Synopsis of Pop Music
“I got my first real six-string,
Bought it at the five and dime…”
There are some guys that you just know were born wearing a denim jacket and blue jeans. Only his mother knows for sure, but we’re betting Bryan Adams was one of them. Right from the beginning, everything about the man screamed 'Casual Friday,' from his rugged good looks to his husky voice to the working-class rock songwriting he did so well. It may have looked laid back and easy, but that has always been part of Bryan Adams’ charm—no matter how many Top-10 singles and multi-platinum albums he puts out, he still looks and acts like the kind of guy you could either shoot pool with or ask to the prom, as the case may be.
Born in Kingston, Ontario and largely raised in Vancouver, Bryan Adams first cut his teeth in the music biz with the Canadian bands Shock and Sweeney Todd. In 1977, Adams teamed up with Jim Vallance, forming what would become one of the most successful songwriting partnerships of the early-to-mid-1980’s. As the two shopped their own material around, they paid the bills writing tunes for Loverboy, Bachman-Turner Overdrive, KISS and others.
Signed by A&M Records, Adams and Vallance finally got a chance to record their own stuff on 1980’s Bryan Adams (with Vallance primarily on drums). The album got little notice, as did a 1982 follow-up, You Want It, You Got It. Undaunted, Adams took his act on the road, showcasing the crowd-pleasing persona and good-time rock that would lead to his breakout success in 1983.
With the #10 hit single “Straight from the Heart” leading the way, 1983’s Cuts Like a Knife cut a swath straight up into the Top-10 album charts. An album filled with hook-heavy, stripped-down pop/rock like “This Time” and the title track, Cuts Like a Knife was most listeners’ first taste of things to come.
The #6 tune “Run To You” heralded the release of what many fans consider to Bryan Adams’ finest album, Reckless. Released in 1985, Reckless was less than 40 minutes long, but those were 40 of the rockin’-est minutes most kids had that summer. “Somebody,” “One Night Love Affair” and the Tina Turner duet “It’s Only Love” all helped the album’s fortunes, but for most, the mid-80’s Bryan Adams experience was best encapsulated in two tracks—the nostalgia-driven rocker “Summer of ‘69” and the power ballad “Heaven.” The latter was Adams’ first #1 single, and the singer/songwriter would go back to the power ballad well for multi-platinum success many more times in the years to come.
Still touring extensively (and often for causes ranging from Ethiopian famine relief to East/West peace to UNICEF), Adams returned with a new album in 1987. Into the Fire produced the #6 rocker “Heat of the Night” and the Top-40 hits “Hearts on Fire” and “Victim of Love,” part of a platinum-selling combination that would be Adams’ last album with Vallance.
Over the next few years, Adams continued to perform in concert, but the majority of his songwriting was for other artists, ranging from Carly Simon to 38 Special. With the help of co-writers Michael Kamen and Robert John 'Mutt' Lange, Adams rode back onto the scene in a big, big way in 1991. The love theme from the Kevin Costner-starring Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You” was a return to the power ballad romance of “Heaven,” only amplified tenfold.
A worldwide sensation, the song spent seven weeks at #1 in the U.S. (selling more copies than any single this side of “White Christmas”) and rode atop the British charts for an astounding 16 weeks. And when the radio waves sent out from our planet in the summer of 1991 finally reach extraterrestrial life, you can rest assured those little E.T.’s will be able to slow dance to “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You” almost round-the-clock.
With yet another hit under his belt, Adams followed up with a full album, Waking Up the Neighbors, now co-writing with Lange. The Robin Hood ballad was included on the disc (natch), but “Can’t Stop This Thing We Started,” “Thought I’d Died and Gone to Heaven” and “Do I Have to Say the Words” helped make Waking Up the Neighbors Adams’ most successful album yet.
A greatest hits compilation followed, 1993’s So Far So Good, complete with yet another new Top-10 love song, “Please Forgive Me.” Not wanting to mess with a good thing, Adams continued to write and perform movie tunes, scoring two more #1 singles with the Adams/Sting/Rod Stewart-sung “All For Love” (from 1994’s The Three Musketeers) and 1995’s “Have You Ever Really loved a Woman?” (from Don Juan DeMarco).
After so much success with the mushy stuff, the jacket-wearing rocker decided it was time for a return to his roots with 1996’s album 18 ‘Til I Die. Along with the title track (which he meant in spirit, by the way—no secret cryogenics for Mr. Adams, thank you), the album contained such youth-oriented tracks as “The Only Thing That Looks Good on Me Is You” and “(I Wanna Be) Your Underwear.” Throwing a bone to the adult contemporary audience with “Let’s Make a Night to Remember,” Adams once more reached platinum status, but the reception to 1998’s On a Day Like Today wasn’t as friendly. The jeans, jacket and party-rock attitude hadn’t changed, and the kids still wanted to rock, but they now preferred either the cute-boy pop of The Backstreet Boys or the parent-scaring sounds of Korn and the like. It also didn’t help that A&M Records had just dissolved, leaving Adams’ album twisting in the wind.
Still writing hit songs for his fellow musicians and still touring with the likes of The Rolling Stones, Bryan Adams remains the same down-home rocker and power balladeer he always was. And regardless of whether or not mainstream pop audiences embrace him in the future like they have in the past, there’s little doubt that the sounds of Bryan Adams will be livening up parties, weddings and high school reunions for years to come.
Artist Release History1980 - Bryan Adams
1981 - You Want It, You Got It
1983 - Cuts Like a Knife
1984 - Reckless
1987 - Into the Fire
1991 - Waking Up the Neighbours
1993 - So Far So Good
1995 - Live! Live! Live!
1996 - 18 Til I Die
1997 - MTV Unplugged
1998 - On a Day Like Today
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