Bryan Adams has won Grammy’s, Junos, been enshrined in various Walks of Fame, sold millions of albums, rocked sold out world tours and received the Order of Canada and the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award. But before the legendary Canadian rocker earned any of these accolades, he was crafting some of the best-selling albums and biggest anthems in rock and roll history. We look back at Adams’ studio discs by the decade, from the hits that defined his career to commentary from Adams’ longtime collaborator Jim Vallance.
SINGLES: “Hidin’ From Love,” “Give Me Your Love,” “Remember”
BACKGROUND: Released when Adams was only 20, this debut disc store shelves in February, 1980, just two years after he and song-writing partner Jim Vallance began collaborating. The pair also played most of the music themselves on an album that was more pop than the rock sound Adams eventually became known for. The self-titled album wasn’t a smash hit like his later offerings, but it did serve to put people on notice that a new voice had arrived. The highest charting single was the first, “Hidin’ From Love,” which hit #64 on the U.S. charts. Vallance recalls writing the song with Adams “in February 1979 in a temporary ‘studio’ I’d set up in the living room of my rented home at 12th and Carnarvon in Vancouver … The song was inspired by a combination of styles and influences, mostly The Cars and Toto. The Cars first album in particular had a major influence on our early writing.”
You Want It You Got It
SINGLES: “Lonely Nights,” “Coming Home,” “Fits Ya Good”
BACKGROUND: This album launched Adams’ career to a new level in more ways than one. The single “Fits Ya Good” reached number 30 on the Canadian music charts, it marked the beginning of the rock sound Adams is famous for, it helped him bust down the door of the American music market and Adams began recording with legendary producer Bob Clearmountain and a studio band with musicians such as drummer Mickey Curry and keyboardist Tommy Mandel, who went on to play on many of Adams’ albums.
Jim Vallance, meanwhile, recalls being on the road with Adams around this time, touring as rock band Journey’s opening act: “… in 1982, [Bryan] always performed ‘You Want It You Got It’ as the last song in his set each night. After all, it was the title track from his just-released second album.
Toyota automobiles were airing a television commercial around that same time, with the slogan ‘You want it – You got it – Toyota!’ As a joke, every time Bryan sang the song on stage, Journey’s crew would hold up a big sign that read ‘TOYOTA.’”
SINGLES: “Straight from the Heart”, “Cuts Like a Knife,” “This Time,” “Take Me Back,” “I’m Ready,” “The Only One”
BACKGROUND: If his first album marked his arrival in Canada and his second album crossed the border to American listeners, then Cuts Like a Knife was Adams’ wake-up call for everyone else. The title track hit number six on the Billboard top tracks charts and number 15 on the Hot 100 and became the singer’s first Canadian Top 20 hit. “Straight from the Heart,” meanwhile, hit number 10 on the Hot 100. “This Time” marked Adams’ first European-charting single. Adams also began touring around the world at this time, crossing the pond to both Europe and Asia.
“I remember being in the audience at one of Bryan’s concerts in Wembley, England, watching tens of thousands of people singing along with the chorus at the end of ‘Cuts Like A Knife,’” Vallance wrote. “For a songwriter it’s a strange feeling … thrilling and humbling at the same time.”
Aside from its massive success and critical appeal, the album broke the two million units sold barrier and was certified Silver.
SINGLES: “Run to You”, “Somebody”, “Heaven”, “Summer of ’69”, “One Night Love Affair,” “It’s Only Love”
Add to that the 12 million-plus copies sold, the fact it became the first Canadian album to sell a million copies nationally, that it topped the Billboard 200, that it was an international hit, that it was honoured with its own anniversary tour last year and spawned some of rock and roll’s most classic tunes – including “Summer of ’69” – and what more is there to say?
Jim Vallance noted: “Bryan Adams and I wrote “Summer Of ’69” in my basement studio in January 1984. During the next month or two the song went through a number of musical and lyrical changes, and we still weren’t convinced it was strong enough to include on Bryan’s Reckless album.” Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20.
SINGLES: “Heat of the Night”, “Hearts on Fire”, “Victim of Love”, “Only the Strong Survive”, “Into the Fire” and “Another Day”
BACKGROUND: “I have to laugh when the press say that LP didn’t do well because it did as well as Cuts Like a Knife, but I suppose the perception was it wasn’t Reckless II! Who cares? There were some songs that were slightly different than what we had written before … some were, let’s say, slightly more exploratory than we’d written in the past. Vallance was up for the song-writing challenge of not repeating Reckless.” – Bryan Adams
It’s not easy following up the most successful album of your career. Nevertheless, Into the Fire was a hit that topped out at number seven on the charts. Sure, it wasn’t the enormous success that Reckless was, but what is? Adams’ Into the Fire tour took him across North America, Europe and parts of Asia – not too bad at all.
Waking Up the Neighbours
SINGLES: “(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?,” “Touch the Hand”
BACKGROUND: Consisting of seven top 100 singles, this album’s biggest hit was the monster ballad, “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You.” An instant classic, the song, which also served as the lead single from the Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves soundtrack, was the sort of tune artists dream about. Number one in countries around the world – including an unprecedented sixteen weeks in England – multi-times platinum selling and nabbing honours at every turn, including an Oscar nomination and the 1992 Grammy Award for Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or Television, it finished the year at number one on both the U.S. and British charts. Not only is it Adams’ biggest ever single, but it’s one of the most successful songs ever released.
“Can’t Stop This Thing We Started” nabbed the number two spot on the U.S. charts and two Grammy nominations, while “Thought I’d Died and Gone to Heaven” and “Do I Have to Say the Words?” both charted well.
Not surprisingly, the disc remains among his best-selling albums of all time. So just how big of a star had Adams become with the release of this album? The tour that followed launched in 1991 and lasted until 1993.
18 til I Die
SINGLES: “The Only Thing That Looks Good on Me Is You,” “Let’s Make a Night to Remember,” “I’ll Always Be Right There,” “Star,” “18 til I Die”
BACKGROUND: Like with Into the Fire, released after Reckless, 18 til I Die had a tough act to follow. It didn’t receive the same overwhelming response that Waking Up The Neighbours enjoyed, but it still went platinum, and in some cases multi-platinum, in multiple countries, including Canada, the U.S. and the U.K and sold more than three million copies. Aside from the above singles, the disc also includes the hit song “Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman” from the film Don Juan DeMarco. The album is also notable because it’s also the first without any songs written with Jim Vallance.
On a Day Like Today
SINGLES: “On a Day Like Today,” “When You’re Gone,” “Cloud Number Nine”
BACKGROUND: A success internationally, On a Day Like Today boasted three hit singles, all of which charted within the top 15 in the U.K. The title track topped the charts in Canada while “Cloud Number Nine” hit number seven. And “When You’re Gone” – a duet with former Spice Girl Melanie C, spent nine weeks in the top ten on the U.K. charts.
As well, just hearing the title of any of these singles is enough to get the tune stuck in your head for the rest of the day.
Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron
SINGLES: “Here I Am”
BACKGROUND: The soundtrack to the animated DreamWorks feature of the same name, the single, “Here I Am,” hit number one in countries in Europe and Asia and placed in the top 10 in multiple others.
SINGLES: “Open Road,” “Flying,” “Room Service,” “This Side of Paradise,” “Why Do You Have to Be So Hard to Love?”
BACKGROUND: Certified platinum in Canada and a success in Europe, Room Service served as Adams’ first album of new material since 1998. Much of it was recorded in various hotel rooms while Adams toured – fitting since the ensuing world tour in support of the album proved hugely successful and lasted for two years.
SINGLES: “I Thought I’d Seen Everything”, “Tonight We Have the Stars” and “She’s Got a Way”
BACKGROUND: Adams reunited with Jim Vallance for this disc, and many of the songs were also recorded on tour in hotel rooms and backstage. “I Thought I’d Seen Everything” was the most successful single, and the album earned Adams a Best Artist Juno nomination.
Jim Vallance offers an idea of how the recording process for this album took place: “’Tonight We Have The Stars’ was mixed by Bob Clearmountain at his “Mix This” studio in Los Angeles … What’s interesting is, the other three participants were monitoring the mix from many miles away: I was in Canada, Bryan was in Brazil, and Ben Dobie was in England. Give or take a few milliseconds, we were all hearing the mix ‘live,’ streaming on a dedicated, encrypted iTunes channel.
After each pass of the mix we’d send our comments to Bob on iChat. A moment later Bob would ‘roll tape’ again, and we’d hear the suggested changes unfold in close-to-real time.”
BACKGROUND: Debuting in the top spot on the Canadian charts, Tracks of My Years came together over a few years of recording various songs and features mostly covers of famous tunes ranging from Chuck Berry’s “Rock and Roll Music” to Bob Dylan’s “Lay Lady Lay.” The album’s sole single, “She Knows Me,” was written by Adams and Vallance.
“This song came together very slowly … possibly the longest gestation of any song Bryan and I have written,” Vallance wrote. “It was assembled in bits and pieces over a five-year period, not because it was difficult to write, but because we had trouble finding an arrangement that worked … Our search for an arrangement was elusive and frustrating. As a result, we kept setting the song aside.”
SINGLES: “You Belong to Me”
BACKGROUND: The album is Adams’ first featuring all original material since 2008. His 13th studio disc came together across continents and countries similar to the disc 11, with Adams and Vallance working with legendary rocker Jeff Lynne, who produced the disc.
“It was a fun way to make a record,” Vallance wrote. “We’d send audio files back and forth by email, trying different things until we got it right. No deadline, no pressure. In fact, there’s a line in one of the songs on the album that pretty much sums it up: ‘Do you wanna start a revolution, or do you just wanna have some fun?’ The answer is: we just wanted to have some fun. And we did!”
Adams directed the music video for the single, “You Belong to Me.”
Shine a Light
SINGLES: “Shine a Light”
BACKGROUND: When Adams spoke to Zoomerahead of the release of his 14th studio album, Shine a Light, the rocker said that he’s enjoying one of the most creatively fruitful periods of his career.
“Writing music has always been a constant for me, some days better than others of course. However, it’s been a prolific past two years. In fact, I’ve published more music/songs than I did in the first three years of my career,” Adams says. “That includes 20-plus songs from the Broadway musical Pretty Woman, two new songs on the Ultimate collection and making the new album with 12 new songs on Shine a Light.”
On his artistic collaborations on the album, he told Zoomer that his teaming with Ed Sheeran is rooted in a meeting in Dublin, when both musicians were playing the city at the same time. “I went to see his show, and we kept in contact afterwards on email. I sent him the idea, and he sent me back a verse, and we just carried on for a few weeks on email with ideas. So cool.” Of his duet with Jennifer Lopez on the song “That’s How Strong Our Love Is,” Adams noted, “I’ve always liked singing with people. With Jennifer, I got on my email and sent the song to her manager, who said she loved it and wanted to do it. I like email sometimes.”