30 Years Ago: Heart Score a ‘Hateful’ Hit With ‘All I Wanna Do’
In March 1990, Heart scored a hit with “All I Wanna Do Is Make Love to You,” a song they quickly grew to hate.
By this point in its career, the band had already established itself as a prolific rock outfit. The '70s saw the group score hits with a series of self-authored songs, including “Magic Man,” “Straight On” and “Barracuda.” After a period of declining popularity, Heart enjoyed a mid-'80s comeback by embracing songs penned by other writers, like “What About Love," “These Dreams" and “Alone."
For their 1990 album Brigade, the band would again use an assortment of outside writers. Sammy Hagar, Albert Hammond and Diane Warren were among the many recognizable names to contribute to the LP. But it was Mutt Lange - the legendary producer who worked with AC/DC, Foreigner, Def Leppard and a bevy of other artists - who authored its lead single, “All I Wanna Do Is Make Love to You.”
Lange had initially written the track for Don Henley, but the Eagles singer declined. Instead, the original version of the tune was released in 1979 by Dobie Gray. His take was a straightforward love song about a man professing his undying attraction to the woman of his dreams. By the time Heart got hold of it, the lyrics had changed dramatically.
Listen to Dobie Gray's 'All I Want to Do Is Make Love to You'
The band’s 1990 version told the story of a woman who picks up an attractive hitchhiker from the side of the road. The two head to a motel where they make love, the woman seemingly using the man in an attempt to get pregnant. The plan works and, years later, the former lovers run into each other by accident. The woman has a child and insinuates that it is the hitchhiker’s, though she also has a new love who is unaware of the sordid history.
Due largely to the lyrics, Heart singer Ann Wilson hated the track. “Essentially, in songs that I don’t write, I become a storyteller," she explained in a 2017 interview. "And I think I’m at my best as a storyteller when I can dig what’s being said. I didn’t believe in the way the original lyrics were devaluing the man in the story. Just going, ‘Yeah, I can pick you up. We can have a night of love. We can never even know each other’s names. You can be so miraculous, and then I can just get up and leave you a note and walk out on you. Have a baby and sort of gloat about your surprise when you see the kid.’ To me, that was kind of an empty, weird, sort of hateful story.”
Listen to Heart's 'All I Wanna Do Is Make Love to You'
Still, there was “a lot of pressure” on the band to record the song, which it did a few months before the track was released as a single on March 14, 1990. “All I Wanna Do Is Make Love to You” eventually reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was certified gold in the U.S. Still, the song was not without controversy; it was banned outright in Ireland due to its content.
In a conversation with UCR, Wilson recalled the uproar surrounding "All I Wanna Do Is Make Love to You." "I don’t think the song in itself is particularly unique, but for the message that it brings from the female aspect, that’s unique,” she explained. “I think that it shocked some people a little bit - it was banned in Ireland, you know, because here’s a woman advocating random sex with a hitchhiker. [Laughs] I guess that’s what was shocking!”
Joking that the ban made her feel “credible,” Wilson noted that the group never expected to garner such a response. “We’ve never purposefully tried to be shocking," she noted. "Because once you try for something like that, it’s so fake. I guess we kind of laughed hard about it. Because it’s so not us.”
For years, Heart declined to play “All I Wanna Do Is Make Love to You” in concert, but in 2017 Wilson began mixing the song into her solo live performances - but with modified lyrics. The singer explained that she ”tweaked the words just a little bit to take some of the coldness out of it,” making her new version a “story of people running into each other and this thing happens and then they part. And they come back together, and it’s still a nice story where it’s like, ‘Wow, look what happened. We separated but this happened and I’m happy about this. This is a beautiful child.”