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.