What About Love?
Recording Artist: Heart
Writers: Jim Vallance
Brian Allen
Sheron Alton
Date Written: March 1982
Albums: Heart (1985)
These Dreams (1987)
Greatest Hits '85-'95 (2000)
Charts: #3 - Billboard Album Rock Tracks Chart / 1985 (16 weeks on the chart)
#7 - The Record (Canada) / August 19, 1985 (19 weeks on the chart)
#10 - Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart / August 1985 (21 weeks on the chart)
#14 - UK BBC Chart / May 28, 1988 (6 weeks on the chart)
Awards: 1986 - BMI (Broadcast Music Inc.) Citation of Achievement for significant U.S. radio airplay
1986 - Gold Single Award for 50,000 sales of the 45 RPM single in Canada
1986 - Procan Award (Performing Rights Organization of Canada) for Canadian radio airplay
2004 - Socan Classics Award for more than 100,000 Canadian radio performances
Audio:
 
Ann Wilson: vocal
Nancy Wilson: lead guitar, acoustic guitar
Howard Leese: lead guitar, keyboards
Mark Andes: bass
Denny Carmassi: drums
Backing vocals: Mickey Thomas, Grace Slick
 
Produced and recorded by Ron Nevison.  Recorded January-April 1985 at The Record Plant, Los Angeles and The Plant Studios, Sausalito, California.
Cover Versions:
Also recorded by Toronto, Corsette, L'il Wayne, Rick Ross
Comments:
In March 1982 I spent several weeks working with the group "Toronto". I was initially hired by producer Steve Smith to help with musical arrangements, but I ended up co-writing songs as well ... an unexpected bonus.
Holly Woods/vocal, Sheron Alton/guitar, Scott Kreyer/keyboards, Brian Allen/guitar >
In the 1970's Steve Smith had been a staff producer with Island Records, working with artists like Robert Palmer and Bob Marley.

I've always been a fan of producers who do their own arranging -- like George Martin and Mutt Lange -- but Steve wasn't that kind of producer, so I basically served as his arranger and production assistant on the "Toronto" project (i.e. "uncredited co-producer). 

For the songwriting portion I paired up with band members Brian Allen and Scott Kreyer.  I also collaborated with Brian and his partner Sheron Alton, the other guitarist in the band, with excellent results.
 
Brian and Sheron had a small studio in their basement. One night they invited me to their home for dinner, and afterwards we went downstairs and wrote a song based on a title that'd been kicking around in my head for a month or more ... "What About Love".
 
  "Toronto" guitarist
Sheron Alton
   
I don't want to say it was easy, because writing songs is never easy, but "What About Love" came together quite quickly. It took two or three hours to complete the song, each of us contributing equal portions of music and lyric.  I came away thinking we'd really "clicked" as a songwriting team, and I thought the song was good.

A few weeks later "Toronto" went in the studio and recorded 14 or 15 tracks for their "Get It On Credit" album, including "What About Love".

In my opinion, Toronto's drummer Barry Connors is an excellent player. But for some reason the band wanted me to play drums on "What About Love" (Barry would have done a much better job). Maybe I jinxed it, because when it came time for the record company to choose 12 songs for the album, "What About Love" didn't make the final cut!

I actually forgot about the song until three years later when I got a call from my friend Don Grierson at Capitol Records in Los Angeles. He was thrilled to tell me that "Heart" had just recorded "What About Love"  --  and it was going to be the first single from their upcoming album.

Heart?  Great news!  But how did that happen?
Sisters Anne and Nancy Wilson of "Heart"  >
It took a while to connect the dots, to get the whole story.  I knew that Solid Gold, Toronto's label, had gone bankrupt, but I didn't know Solid Gold's catalogue had been acquired by ATV Music. ATV's Canadian publisher Michael McCarty actually took the time to listen to every song in the Solid Gold catalogue, including unreleased demo recordings. "What About Love" caught his ear and he sent a copy to Don Grierson, who in turn played the song for Heart's producer, Ron Nevison.
 
 
From the book "Heart In The Studio", by Jake Brown:
 
Ron Nevison: [What About Love] was written by Jim Vallance and was given to me by Capitol Records president Don Grierson. I remember specifically being up at Nancy's house in Snohomish, Washington, rehearsing, and when I played that song, Nancy left the room.  She wasn't happy with that song at first for Heart. They hated the treatment and production of the demo, and I think it was more the vocal they hated.

Because the vocal in the demo was so wimpy, and I said, 'Listen, here's the way it's gonna be: I am not going to force you to do any song.  But also, when you listen to a demo I don't want you to listen to someone's wimped-out vocal, because you guys are the greatest singers in the entire fuckin' rock world. So I want you to think of this demo as musical notes on paper.  Pretend I handed you a lyric and music sheet, and you're gonna play it as a band, and if you can't make it your own, I'm not gonna make you do it'.  And suddenly it came alive, and there was a lesson there. 

A producer can listen through and past that.  I was only listening to melodies and notes, not to vocal performances and production.  A lot of people aren't capable of seeing past that, but Don Grierson was and I was, and I didn't have to make Heart do it.  They started playing it, and once Ann and Nancy heard it on tape, the went, 'Oh ... okay'.  It became much more their song by the time we'd gone from pre-production to proper recording. 

I'll never forget the day that their managers came into the studio, right after I cut the basic track at the Record Plant in L.A., which was just a rhythm guitar, keyboard and vocal on it.  They flipped out over it, and the girls were almost over the moon, everybody was, at how good it had turned out.  And I hadn't even mixed it yet.  So the lesson there is always jump to conclusions slowly.
 
"What About Love"
(demo recording)
I respect Ron Nevison. I agree that his recording of "What About Love" is a significant improvement over the demo, however I think he's overly critical in his assessment of Holly's vocal. Holly's a great singer, in my opinion. In fact Ann even copies some of Holly's phrasings and inflections on the Heart recording.

Same for the keyboard and guitar parts. Heart used pretty much everything from the demo, including a near note-by-note rendering of Sheron's guitar solo. In case you think that would cause us to be insulted, exactly the opposite is true! I'm flattered they thought the parts were worthy of replicating.
 
 
From the book "Kicking and Dreaming", by Ann and Nancy Wilson:
 
Ann Wilson: Nancy disliked the demo so much that when it was first played, she got up and left the room.  But Ron Nevison kept at us, telling us the demo was just "notes on paper to be worked with". "You guys are the best fucking voices in music", he said. "Don't worry about what the demo sounds like, because you're going to sing it your way".  We trusted Ron, and he was right.

"What About Love" was one of the first tracks we cut in the studio, and one of the first the brass at Capitol heard.  Don Grierson told me that as he played it to a conference room of suits, many of whom had been reluctant to sign us in the first place, the song won them over.  "You just positively killed that", Don said.  When I complained that I didn't write it, he said "No one in the audience will know that".  We trusted Don, and when we finally played the song in concert, he was right.  "What About Love" became, and remained, the showstopper of our live set.

Nancy Wilson: "What About Love" went out to rock radio. It was a hit.  Within a few weeks it crossed over and charted on the pop charts and became our first top ten hit in five years. When the album was released it quickly went up the charts. It would go on to sell over five million copies in the next year alone.
 
 
Postscript 1:  I was so impressed with Michael McCarty's efforts in getting my song to Heart that I promised myself I'd "sign" with him one day.  When my publishing agreement with Rondor Music expired in 2000 I moved my contract to EMI Music Canada (Michael was president of the company at the time).

Postscript 2:  In October 2002, twenty years after we wrote the song, Solid Gold Records finally released the original version of "What About Love" on the CD "Toronto: The Greatest Hits".
Lyrics: I've been lonely
I've been waiting for you
I'm pretending and that's all I can do
The love I'm sending
Ain't making it through to your heart

You've been hiding - never letting it show
Always trying to keep it under control
You got it down and you're well
On the way to the top
But there's something that you forgot

What about love
Don't you want someone to care about you
What about love
Don't let it slip away
What about love
I only want to share it with you
You might need it some day

I can't tell you what you're feeling inside
I can't sell you what you don't want to buy
Something's missing and you got to
Look back on your life
You know something here just ain't right

What about love
Don't you want someone to care about you
What about love
Don't let it slip away
What about love
I only want to share it with you

Solo

What about love
Don't you want someone to care about you
What about love
Don't let it slip away
What about love
I only want to share it with you