When people like me gripe about artists left out of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Heart is one of the first bands we mention. As the first superstar band fronted by women, their cultural significance is unquestioned, and they’ve sure sold a lot of records over a long period of time, which remains the chief criterion for enshrinement. (Apart from being on Jann Wenner’s personal A-list, the criteria for which remain hazy to everybody but Jann Wenner.)
But Heart has released a fair amount of crap over the years. Even their legendary debut album, the 1976 release Dreamboat Annie, contains some embarrassingly bad moments alongside several inarguably classic songs. During the last half of the 80s, they scored several top-10 power ballads that blur in memory, as if they were the same song turned sideways and released again. And the 1990 iteration, “All I Want to Do Is Make Love to You” is one of the World’s Worst Songs.
Give Ann and Nancy Wilson credit for telling a story in the song, which was a dying art 20+ years ago. A woman picks up a hitchhiker in the rain, allows herself to be rogered roundly by him, then leaves the poor schlub a note telling him (obliquely) that he’s been merely a sperm donor. A chance meeting years later reveals the story’s final sad chapter.
When you consider that 1990 was an era of still-rising panic over HIV and AIDS, random hookups like the one portrayed here would have been considered far more dangerous than romantic. And although in-vitro fertilization was not yet the routine procedure it would become, it was an option for childless couples. You didn’t have to bed a stranger, although it makes a better story, and a better sexual fantasy.
“All I Want to Do Is Make Love to You” fails on a couple of other counts—it’s played at a lugubrious medium tempo that makes the song seem far longer than five minutes, and the big riffs that drive it contain no passion or fire, certainly not the kind of thing that might accompany the tale of a night in which the stranger “brought the woman out of me, so many times, easily.” And there’s that line, too—which is a strange way to characterize the night given the way the woman in the video looks through the whole thing, as though she’s about to be overwhelmed with guilt, or the flu, or something.
“All I Want to Do Is Make Love to You” was a massive hit, reaching #2 in Billboard during the spring of 1990. After “Alone” and “These Dreams,” it’s Heart’s third-biggest single of all time.