This song compares a love affair to a drug addiction and contains many tongue-in-cheek medical analogies ("There ain't no paramedic gonna save this heart attack"). It was the third #1 that Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora wrote with Desmond Child. The trio also penned "You Give Love A Bad Name" and "Livin' On A Prayer." In the '70s, Child was a modestly successful performer with a group called Desmond Child & Rouge. In 1979, he teamed up with Paul Stanley and came up with the hit I Was Made For Lovin' You for Kiss, which put him on the radar as a Rock band hitmaker. His next gig was with Bon Jovi, and it was a lasting relationship, which Child putting his touch on the hooks and choruses to some of the band's most memorable songs. When we spoke with Desmond in 2012, he said that Bon Jovi was a particularly focused band that for the most part stayed away from drugs and other temptations because their work was so important to them. "Those people were always focused on their careers," said Child. "That was their high." This spectator view of addiction allowed them to write a hit song with the "love is a drug" theme. (Here's our full Desmond Child interview.)
This song was released as the lead single from Bon Jovi's fourth album New Jersey. It was one of the band's most successful songs, peaking at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, #17 in the UK and #15 in Australia. Before they settled on the name of their home state for the album title, the band considered Sons of Beaches and 68 And I Owe You One, which they declined because they didn't want to be seen as comedians.
In a 2010 interview with Musicradar.com, guitarist and co-songwriter Richie Sambora was asked how his approach to songwriting with Jon Bon Jovi has changed over the years. He replied: "It has not. It's very, very simplistic. We sit down with a couple of acoustics or at a piano, and we believe that you can't polish bulls--t. If I sang Livin' On A Prayer or Wanted or I'll Be There For You or Bad Medicine with nothing, a cappella, you would say, 'Hey, that's a good song.' And that's basically what it comes down to. You can take a song into a studio with a producer and you can put all the bells and whistles all over it, but if you don't have the basic architecture of the song and the foundation of the song properly written. I mean, Jon and I don't walk into the studio with the band without 10 songs that are kind of written."
For the song's music video, Bon Jovi wanted to do a live video but for it to be done differently, so 250 fans were given hand held cameras and film and told to shoot the band in concert the way they saw them. The video was groundbreaking at the time for using such a fan-inclusive approach to making a music promo, and captured live shots not often captured by regular video crews. Jon Bon Jovi told The NME: "We told them to film whatever they wanted and, if it was good, we'd use it in the video, and take the ten people who'd shot the best stuff on the road with us in California this year, they could come along with us in the jet and be like a member of the band. I was hoping they'd goof off a bit more, that they'd take the cameras out in the hallways and film their shoes, go film anything they wanted plus the stage. These kids turned up with their own lights, trusses, tripods, assistants and all that s--t, 'cos they all wanted to be the ones that go on the road with us." (This interview is available at Rock's Backpages.)
The song featured in the 2001 film Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, in the scene where Jason Mewes' character, Jay, first sees Justice (played by Shannon Elizabeth) and fantasizes about her.
Jon Bon Jovi's little brother Matt can be seen in the video alongside comedian Sam Kinison (Matt's wearing the blue cut off T-shirt).
Richie Sambora told Fuse TV that this and "I'll Be There For You" were both about a particular ill-fated romance: "In that specific period of time, I had some crazy ass, tumultuous relationships that I was going through. One girl that I was completely in love with left me, and that was 'I'll Be There For You.' I guess this time you're really leaving, I heard your suitcase say goodbye. Ohh, (mock stabs himself in the chest), you got my attention. So it was actually borne out of an experience that I was living. 'Bad Medicine' was about the same girl. I was just drawn to this woman, sexually, physically, and mentally, but it was bad. It was bad medicine, but that's what I wanted. I wanted some more of it."
Gino from HoustonLong story behind this song, I cowrote a good part of this song. Put it this way, I pitched the song in 1984 to Tom Bailey and Alannah Currie of the Thompson Twins in person first which Tom Bailey rejected to the dismay of Alannah. Bon Jovi took to the song where he eventually put the song on the New Jersey album. I suggested that the album be named Bad Medicine, and I named the previous album Slippery When Wet.