Get comfy, folks, this is another long one (that’s what she said).
This one’s (mostly) easy (that’s also what she said). I’ve been a fan of Bryan Adams since I was a kid, getting his cassettes from Columbia House. We played those tapes over and over. I know every word, every note, every solo. At least for the early years stuff…
Adams has come up recently, too. James went to see him in concert, and said they just kept playing hit after hit and it was endless. That’s our childhood, right there. It really is incredible how many songs they had that we all know by heart. In the comments on that post, Deke mentioned Keith Scott and oh man, that’s a guitar hero of mine right there.
I was along for the ride early on, but I drifted pretty much after Waking Up The Neighbours. I don’t precisely know why. That album was… well, I’ll get there.
So, since you likely know all of these, I’m just gonna run quick through the records and you’ll see what I’m on about. These are the only ones I still have here, because I’m quite sure these are the only ones that matter…
NB: For the record (pun intended, of course), I owned all of these on CS as a kid… Waking Up The Neighbours was the first one I bought on CD…
1980 Bryan Adams (0…)
I had this first, self-titled record here, in one format or another, but now I do not. What happened to it? Weird. I need to replace it. It has a ton of great early Adams on it. Hidin’ From Love… Remember… Give Me Your Love… Win Some, Lose Some… When I get another copy, I’ll add it into this series as an extra. I’m on it.
1981 You Want It You Got It (CD, LPx2)
Truth to tell, it was this record and those following it that got played a whole shit-ton more. Witness the radio-ready Lonely Nights (later covered by Uriah Heep) and the chugging blues rock of Fits Ya Good, both of which proved the template was already in place for later records. But there’s a ton of great deep cuts here too. Honestly, it’s an album of coulda-been hits. Coming Home is almost a 70s soul ballad, Jealousy (later covered by Prism) bops along like 70s Springsteen, the title track pogos like a pop punker, and No One Makes It Right is a big piano torch ballad Elton John would’ve loved.
A classic. Pure early Adams.
1983 Cuts Like A Knife (CD, LP)
Folks, this is where shit started to go crazy. 6 friggin’ singles, all of them huge. Straight From the Heart, Cuts Like A Knife, This Time, Take Me Back, I’m Ready, and The Only One. I mean, if the first two records were good, this one was great. And the 4 tracks that weren’t singles, What’s It Gonna Be, Don’t Leave Me Lonely (co-written with Eric Carr), and Let Him Know all coulda-been. And let’s talk a minute about how the flying fuck The Best Was Yet To Come was not a single. Seriously, folks. HOW? What dumbass at A&M fell asleep on THAT one?
If you like Adams at all, you already have this. If not, you need it. You know, most artists would call this a career album. Adams was just getting started. Read on…
1984 Reckless (CD, LP)
If CLAK was where things started to go crazy, Reckless was where it got unhinged. The accomplishements and accolades of this record are crazy. It hit Number 1 on the Billboard Top 200, and was the first Canadian record to sell 1 million copies in Canada. 6 more singles off this one: Run To You, Somebody, Heaven, Summer Of ’69, One Night Love Affair, and It’s Only Love (the giant duet with Tina Turner). All six of these songs made the Top 15 on the Billboard Hot 100, a feat previously only managed by Thriller and Born In The U.S.A. I mean, this thing was everywhere.
Even in my super-small hometown. 1984 I was 10 years old. THIS was the record. We played the absolute hell out of our cassette copies. We knew all the words, every second of that thing, and now here in 2017, I still do. Listening back to it now, it isn’t just revisiting an old friend, it’s re-living my childhood.
And again, the non-singles shoulda-been. We loved the straight-ahead rock of She’s Only Happy When She’s Dancin’ and Kids Wanna Rock (still one of my favourite tracks on this album today), Long Gone, and Ain’t Gonna Cry.
Top to bottom, this record is insanely good. Perfectly crafted, every track an earworm and a hit. When I’m 90 years old and half-senile, I will still know every word and every damn note of this record, so ingrained is it in memory and psyche. Beyond essential. This is the stuff of a lifetime.
1985 Diana (CS, LPx2)
Here’s a fun one. My sister and I first heard the track Diana late one night on CFTR (still a Toronto station, though it’s 24/7 news, now). My sister used to record the radio onto cassettes, sitting there listening and recording, pressing pause for the commercials. She got most of the songs she wanted, that way. Now, it should be noted that she was (and still is) a Diana-phile. She got up crazy-early to watch the wedding on TV. She still has all the books, probably knows as much about Diana as anybody, even now. So when we heard this song, she broke out laughing. We both knew it for the joke it was. How anybody could get offended and think Adams was taking shots at Charles in a serious way, we had no clue. It wasn’t on Reckless (as Adams was worried it would offend Charles and Diana), but it was a b-side of Heaven. It was also released as this EP.
Honestly, Diana (the song) rocks. I get why he hasn’t played it since she died, and why it isn’t on any official record since, not even Hits sets. But it should be. It’s just a great tune.
Also on side A is the album version of Summer Of ’69 (because why the hell not), and then on Side B it’s The Bryan Adamix. I can’t decide if that’s a great title or cringe-worthy. Today I say the latter, but another day I might think it’s clever. Anyway, the track is a mash-up of Somebody/It’s Only Love/Diana/Fits Ya Good/Somebody (again), with jittery cuts between them to signal the song’s about to change to the next in line. This has always struck me as a bad idea. I mean, it proves you can splice stuff together in a studio, but why? You’ve just stuffed the essences of 4 solid stand-alone songs (one of them twice!) down into 5:52. Congratulations? I guess? Anyway, an oddity they (thankfully) never repeated.
I first owned this on cassette (a copy found in a cheap-o bin in a video shoppe in Stratford, ON, of all places). I found my LP copies downtown in our… special used record shoppe. I don’t even know why I own two copies on LP. It’s available cheaply online, too. Worth owning for the title track, definitely. The rest… up to you. I’d say no.
1987 Into The Fire (CD)
And now here, in ’87, Adams found himself in a conundrum. How the hell do you follow up Reckless? The expectations and pressures on him must have been huge. Still, make a record they did, and I loved it. There were (again) 6 singles on this one: Heat Of The Night, Hearts On Fire, Victim Of Love, Only The Strong Survive, Into The Fire, and Another Day. All of them excellent. I sort of skim over these with just titles because I assume you know all those songs already. If you don’t, you oughta. This one’s damn strong.
This record went to Number 2 here in Canada. But even for all of that, I knew so many people who got off the bus here. It just goes to show you that fans are fickle, I guess. But nevermind those dummies. Myself, and especially my winger Michael, played the hell outta this one too.
The deep cuts (again) were also awesome. The mid-tempo rock buoying the strong message of Native Son, the piano ballad that builds into a homecoming tale on Rebel, and the longing of the album closer Home Again are all awesome. And I have to give a huge shout to Remembrance Day, an absolutely powerful track I try to remember to play every November 11. It’s one of my favourite Adams songs, to be honest.
I think they nailed it, with this record. It got lots of exposure, sure, but it seemed to me that a lot of the people who were on board with Reckless didn’t get as into this one. Shame, that. This one’s just as strong.
1988 Live! Live! Live! (CD)
Recorded (live, duh) at the Rock Werchter festival 1988-07-03 in Werchter, Belgium, except for Into The Fire, which is from Tokyo, Japan. It was pouring rain in Werchter for this recording, and Adams even mentions it from the stage, saying “I’ve got to tell you something. For you people to sit out in the rain, means you’re one hell of an audience. I mean, to sit out in this…”
It’s telling, looking at the track listing, just how much work Adams had to draw from, all of the songs great. I mean, look at this (they had the crowd in hand the whole time):
She’s Only Happy When She’s Dancin’ / It’s Only Love / Cuts Like A Knife / Kids Wanna Rock / Hearts On Fire / Take Me Back / The Best Was Yet To Come / Heaven / Heat Of The Night / Run To You / One Night Love Affair / Long Gone / Summer Of ’69 / Somebody
And then, as if all that isn’t enough, they lay out two awesome covers, first it’s Patsy Cline’s Walking After Midnight (which they turn into a bluesy guitar party rocker), following that with a pretty straight-foward (but still with that Adams sound) version of the Clash’s I Fought the Law. The disc closes with Into The Fire (from Tokyo, the only song not from Werchter).
Honestly, what a set. I can name songs that should be here, but it’d have to be a 3CD set if I got to choose. More importantly, though, this one captures the energy and prowess of Adams and band in concert around this time. It’s an excellent encapsulation of that early “era” of Adams’ career, so why not cap it with a live record. I mean, as we’ll see shortly (below), things were going to change a bit. If you don’t have this live disc, get it. It’s tons of fun.
1991 Waking Up The Neighbours (CD)
If I were honest, looking back, this is where I started to drift from Adams’ new stuff. At the time, of course, I was over the moon there was a new record and I bought it straight away (this would have been my first CD new release purchase of his work, too) and played the hell out of it. And deservedly so, as it had 7 singles on it: (Everything I Do) I Do It For You, Can’t Stop This Thing We Started, There Will Never Be Another Tonight, Thought I’d Died And Gone To Heaven, All I Want Is You, Do I Have To Say The Words?, and Touch The Hand.
Listening back to the record now, all of those earned every praise, and so did the others. Is Your Mama Gonna Miss Ya?, Hey Honey – I’m Packin’ You In, Not Guilty, Vanishing, House Arrest, Depend On Me, If You Wanna Leave Me (Can I Come Too?), and Don’t Drop That Bomb On Me all had that signature style and knack for a hook.
Of course, in 1991 I was deep into it and heard it plenty. I couldn’t even put into words, though, that it somehow felt different from the others. The songs were there, it was fun and loaded with hit tunes, but the sound had changed. Of course, this was the first record not made by Adams and Bob Clearmountain (or Jim Vallance), but instead with Mutt Lange. As we know now, Lange makes Adams sound like Def Leppard sound like Shania Twain sound like… well, sound like what Mutt Lange would want to sound like if he were in those bands. It’s a case (like Daniel Lanois) where producer takes over record with their sound. Turns out, and all deference to him, I don’t like this version of Lange’s ‘sound.’ Not for sustained periods, anyway. At least there weren’t exclamation points! after! every! damn! word! in! the! song! titles!
There was, as you know, also the whole CanCon blow up over (Everything I Do) I Do It For You, but that was what it was. This album’s tour was also the first (and only) time I’ve ever seen Adams in concert. I’d go again, just never gone much out of my way. Anyway, I think I’ve told that story before – we were at London Fairgrounds, and the line-up went Sass Jordan (who was good but shrill as hell, and possibly drunk), Steve Miller Band (Miller was so out of it the crowd taught him the words to his songs), Extreme (who fucking rocked it), then Bryan Adams. The Adams band put on a helluva show. I remember it getting so cold, as the night wore on, despite it being August, that at one point a guitar went out of tune. The whole band stopped mid-song and held position like mannequins while a roadie ran out and swapped guitars, then BAM they went right back into the song where they’d left off as if nothing had happened. The place went nuts. Talk about a well-oiled machine. Thinking back on it now, my lovely wife went with the group of us to that gig, but we weren’t dating then. Just friends in a group. Funny how life goes.
This was the first Adams record I didn’t go back to as often, as the years have gone past. If I hear one of the tracks in a mix, of course I perk up. But playing the whole album through now, in 2017, made me a little tired. It sounded like Bryan Adams covering Bryan Adams, through a Mutt Lange filter. I dunno. It’s good, the songs are strong. I feel weird blasting it a bit, but there ya go.
Post In Sum:
Adams has gone on to release several more records, and has had a legendary career, by this point. I know I had 18 ’Til I Die for a while but ditched it long ago. That was the last studio album of his I bought. I was sure I had the MTV Unplugged, and thought it was still here, alas it doesn’t seem to be. Where did it go? Sigh. I don’t know.
It hardly matters. If I want Adams, I’m gonna listen to 1980-1987 anyway. All deference to fans of the later stuff. Maybe someday I’ll get around to it. I probably should.
As it stands, I had a ton of fun going back through the early years of Adams’ work that I have here (I still need to replace the first record). I sort of wrote this assuming you all knew all of these songs, which may have been presumptuous. If you don’t know them, I recommend you get to them at some point. A lot of this stuff is absolutely undeniable. Great records, back then, the stuff that memories of an entire childhood and upon which a nascent lifelong music obsession was built. OH YEAH!
Oh, and as for the Hit IT or Quit It series, these are all Hits. It should be noted that Waking Up The Neighbours walked a fine line, to my 2017 ears, but nostalgia outweighed my concerns and I’ll hang onto the CD for now. I’ll probably move on the duplicate copies I own of these records.
Let me take you back to the very first ever SLCR, Great Big Sea on October 9, 1996.
The lead singer was in fine form, carrying on a running conversation with the audience. “Did anyone see us at the MuchMusic Video Awards? (crowd cheers) What a great party. Alanis was there. (crowd boos) And Bryan Adams opened the show, then we played. You know what that means? Bryan Adams opened for us! (crowd cheers) We said, ‘Hey Bryan, anytime you want to open for us again, you’re more than welcome.’ And you know what? He was playing in the parking lot, we were in the studio, so we told the guys, ‘You know, we’re not that big, you coulda let the poor bugger in to meet us.’ Ah, Bryan Adams. Keep an eye out for that kid, I think he’s got a real future in this business.”
Finally, I could see if he lived up to the buzz!
I suppose it’s a little surprising that I’ve gone to lots of concerts in the past 20 years and have been a Canadian for all 40 of my years but have never seen Bryan Adams in concert before. There’s a long, drawn-out reason for that: I didn’t care to. I mean, Bryan Adams is fine, some of his songs are good, some of them are kinda dumb. He’s played here before since I’ve lived here. Saskatoon too. I just never bothered to go see him.
When Adams was announced as the headliner for the first-ever concert in our shiny new football stadium, it seemed like a decent enough choice. He’s been a big star forever, and though I always thought of him as more of an arena-level guy and not a stadium-level guy, that actually worked here. Though the event was called “Regina Rocks” in marketing, it was called “Test Event 2” on volunteers’ badges (the stadium doesn’t officially open until July 1, and there was a college football game last fall). Probably good to start with Bryan Adams before you bring in someone who can sell out a stadium in an hour.
It didn’t seem like tickets for this event sold as well as they organizers were hoping. It was a triple bill with Adams, Our Lady Peace, and country singer Johnny Reid. They said they’d capped ticket sales at 70% of capacity, and it looked like they’d sold about 70% of that. They gave the final number at somewhere around 21,000 people.
When the show was announced, Mika seemed really excited to go despite not caring about Adams or knowing anything about Reid. And while we were both Our Lady Peace fans back in the day (they were huge here while I was in university), she’d never expressed an interest in going when they’d played here before. I think it was just hype for the first concert at the new stadium, and not wanting to buy pricey tickets, I… didn’t. The hype faded and we largely forgot about going.
But that hype. I buy into it too, right? In the week before the show, I checked my work’s intranet and discovered a passcode that would let me get discount tickets. And I like concerts. And I like Our Lady Peace well enough, and Adams is a legendary Canadian musician, so why not? I texted Mika, who opted against going. Too busy with school. So I didn’t get tickets. And I was actually a little bit disappointed.
About two hours later, my dad texted me to let me know he’d got free tickets from a supplier of his, and did I want them? I did indeed, and for free, Mika would make time to go too. Lesson learned: never pay for anything.
My dad and I then had a series of texts back and forth over several days (not an exaggeration) wherein I tried to determine how many free tickets there actually were. I had assumed all along that I was getting two, but didn’t want to pick the tickets up and find out there were more when it would be too late to invite others. I think my dad thought that I was disappointed in getting only two, which I wasn’t, and then it sounded like I wasn’t getting tickets at all, and I don’t know why this was so hard. They need to invent something like texting except where you can just talk to the other person.
The new stadium has many amenities but one of them is not parking. As in, it has none. They want people to take the bus, and when we’d gone to football games at the old stadium, we’d done that a few times. So fine. Concert’s at 6:00. We get to the nearby mall at 5:00… and there are HUNDREDS of people in line. Shit. We park the car on the complete opposite side of the mall because the parking lot is packed, and make our way over to the line. Things are not looking good. A bus was taking people away when we got there, and by the time we were in line, a new bus had arrived. Okay. This is manageable. Some lady walked by and said that busses (buses? I never know) were coming every 5 minutes. I can live with this. Then we go 15 minutes without a bus. Shit. Again.
I’m sure it’s super enthralling to read someone describing waiting for a bus so let’s skip to the end – it took over an hour to get on a bus and by the time we got to the stadium, Our Lady Peace was 20 minutes into their set already. I get that this was a “test event” and that there were kinks to work out, but this should not be one of them. You had stadium buses before. You need more now since there’s less parking. Pretty simple.
I’d be more upset – and was at the time – but Our Lady Peace is coming back in less than 3 months to open for Guns N’ Roses in the stadium and we’re going to that, so whatever. We’ll see them again. As long as we get on a bus three hours early.
Back to the event at hand. There was a lady on the bus wearing a pink ballcap that she had adorned with plain white stickers – like the kind you might use to print address labels, maybe – upon which she’d handwritten BRYAN ADAMS ROCKS! with a Sharpie. This lady filled me with so much hope. Hope that Bryan Adams would rock.
Luckily, the bus stop at the stadium was right by our gate, so we were inside in no time. We could hear OLP playing Innocent as we walked up. Our seats were on the lower level, near the back. Far enough away that we were mostly watching the big screens. The seats at the new stadium are a massive improvement over the old ones. One of my dad’s coworkers and his wife got tickets too, and they were in their seats already when we got there. We said hi but didn’t really get to chat much throughout the evening. Music is loud. And also we don’t really know each other, so y’know.
I had read an interview with Raine Maida before the show where he said he was looking forward to testing out some new material, and I was all like …my dude. You have a 45-minute set and you’re not the headliner. Play all hits all the time. Ultimately, we got a mix of songs I knew and ones I didn’t; I don’t know how many were truly new, as I mostly only know the singles and the first couple albums. Looking up their setlist online, I see we missed Naveed and Superman’s Dead, which is disappointing. I had hopes for One Man Army, and they didn’t play that one. But there were some that I knew well, including Is Anybody Home, Clumsy, In Repair, and Starseed. Maida also sang part of Grace, Too by the Tragically Hip, which got a nice reaction. I still hope the Hip will get to play the new stadium someday.
The sound for OLP was good but seemed to be having a few issues; it wouldn’t cut out, but the volume really fluctuated at times. Mika thought the wind might have had something to do with it. I thought the issue got better as the night went on but I heard people say the same thing about Adams’ set later and I didn’t notice it at all then, so maybe it was environmental and based on where you were sitting.
There was a quick switchover before Johnny Reid played. I knew nothing about him, and I thought I knew none of his songs until he played Fire It Up – and even then, I only know the part that goes “fiiiiire it up.” This was a pretty well-executed thing that wasn’t entirely my thing. I like piano. I like fiddle. Reid seems like a good dude. This was enjoyable enough but I still found myself getting distracted for long stretches.
At some point during the set, Mika left to go to the washroom. I didn’t ask about lines but she was gone for quite a while, and when she got back, said that the lines for food (and even for 50/50 tickets) were too long to even consider getting anything. More on this later.
During the switchover to Bryan Adams, they put a still image up on the big screen, the cover of Adams’ newest album, Get Up. It’s just him standing there with a model standing behind him with both her hands on his face. Or at least I assumed it was a still image – at one point, a cellphone rang and Adams pulled his phone out, turned it off, put it away, and went back to the same image as before. A cute visual and also a clever way to get people back to their seats before the show, as it essentially served as the five-minute warning. A few more minutes of the picture and suddenly Adams lunged forward and roared, and the real Bryan Adams and his band sprinted onto the stage.
Adams was interviewed by the local newspaper before the show. One question asked that because Adams has so many hits, how does he decide which ones to play? He said “that’s easy – we play them all!” I can now confirm that this is true. Bryan Adams has a million hit singles and he played pretty much every one. At several points, Mika said “what could be left beyond Cuts Like a Knife” and then he’d play three more songs that we knew. By the end, I was actually expecting him to sing his unfortunate but hilarious holiday song Reggae Christmas because there really couldn’t be anything left. Dude has so many hits that when he played Summer of ’69 about halfway into the set, I thought it was a really weird choice – OBVIOUSLY you close with Summer of ’69 – but by the end it didn’t even register. So many hits. Older songs. Newer songs. If you like a Bryan Adams song, he played it.
I mentioned that I’m not a huge Bryan Adams fan. I am here to tell you that such people do exist, and they exist by the thousands. This was really noticeable about a half-dozen songs in, when he played Heaven, the first ballad of the night. Thousands of people held their cellphones high since nobody has lighters anymore. And EVERYONE sang along. I mean, I didn’t, but was surprised to realize that, yeah, I could have. And then there was a whole lot of applause from the section to my left because someone had gotten engaged mid-song. My goodness.
For the first two bands, the big screens gave a nice view of the show. Adams used the screens to show footage from music videos, as well as to show live footage with effects applied. It made for a much flashier presentation, but being so far back, it made actually a little more difficult to actually see the show, so there was a bit of a tradeoff there. Not one I minded, since it was a nice change of pace from earlier.
All told… I don’t know? The sound was good for his set and the crowd was really into it up until close to the end. It was a perfectly fine show for the nothing that we paid for the tickets. I didn’t go into the show as a huge Bryan Adams fan and that hasn’t really changed. It was pretty telling, though, just to see how many songs of his I knew. And not “oh yeah, I think I’ve heard this one before,” but ones where somehow I knew every word. It’s not like I ever doubted he was a star, but I didn’t really have a sense of just how big he’d been for how long until you string together one huge hit after another like that. So even if I’m not walking away as some Bryan Adams superfan, I definitely have a newfound respect for the guy and his career. And even my least favourite of his songs was made better by making jokes about it that were so dirty that I have been forbidden from including them here. Sorry, but if it’s any comfort, I’ll be as left out as you when I re-read this in five years.
One unfortunate side effect of the earlier transit issues was that it seemed people were leaving in droves towards the end and especially during the encore. I suspect a lot of this was people not wanting to wait hours to get home. We stayed until the very end and it almost felt anticlimactic – Adams ended the encore on a solo acoustic performance of All for Love. I said he played every hit, but he did skip There Will Never Be Another Tonight. It felt like – and I could be entirely wrong here – that one gets saved for if the fans want a second encore. In this case, however, they did not. He finished All for Love and there was barely even any applause, just a stampede to the exit.
Leaving, the good news was that we were close to the pickup point for the buses. The line was still ridiculous, however, and there was nobody from the stadium or the bus system to help people figure out where they needed to be. There was some confusion and some line-cutting, but whatever. They did a good job of quickly filling up buses and shipping people out of there, so I can’t complain about that. The thousands of people still in line behind us, however, might tell a different story.
On the ride back to the mall, we overheard some people talking about concessions running out of food and water around 7:00 – and this was now 11:45. Because it was a test event, I know they didn’t have all the concessions running, but still, they clearly have some bugs to work out. I chose wisely when I didn’t try to get food there or I would have wound up pretty cross. Instead, I picked up a poutine burger at midnight on the way home from the bus dropoff point, which is its own unique brand of questionable decision making.
• Amanda Marshall w/The Harpoonist & the Axe Murderer (June 23)
• Hawksley Workman (June 24)
• Son of Dave (also June 24)
• Serena Ryder (June 25)
• Beck (August 20)
• kd lang (August 26)
• Guns N’ Roses w/Our Lady Peace (August 27)
• The Sadies (September 14)
• The New Pornographers w/Born Ruffians (October 6)
• Whitehorse w/Terra Lightfoot (October 13)
• Martha Wainwright (October 22)