"They weren't really guitarists and couldn't really play. They could play three or four chords and had trouble with that": songwriter Desmond Child on the shortcomings of 90s guitarists

Desmond Child headshot
(Image credit: Rebecca Sapp via Getty Images)

Legendary songwriter Desmond Child, who co-authored such classics as Kiss's I Was Made for Lovin' You, Bon Jovi's You Give Love a Bad Name and Livin' on a Prayer, Aerosmith's Dude (Looks Like a Lady), Angel and Crazy and Alice Cooper's Poison, has revealed how the music he was writing in the 1980s was overshadowed by the arrival of grunge.  

In a new interview with Songfacts, Child says, "That kind of music was overshadowed by Nirvana, Smells Like Teen Spirit, and the whole Seattle sound, which brought in grunge. It was the complete opposite of the extroverted presentations: chest out, reaching out, looking up. 

"The new generation were what we'd call 'shoegazers' – they just looked down because they had to, because they weren't really guitarists and couldn't really play. They could play three or four chords and had trouble with that. They were not virtuosos like Joe Perry, Richie Sambora, Eddie Van Halen, Steve Vai, who could light up the stage with their extraordinary playing.

"The shoegazers were more conceptual. Some of them were art students that took up guitar. Their hair was in their face, they looked down, their chests were sunken in, their clothes were baggy instead of tight – everything was completely the opposite."

Child goes on to reveal that, while the kind of songs he was writing were no longer in vogue, he understood why. 

"That's how it is," he says. "Things swing one way and then suddenly it swings the other way. You can't have styles change like that unless you have a star, and Nirvana had a star that captivated everyone's imagination."

Elsewhere in the interview, Child reveals how hearing Laura Nyro's Eli's Coming at an early age inspired him to write songs, how the best piece of songwriting advice he ever received was from Paul Stanley, and how Joan Jett has "exquisite taste".

Child was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2008. His autobiography, Livin' On A Prayer: Big Songs Big Life is out now. 

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.