According to one story, Aerosmith’s hit song “Dude Looks Like a Lady” was simply inspired by an evening when the band hung out with the guys from Motley Crue, and left rolling their eyes at how every sentence the Crue guys said started with “Dude.”
But Desmond Child, who co-wrote the song along with Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, says the moment of inspiration went a little bit differently.
Child, who also wrote Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” and “Bad Medicine,” among other hits, was brought in to work with Aerosmith. Though the band hadn’t worked with an outside songwriter before, Steven Tyler showed him some of the lyrics he had been working on. One of them was called “Cruisin’ for the Ladies,” which Child immediately denounced as dull and already done.
Tyler reluctantly agreed, and said that “Cruisin’ for the Ladies” was actually an alternative title. The first title, he said, was inspired by a moment that happened at a bar not too long before. While imbibing a few drinks, Tyler said, the band spotted what they thought was an attractive girl with teased, bleach-blonde hair. When the girl eventually turned around, they realized that it wasn’t a girl at all—it was Vince Neil from Motley Crue, who did indeed have a pretty luscious mane of hair. “That dude looks like a lady,” one of them apparently said, and then continued to repeat the catchy little phrase all night.
Once Tyler told Child the real story behind the song, Child knew immediately that “Dude Looks Like a Lady” had to be the title. “I talked them into the whole scenario of a guy that walks into a strip joint and falls in love with the stripper on stage, goes backstage and finds out it's a guy. But … he's gonna go with it.”
Child says he later let Vince Neil in on the joke: “He had a good laugh.” The incident is acknowledged in Neil’s autobiography, so he must not have any hard feelings.