Bass Transcription: Bon Jovi – ‘You Give Love a Bad Name’

One Band, Two Bassists?

Bon Jovi’s low-end legacy continues to be something of a mystery; although the liner notes for the early albums credit Alec John Such as the bassist, it’s widely reported that Hugh McDonald did most of the playing on the studio material (he unofficially became the band’s touring bass player in 1994 and wasn’t acknowledged as a full band member until 2016).

Hugh was behind the bassline to ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’ (also from Slippery When Wet), so I wouldn’t be surprised if he was also on bass duties for ‘You Give Love A Bad Name’. In fact, there’s a reference to ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’ in this bassline: the fill in bar 69 is a note-for-note lift of the fill played by Hugh McDonald in the prechorus of ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’, albeit down a tone. Coincidence? I think not.

Playing wise, ‘You Give Love A Bad Name’ doesn’t present us with too many obstacles. The song is broadly divided into three sections; the chorus (which also serves as the foundation for the guitar solo), the main verse riff and the prechorus, none of which are particularly taxing in terms of technique.

For the chorus sections, the bass provides a simple root note foundation with the occasional fill; bar 32 features a slick double chromatic approach followed by a rapid descent and seems to bear the influence of Motown genius James Jamerson. There’s more chromatic interest in the prechorus sections (bars 22 and 26), along with a neat octave-up iteration of the main riff (bar 24) and some doubling of Tico Torres‘ snare drum fill (bar 28).

Bon Jovi – ‘You Give Love a Bad Name’ bass transcription PDF

The only potential trouble spots in this song are the unexpected 2/4 bar at the end of the first chorus and the 16th-note fill which leads back into the final chorus following the breakdown section.