Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Best Magazine Reads: Rediscovering one of my surprise pre-teen favorite rockers Bryan Adams

Supposedly not a cool confession to make, but when I was a pre-teen, the top of the music heap for me was Michael Jackson, Hall and Oates, and a bunch of MTV bands. OK, that’s not totally uncool, but also right up there at the very pinnacle sat, wait for it, Canada’s one and only Bryan Adams.

Now, I don’t much know what’s happened with the guy since 1985. But I’ll still put his run of four albums from 1980 to 1984 - Bryan Adams, You Want It You Got It, Cuts Like a Knife, and Reckless - up against just about anything from that era. Pure power pop goodness mixed in with a handful of spotless ballads.

I’ve heard I should check out 1987’s Into the Fire as well. But by then, the ship had sailed on to the college rock of The Jam, The Replacements, and R.E.M. and then to a late-high-school hair metal phase with Ratt, Guns N’ Roses, and Ozzy. But looking back at the broad spectrum of rock, Adams was wildly talented and, kind of like R.E.M., his really amazing stuff was overlooked because of later major stardom that actually was arguably far less inspired.

Classic Rock Magazine recently had a cover feature on Adams (and he guest edited the issue) that gave me the chance to listen back on these old favorites and to learn some interesting things:

  • He’s 63, a super nice regular guy, and has been a vegan for 34 years - maybe longer than veganism has been a thing!
  • He’s also a professional photographer with exhibits, books, and record covers.
  • Growing up, his father worked in peacekeeping for the UN, so Bryan moved around a lot, living in Israel, Austria, and Portugal, and spending time in the UK. His father often played opera and military band music very loud. But he also let Bryan get albums from his Columbia Record Club membership and the boy would pick the ones with “the hairiest bastards on the front cover,” already being drawn to the visuals. This helped him first get into Creedence Clearwater Revival and Janis Joplin.
  • Once getting more settled in Vancouver, at 15, he started writing songs and even soon had a song called "Wastin’ Time" that Bachman-Turner Overdrive used. It also appears on Adams’ debut and is more rocking’ than BTO’s also good version.
  • Even with 1993's Cuts Like a Knife, he was living in poverty because he had signed a really bad record deal with a low royalty rate. He says he didn’t care much about the money thing, but it was nice to finally be able to pay some bills after 1984’s Reckless, with its six top-15 hits and 12 million slbums sold in the U.S.
  • He went to see Tina Turner in 1982 and wrote a song to try to give to her backstage called “Lock Up Your Sons Cuz Tina’s in Town” that he called terrible. But he wrote another song later, “It’s Only Love,” that she fell in love with and insisted on singing it with him.
  • The magic of “Summer of ‘69,” Adams says is that, like most of his songs, “it’s simple, and simple is hard,” but the point is for everyone to be able to sing along to songs together.
  • In the 1990s, things got crazy and he worked with everyone from Mutt Lange to Sting to Rod Stewart. He’s duetted with Taylor Swift, Jennifer Lopez, and Billy Joel. He was the first Western artist to perform in Nepal.
Give Adams a chance. You might just like him.

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