The kids of today will grow up never knowing the magic and wonder of the record stores of yesteryear. Buying your music online today is just so sterile and downright uneventful. Granted, there is still the odd store but the magic of the times is mostly gone. Cruising through iTunes, it's highly unlikely you'll ever make a purchase of something unintended. In record stores, however, it's highly likely you'll make an accidental purchase. In-store music, interesting covers, and more importantly all the information contained with cover blurbs and credits more often than not, have pointed out something to me that I either was totally unfamiliar with or just knew by reputation --- usually piquing my interest.
Case in point...summer of 1979. As usual, I was visiting my local record store and on a new release rack, there was a cover that caught my eye. Three hot women with this cool looking dude and the title was Desmond Child and Rouge. I picked up the album to check out the back and the record sleeve fell out. All the lyrics and credits were printed out and one line jumped right out at me. A song called "The Fight" was co-written by Desmond and Paul Stanley. Being a rabid KISS fan, I was immediately intrigued and had to buy the record on the spot.
Little did I know at the time, that the new song I was soon to hear by KISS ("I Was Made For Loving You") was also co-written with Desmond. Accidentally finding that record was kismet because it, along with its follow-up Runners in the Night, and Desmond's 1991 solo, Discipline, are three of the most important records in my collection.
Most people know Desmond from his role as superstar songwriter/producer to a list of people as long as Lebron James' arm. The list includes names such as KISS, Aerosmith, Bon Jovi, Alice Cooper, Meatloaf, Katy Perry, Ricky Martin, Joan Jett and tons more. For me, however, his best work is with his material, singing his own songs along with the three amazing women in Rouge (Maria Vidal, Diana Grasselli and Myriam Valle).
Desmond recently played some solo shows in NYC and it featured a reunion of sorts with Rouge. I caught up with him just before the shows to talk about why now was the time to get back in touch with the early part of his career. I've talked to a lot of musicians over the years but the hour-long conversation with Desmond was definitely one of the high points of my journalism career. Here's what he had to say:
antiMusic: Okay, to start with, you're playing a few shows in a couple of weeks in New York. If I'm not mistaken, this is the first time you've done something like this in quite a few years, in terms of a full show. Why is now the right time for some solo Desmond Child shows?
Desmond: Well, it just got to the point where I was working on my autobiography. It's going to be co-written with David Ritz, who's written for a lot of music legends and all of that. And in the process of going through all the stories I started getting back in touch with my artistry as an artist. I'd put so much focus on the people I worked for, I sort of lost the plot, within my own development. I think it's important that, you know...most of the time I'm a producer, a co-writer, a coach, manager, promoter...that you've got to get back into the ring if you're going to tell people how to fight.
antiMusic: Sure. You've got some special guests lined up for the show as well. Tell us about them.
Desmond: I have a very special, well, it's not really a surprise because I've already announced it, but my group Desmond Child and Rouge will reunite for part of the set.
Desmond: And last week we were all in California together rehearsing and it was just so magical. Just even just sitting at the piano and hearing those harmonies. I mean it's just like time-traveling back to when Maria and I used to live in the same little apartment at 309 East 81st St., in New York City, in Little Hungarian Town.
And I would be writing songs and they would be sitting in chairs behind me and of course Maria would always be kicking MY chair which bothered me to no end and so, we were back there again. And I was sitting there at the piano, and there was Maria and Miriam and Diana. Maria sings the low part, Miriam sings the middle part and Diana sings the high part, which is usually octaves with me. So it was so wonderful. And the laughs that we have are so like no other.
It's been a really rich and rewarding experience. And also I'm going to be performing some of my favorite songs that I didn't write, by Laura Nyro and George Michael and Don Paul Yowell who the world didn't get to hear or see because he passed away from AIDS in his early 20s in 1985, and he was one of the first people that got it and just disappeared. But he wrote a collection of songs that are so exquisite and I'm going to be performing two of them. Actually I performed one of them on my album Discipline, a song called "A Ray of Hope".
antiMusic: I LOVE that song.
Desmond: So it just feels so good. And I also feel so good because when I'm singing them---today when I was rehearsing, I was just having such a hard time because the way Don sang his songs was very specific. And then I started picturing his face, singing the songs and I realized he would kind of squeeze his face forward in a funny way. And I started doing it, and I started getting the notes like how he sang them and so that was just so illuminating. But the way he worked the sound on his face and you know, all of a sudden it opened up a whole thing for me. So you know, I love to sing and I never get a chance to so this is my chance.
antiMusic: I think it's just so amazing because I love your voice so much, the range, the strength, everything about it, it just seems such a waste you're on the other side of the glass and we don't get to hear you anymore, so that's terrific. I'm glad you're doing this.
Desmond: Well you know I've always thought of myself as a star and in my life I kind of conduct myself like a rock star in a way, but I started thinking about it and the kind of diversity and the genres of the artists that I've worked with have reached billions, the songs we've collaborated on, have reached billions of people. I could never have done that as a solo artist. If I was holding back "Living on A Prayer" for myself, who knows? It may not have been a hit without the charisma and drive that Jon Bon Jovi put into making those songs No. 1.
Because it takes that too. You have to have that kind of drive. Other band members may be just rolling in at 5 in the morning, that's when he was rolling out to the radio stations. He'd go to bed early, always stayed sober and was serious about what he was doing. And that's why I admire him so much.
antiMusic: What kind of show will this be? Are you playing by yourself or do you have a band?
Desmond: Well, the show's about 75 minutes long, maybe 80 minutes if we can push it. And I will be coming out, you know there's a full band and other backup singers, but I do start out singing a song by Laura Nyro, which I've sung twice: Once was opening for her at the Algonquin Hotel. She had a little show and I was her opening act.
antiMusic: I never knew that!
Desmond: To close my little segment of the show I sang one of her songs called "The Man Who Sends Me Home."
antiMusic: Wow. Nice!
Desmond: Which with me, is very homo-erotic. And she was standing there watching me and I was looking at her and she was listening to me and that's like you know, a crazy fan's ultimate dream to have the star look at you. And then when she passed away I sang it at the Beacon Theatre in a set that I did, I came out and "The Man Who Sends Me Home" and then Rouge came out and we sang, "Christmas in My Soul", which we'll also be performing.
antiMusic: I've heard that on line and your version is so beautiful.
Desmond: Oh, yeah, the one online has kinda kookie sounds but you can tell that it was great. You know we DO have a special sound. We really do. And in a way it's a shame the band went the way it went but a lot of things were happening and I think, just for me, I was kind of boobytrapped within myself. Because I'd had a very difficult childhood and so when you have all of those things inside, you don't always make the right decisions. It's almost like you make it not work because maybe you feel you don't deserve it. So I'm glad that the people I work with don't have that problem. (laughs)
antiMusic: Well, I'd like to swing back around to Rouge later, but also I'd like to talk about current stuff. Tell us about your upcoming musical.
Desmond: Well, actually I've been working on a musical called Cuba Libre, like the drink, and it's the true story of my family before and after the Cuban Revolution. My mother had two very beautiful younger sisters. One became a mistress to the Dictator Fulgencio Batista for several years, right up until the revolution came. And then the other one married a revolutionary. Her name was Miriam. Then after the revolution, he was kind of an abusive husband, he would beat her, so she ran away and she ran into Castro and became HIS lover. So there you have it: two sisters, two dictators, one island. Do the math. (laughs)
antiMusic: So how long have you been working on this?
Desmond: Thirteen years.
Desmond: Maybe more. About 14 years. We did about six workshops originally and then we started working with producers, The Dodgers, who produced Jersey Boys and Matilda and the Bronx Tale. They're one of the top production teams and so we've been writing it, rewriting it, rewriting it. So we're on our fourth book writer, but he's more like a dramaturgic, because the music is very solid, but the transitions between the songs and the dialogue have to be refined in a special way and then we can start doing the workshops again. And hopefully, we'll be on the Broadway stage sometime in 2019. That would be awesome.
antiMusic: Excellent. What an accomplishment that would be for sure. It sounds like you've been involved with a lot of industry stuff over the last few years, like the Latin Hall of Fame. Have you also been working with many other artists of late? I haven't heard of anything in the past year or so.
Desmond: Well let's just start with the Songwriters' Rights Advocacy and activism that I've been doing. I was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame 2008 When I was inducted I realized there had only been two Latins that had been inducted before me, Antonio Carlo Jobim and Ernesto Lecuano from Cuba. It was like, THOSE legends, then there was me. I was like, this isn't right! Where's Antone Manuel Alejandro and many others. It was crazy.
So in the almost 50 years now that the Hall of Fame has existed, there really hadn't been a lot of Latins nominated. There was almost no currency whatsoever. So I went to the board and I proposed that I could start a committee to form the Latin's Songwriters Hall of Fame under the auspices of the Songwriters' Hall of Fame. So I was given a green light and began. And they told me about a gentleman who is a producer and a songwriter in the Latin field, Rudy Perez, and we had known each other from when I lived in Miami. He was a neighbor down the street.
And it's funny because he was born in the town my mother's from in Cuba. We bonded and he had had this dream for 16 years before and he had come to the Songwriters Hall of Fame and had asked and all of that. But it just never seemed to be the time.
So we said, no that's it; we're doing it. And we had our first board meeting in the year my mom passed away which was 2012 and then six months later we had our first gala, which was almost impossible. And Rudy and I lost our shirts and it was a crazy learning curve (laughs). But now we're going into our sixth induction ceremony October 18th at the James L. Night Centre in Miami. We've been in the black ever since because we learned our lesson the first time. (laughs)
And it's a wonderful organization and we're guided by these very strict standards of the Songwriters Hall of Fame. In order to be even nominated, your first publication of a song has to be 20 years back. And of course, it can be before, but that's the minimum. So what we're celebrating is people's entire careers, not just last year's big song, like most of the music award shows. It's a very intimate night on stage with a 37 piece orchestra.
And another thing that made me want to do it, my mother was a songwriter of Cuban boleros and she struggled a lot. She had been signed to Peer Music and she really struggled. I mean, she worked every odd job and then at night she'd be in nightclubs trying to promote her songs. And so I decided I wanted to dedicate the Latin Songwriters Hall of Fame to her.
My mother had a little clay statuette of herself playing guitar by an American sculpturess named Lee Bermham that we had around the house our whole lives. And we decided to make that our Oscar. Alan MaCuire, a very important sculpture in Nashville re-sculpted it and that's what we present to the inductees and the honorees. So it's just very nice that she has an award in her name. It's so very nice because we have pictures of Julio Iglesias who was our first inductee holding our statue. She must have been really smiling from heaven.
So after that, I joined the board of the Hall of Fame after I was inducted and I got invited to join the board of ASCAP. And that has been another HUGE learning curve because I had no idea how our music was collected. And it's an organization that's over 102 years old. There was one guild and it was owner/operated by publishers. It's a non-profit organization. And this year, I'm celebrating my 40th year at ASCAP so I'm very proud of being with them.
I'm sort of looking underneath the hood and meeting all the people that go out there and get the general licensing and meeting all the collection people and they're just such excellent honest people. It made me have such a good feeling that I was really being taken care of and we have over 800,00 members. We have one of the lowest overhead rates of any non-profit organizations in the world. It's something like 11%. Crazy low. But our income keeps rising because of the great job that they do.
And so then I got on the legislative committee and I've been going to Washington to fight for things like the Songwriters Equity Act but now it's the Music Modernization Act and everybody's gotten behind it. It really going to help us because our rates were artificially suppressed by these consent decrees that have been in existence for 72 years. And we just have to break free so it's a free market. Willing buyer, willing seller. Music is one of the most regulated businesses on earth. It's unbelievable how we're regulated. And ultimately our songs become public domain. They don't even belong to us, which I don't think is really fair.
People are still going to be charged the same amount to hear the music. They don't get a reduction because my music is public domain. Let's say my lineage died out, I would want that money to go to the Red Cross. It's just lost money. With the Internet, you can go and listen to anything you want to listen to and so I'm not a fan of public domain. So it's really been a beautiful part of my life being part of ASCAP and a member of the ASCAP board and lots of things are happening all the time with that. So going to all of these meetings and conference calls and things take up a lot of time. It's really a dedicated thing and eaten up a lot of my time.
So between my musical and...I still do my day job. I'm still writing songs and submitted a song for a movie a few days ago. I'm really excited. It came out great! So I'm still excited about writing songs. Especially when you're really clear when writing for a movie of what the parameters are. That's when I'm the best. And that's why I think I've done so well writing with other people because I can clearly see them. It wasn't always clear to see myself and what I would want to sing as an artist.
And also, it's a creative process because you write with someone like Alice Cooper and he's invented a character. His name is Vincent Furnier and he's the son of a preacher. So he's a very spiritual man and he created a very dark character that had a very strong morality. If he cut off the head of a doll then he would get his head cut off in a guillotine. So writing the album called Trash was one of the most fun, greatest things ever. And it was also one of the biggest-selling records that Alice Cooper had done.
antiMusic: The collection of material that you've written over the years is staggering --- and unparalleled in its success. I mean, I love Diane Warren but she can't claim the chart success that you've had. Have you ever experienced a period where you've succumbed to the weight of your own success and had a mental block?
Desmond: No. Because growing up poor....there was a movie out last year called Moonlight and it was set in the projects in Miami and that's where I lived for 14 years, where they filmed it. And the shots of the interior of the apartment that they showed was exactly like the one we lived in and it brought everything back. My mother was a single mom and she really struggled. More often than not, her beat-up car was out front and she couldn't drive it because there was no gas to put in it. So she'd be walking in the rain for six blocks to catch a bus and transfer to three other buses to try to get to some crap job somewhere and I vowed I would take care of my mother.
And as soon as I could, when I made it with "I Was Made For Loving You", and money started coming in, I made sure that she was living like a queen and she did for the rest of her life. So when I wake up every morning, I wake up with that work ethic of like. "I don't want to go back to the ghetto. What am I going to do today to be productive?" And I get going and I'm excited to go out there and find it because you know, with music...it's risky! (laughs) There's no guarantee that anybody is going to like our song. So that's how it is with me --- I'm very motivated. I want to be able to take care of my family.
I have my husband --- we've been together almost 29 years and our two twin songs are going to be 16 years old. They go to school. They have a lot of requirements and I want them to have a beautiful, safe life. And I feel good that I've been able to provide that for them based on what I love doing. Not having to go and work some crap job somewhere like my mom did. By making beautiful things for the world and getting rewarded for it, there's nothing like it. I'm just SO grateful!
antiMusic: I spoke to Linda Perry a few years back and she said that occasionally it was a problem when writing with people, they were scared that she was brought in to change their sound when really she just wanted to help bring out the artist's own abilities. Do you often find that people have to get over that hump of working with such a celebrated writer/producer when they first meet up with you, thinking they will have to take on your identity more than theirs?
Desmond: I usually try to meet them first and one of the reasons I'm successful is I have charm. I was born with it. I can make people feel good and put them at ease. You have to have that skill to make it. And so to do what I do, they have to kind of trust me and fear me a little bit because they have to want to please me. So they try harder. That's not a bad thing.
I have a director of my show, Richard Jay Alexander who I've known now since the early '80s and he's a spectacular director of Broadway and Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler and all these people. He's a ferocious guy. And I'm like, "OK, I'll do whatever you say." (laughs) And we haven't see eye to eye on a few things and guess what? You know who wins? He does. Not me. Because you have to know how to follow in order to know how to command. And so I'm like "Yes sir," because I'm ready to be little and be guided and I don't mind it at all. I don't know how to produce myself or make myself look good but I can sure enough tell somebody else how to.
So I think that I have that quality and also I never think about genre. I just think about the art type of the artist I'm working with and the message and from that, everything grows. And I like every kind of music so I can write you jazz or classical, rock, Latin, urban. I'm just into everything and I love everything. So that kind of flexibility is the reason I've survived. Now I'm into my fifth decade of actually earning a living making music.
antiMusic: Your songs are so visual. "Rosa", "West Side Pow Wow", "Otti", "Love on a Rooftop" not to mention a little song called "Livin' On a Prayer". Do you see your songs first or hear them?
Desmond: When I first started writing songs on my own, I was just banging away on the piano, just mumbling and stuff. And mumbles would start to sound like words and I'd begin to piece it together and it really took me a long time to write songs that way. And I was so lucky because I was taken under the wing of a genius songwriter, Bob Crewe. He wrote all the music for The Four Seasons. He wrote, "Lady Marmalade", "Detroit Wheels"...the guy was a genius. And he was also the producer in Jersey Boys.
I worked with him for two years and he taught me the real way to write songs Brill Building style. We would meet at the same restaurant every day at 12. By one o'clock I was sitting on the hard bench in his writing room. And this room was all white walls. Nothing on the walls. Beige carpet. There was nothing but a piano, a stool with arms for HIM to sit in. Nothing but a hard piano bench for me. If I wanted to change position, I would have to sit on the floor with my back to the wall. And he provided blank writing pads and he'd spend a lot of time sharpening the pencils. We'd write until six o'clock, five days a week and we did it for two years. And we wrote 38 songs,
And we'd never move to another song after we had started one. We'd never half-finish a song. He was always very meticulous after we'd write a song, to write everything out. If he made a mistake, he would tear off the page and start again from the beginning. I would have to sit there and he wouldn't let me leave until every single t was crossed and the cassette was labeled perfectly and then he'd let me go. That's when I was about 26-27 years old.
He always taught me to start with a title, a concept, knowing that you wanted to write about something. And he'd say, "Never open your mouth to talk if you have nothing to say. Why open your mouth if you have nothing to sing?" So he always compared lyrics to a movie script. And often in movies, the scoring is the last thing to go on. So he felt that the script had to be really tight and then you had to start musicalizing it.
That's how I learned and I think that has really served me well. I mean, I've written to lots of loops and things but you know, those songs are so linear because they don't change chords. You just keep adding sections that are cool and all that. If you listen to the radio, most verses and choruses all have the same chords. Maybe here and there, they change a chord but there aren't harmonic progressions in a lot of popular music.
And it just kind of goes, cuz they're writing to loops. I've done it so I know that's how they do it. But the strongest songs are when you sit at a piano, somebody is holding a guitar and you talk about your lives and you talk about ideas. You know, "I feel really strongly about this" and then...boom, there's a title. Everything coalesces underneath to hold it up. Those are the strongest songs.
antiMusic: Like I said, I absolutely love the first DC&R record. How did you meet up with Maria, Myriam and Diana?
Desmond: I had my original duo with a girl I met in high school, Miami Beach High, and her name was Debbie Wall. Deborah Walstein was the name on her Canadian passport. We just bonded and she was playing original songs that she wrote. Because my mother was a songwriter, I grew up with that and I just instantly had an affinity for her. And she had this kind of Yoko Ono sort of look, long black hair with granny glasses and she would wear all black or all write or something like that. Cuz John and Yoko were her idols,
I would go to her apartment and we would sit and eat brown rice and drink peppermint tea with a lot of honey in it. It was peppermint tea with black tea in it, so we were flying high. And we'd been talking about Nietzsche and her mother was a poet laureate in Canada so she was very articulate and witty. And we decided to form a duo and called it Nightchild. So in order for that to work I became Desmond Child. Desmond for "Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da". "Desmond had a barrow in the marketplace", right? And she became Virgil Night. I had seen some ads for a psychic called Mother Virgil and that kind of stuck in our minds.
We were in 11th grade and decided to take off, not go to 12 and we went to Woodstock, New York. We started playing in the coffee houses there and were there for a pretty long time. We were able to get somebody to let us stay in their farmhouse. We picked apples for money. It was hard. But we got Van Morrison's band to play for free on our first demo. And in November of 1971, we marched into Seymour Stein's office...it was a townhouse on the upper-left side and he had just started Sire Records. We met somebody in Woodstock who said, "I know somebody who you can go see." And we got in there and played him our tape but it wasn't that good so we got rejected. That was fine but that was day one. I had just turned 18.
Then a few months later we went back to Miami with our tails between our legs and we went to a NAMM and decided to crash it dressed as John and Yoko. So she wore a big, floppy black hat with big glasses and I wore an all-white suit, with my hair parted down the middle, beard, glasses and the whole thing, We just kept our heads down and people just moved aside. They were all like (whispering), "It's John & Yoko!" I had my eye on Clive Davis because he was the President of Columbia Records and he had signed Laura Nyro, who was my idol.
And I said that is the kind of music that I want to make and if he can just hear our tape, then he'll sign us like he did with Laura Nyro. Well, there were two empty seats that were at a table next to his and we sat there through the whole show. Then when he got up to leave, I got up and got in his face and he looked at me and started laughing, because it was just so like....what? And I got my tape out and said, "Please listen to our tape." And like two months later, we got the tape back with the lyrics and everything like he still does to this day, with a letter of rejection. But that's the kind of drive or audacity that you have to have, even if you're not good. We thought we were so great and nothing could stop us.
So I went back and made up my high school education in night school and still graduated with my class in 1972. We just had our 45th reunion, cuz nobody was willing to risk waiting until the 50th because so many of us have dropped like flies. (laughs) And so I started going to Miami State South and that's where I met Maria and she became my girlfriend.
I was also kind of dating this girl who was dressing me up in her "rock" clothes --- we went to an Alice Cooper concert dressed like him in makeup and she took me out to gay bars to dance and drink Southern Comfort while we were dancing. That was probably a mistake on her part because once we broke up, I kept going to the gay bars (laughs). But my love for Maria was so strong that I thought, "Well maybe I'm bi or could be more straight than bi." I loved her so much and we formed Desmond Child & Rouge in New York --- we moved up there to go to NYU. We played every cabaret and teamed up with Myriam Valle and Diana Grasselli. It was just a wonderful, beautiful time. I think it was Neil Sedaka who had written a song called "I Miss the Hungry Years" and every time I hear that song, I think about those times. It's so great that we still have that bond and can still sing together.
antiMusic: The vocal arrangements on those records are amazing. Were you responsible for them or did the girls work out their own parts?
Desmond: We all did them together. Somebody would come up with a line and then we would try to put three or four-part harmony to it. We would try to put overlapping parts in there because we had listened to Laura Nyro's record, "It's Gonna Take a Miracle" that she did with Labelle and they did a lot of 1960s girl groups songs. And it's so funny because it seemed like, "Ah, they're singing such retro songs." Well, that album came out in 1972. The '60s had only been five years before and she sang all these songs from the early to mid '60s.
We always loved that kind of singing so when we started the group, we were very inspired by Laura Nyro. And also on Laura's record, she did a lot of overdubbing on her voice with overlapping parts which people didn't really do, especially girl singers. They would usually just sing solo and then have background singers. But she was doing just all her own sound so it was so modern, So that's how and why we developed our sound.
antiMusic: Your songs have been so consistent sound-wise and the way they're constructed right from the beginning. Is it safe to say that you had the lion's share of the production duties on those records, even if you only had an associate credit on "Runners..."?
Desmond: Yeah, at that time I got very involved with the production on the first record but our A&R guy, Richard Landis, wanted to take all of the credit because he had signed us. And then on the second record, he became very distant and so I insisted on the Associate Production credit, because I pretty much made the record on my own. You know, those two records came out the same year like six months apart. The first record had the single, "Our Love is Insane" which had this sort of blue-eyed soul, disco feel but there was so much more.
There was the beginnings of the pop, hard-rock sound that I helped develop with Bon Jovi. There were Latin elements that later on I developed further with Ricky Martin. But if you listen to our first album, it had all of it. And somehow the record company, which was probably not the right fit for us, Capitol Records who were based in LA and their big artist was Bob Seger, the Bruce Springsteen of Capitol and they had a top disco group called A Taste of Honey. And somehow we fell in between both of those and we'd go into a record store and find our record in the disco bins and we'd get so insulted. We were just fighting for credibility so we wrote and produced Runners in the Night and it was all done in about a month when we came off the road.
Also at that time, I had just met a guy and had left Maria for him so that was the whole Runners in the Night story. We were doing Fleetwood Mac before Fleetwood Mac was in terms of the inter-relationships, you know? And it was really hard. At that I had to learn to grow up and realize that I was more gay than bi and that's something that I think has been very enriching for me. The perspective that I have as a gay man has really increased the empathy for the people that I work with and be able to project myself into the personalities of all types of women as well as men. So I sing both ways. (laughs)
antiMusic: It's been rumored that "The Truth Comes Out" is actually about you coming out to Maria and the rest of the group. Is that true?
Desmond: Yes. Absolutely. I mean really, it just says it. "The truth comes out. I confess my inner most feelings to strangers in the dark and my words fly like sparks from my mouth as the truth comes out." I think that was some of the best writing I've done lyrically cuz it was truthful and I was able to express myself. But I didn't get any support from it and our managers at the time were big Springsteen fans.
Nobody saw it and everybody was telling me to go back in the closet. But by that point, the group fell apart because we didn't have the success. And also the girls were on Broadway with Gilda Radner in her live show. And because of their relationship with Gilda, that got us on Saturday Night Live on the Christmas show of 1979. Nobody from Capitol Records helped us with promotion or even sent us flowers of anything. They did nothing. And we were on the biggest show of the world at that time.
That also just shows the management problems and also how conceptually, we were ahead of our time. I was a guy singing with girls. Bob Seger didn't do that (laughs). If they did, they were just black chicks in the back. I was sort of foreshadowing what Prince did. He had these gorgeous girls. They were all campy dressed in like, you know....whore clothes. (laughs) But with us, people weren't getting it and I lost confidence in myself.
I had become friends with Jon Landau who produced Bruce Springsteen and he was very encouraging and every couple of weeks we would meet up and he would play me stuff he was doing with Jackson Browne on an album he produced called The Pretender. He said, "You know, I would really like to help you and manage you but I'm really busy with Bruce and I have to get through this record but then we should talk."
And I waited and waited and waited and meanwhile I had broken up with Maria and the group and my manager and had left Capitol Records. We actually asked to leave Capitol Records. How crazy is that? Because we just didn't feel understood but we didn't have the wherewithal to keep going. And a lot of that had to do with being so high...having the biggest song in the world with KISS in 1979 with "I Was Made For Loving You". I was at the pinnacle so fast, I just didn't know what to do with it.
So that's why I like doing workshops at colleges and even high schools to talk about songwriting but also the business of music and how to put things into perspective, A lot of people come up to me and say, "Oh, I saw you speak at the ASCAP Expo and it made such a difference to me. Now I'm doing all the songs from Glee, like Adam Anders." And it's just such a good feeling to be able to be a good mentor like the way Bob Crewe as to me.
antiMusic: How did you first start writing with Paul Stanley?
Desmond: He was actually a fan of Desmond Child & Rouge and was hanging out. Actually I think he had a crush on Maria and had already found out that we had broken up (laughs). And he was hanging around and said, "You wanna write a song with me?" and I said, "OK but you have to write a song with me for our record." And that's when we wrote "The Fight" and then we wrote "I Was Made For Loving You" and I think I got the better part of the bargain.
antiMusic: You've written a number of songs with him as well as many other established musicians over the years. How does it usually work with strong personalities such as yourselves? Does one person take the lead and run with it, the other person filling in here and there or is it a real split of duties?
Desmond: They always say that a song is as strong as its weakest member in the writing team. And I have seen that happen, really strong writers and then all of a sudden one person in the team is kind of a dud...or doesn't know enough or they were forced in by a publisher as a favor or this or that. And they weren't ready to be in the room with the likes of us and so those songs are just never that great. I love writing with people who are better than me.
I once got a chance to write with Imogen Heap and I thought going into it, "Oh yeah, I'm going to teach this young English girl a thing or two." And by the end, I realized that she was the teacher. That she was beyond me in her concepts of how to put lyrics together. The freshness of her lyrics were stupendous. She wouldn't sing the word "night". She thought it was so nass, she would call it. She wouldn't use the word "night" if you put a gun to her head. She taught me a lot.
And even to this day, I fight for the freshness. I don't accept a line even if it sounds perfect. I keep digging to see if there's something underneath and usually there is. Something fresh. Something cool. Something urgent. Not same old, same old.
antiMusic: What's next for Desmond Child after the shows?
Desmond: Well, it hasn't been announced yet but maybe I'll announce it right here that I'm going to receive the Founders Award at the next ASCAP Pop Awards in Los Angeles on April 23. I'm not sure who's going to be presenting. I'm not sure who's going to be performing the tribute but I'm sure it will be somebody really big or two people really big. Now I'm sounding like Trump, right? (laughs) Really huge. (laughs) And I'm very excited about that. And I was also just told that I'm going to be honored at Radio City at NYU Alma Mater of the undergraduates. So they're honoring me with something --- kind of like a lifetime achievement award.
antiMusic: Excellent. Well, the only thing you haven't told me is when the next DC&R record is coming out. (laughs)
Desmond: OK, we've been working on one for three years. We have six songs that we have all agreed upon. The vocals are almost done and everything but then somebody says, "Well, I don't like that song any more," and then we have five songs. So that's why for the show I just decided, "To hell with it. We're just going to sing old ones in my show." So at least we could get up on stage but we are going to make a record.
Maria is married to Rick Nowells who produces Lana Del Rey and we were rehearsing at their house and he said, "You know, you guys should stop thinking about making a produced record. Just do a record with you at the piano and two mics and everybody just sings. I bet that would win Grammys." So now, that's kicking around in my head and you can thank Rick Nowells.
Morley and antiMusic thank Desmond for taking the time to do this interview,
Visit the official website: http://desmondchild.com/