a big chorus. He asked Child, who’d worked with Kiss on “I Was Made For Lovin’ You” to help the band.
Child finished up his work on Tyler’s album Secret Dreams and Forbidden Fire and began working with Bon Jovi soon after. Dissatisfied with the lack of success of “If You Were a Woman (And I Was a Man)” in the US and UK, he decided to rewrite the song with Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora.
I was sore at the record company for not pushing that song, and I said, ‘I’m going to prove that that song’s a hit!’ So we wrote it again.”Desmond Child
The rewritten song was originally intended for Canadian rock group Loverboy. However, Jon Bon Jovi and Sambora liked the song so much they decided to keep it for themselves.
Success of You Give Love a Bad Name
In July 1986, “You Give Love a Bad Name” was released as the first single from Bon Jovi’s third studio album, Slippery When Wet. It was the band’s first number one single, topping the charts in November 1986. Bon Jovi became the first band to release a number one hit in the pop-metal style that would be known as “hair metal”. This was thanks to Jon Bon Jovi’s stylishly teased locks.
“You Give Love a Bad Name” was the first of three top 10 singles from Slippery When Wet, which sold over 12 million copies. It marked the arrival of hard rock which became popular during the mid-to-late 80s, replacing the synth-laden pop from the first half of the decade. This change in music style is perfectly illustrated by comparing Tyler’s and Bon Jovi’s versions of practically the same song, and the levels of success each version enjoyed.
Bon Jovi’s next single, “Livin’ On A Prayer”, also reached number one. It spent even more time in the spot than “You Give Love a Bad Name”. This was another song that Child helped write and produce.
In 2007, “You Give Love a Bad Name” re-entered the charts at number 29 after Blake Lewis performed it on American Idol. Then in 2009, it was named by VH1 the 20th greatest hard rock song.
Comparisons Between Original & Cover
I think comparing Tyler’s and Bon Jovi’s versions is a very interesting exercise. Tyler’s “You Give Love a Bad Name” “original” has a feminist tone to it, questioning gender roles. It harks back to the synth sounds of the earlier 80s but its message is forward-thinking. Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Bad Name” criticizes the actions of a woman the male protagonist thinks has lead him on. A problematic stereotype but with a new sound that influenced bands like Poison, Warrant, Skid Row, Damn Yankees and Nickleback. And as well as singing virtually the same song, Bonnie Tyler and Jon Bon Jovi had virtually the same hair.