The brand new issue of Classic Rock magazine has a guest editor – none other than Bryan Adams. The issue features a whole host of interviews and features hand-picked by the Canadian musicians, including in-depth interviews with Rod Stewart, Paul Rodgers, cult heroes Max Webster and Adams himself, plus a rundown of the greatest peace songs of all time and an exclusive gallery of some of Adams greatest photographs.
Adams is one of Canada’s greatest musical exports and an all-round rock icon. He began to teach himself how to play guitar when he was still at school, harbouring dreams of emulating his hero Ritchie Blackmore. Adams could play, but was never likely to get a job in Deep Purple. Then, aged 18, he crossed paths with Jim Vallance and his life changed. The pair started writing songs of their own and soon developed a knack for radio-friendly rockers (and the occasional tear-jerker ballad) that, by telling everyday stories of life and love, appealed to a broad range of listeners in North America, Europe and beyond.
To date, he’s released 15 studio albums that stick to the principle of keeping things simple and anthemic. Here are the 10 essential Bryan Adams songs guaranteed to make you crank up the radio every time they come on.
10. One Night Love Affair (Reckless, 1984)
The first of several in this list (no apologies offered) from Bryan Adam’s supreme multi-platinum fourth album Reckless, released in November 1984. Although the album’s opening track, it was held back as a single for three months while four other gems established his reputation. It pretty much flopped on release, but deserved better. Its soaring melody and guitar solo worked in a heart-string tugging combination that Journey had earlier perfected – but might still have envied.
9. The Only Thing That Looks Good On Me Is You (18 Til I Die, 1996)
Written by Adams and co-producer Mutt Lange (re-hired after taking everything to a higher level five years earlier on 18 Til I Die’s predecessor, Waking up The Neighbours) this was served up with a rhythm track steering close to Eliminator-era ZZ Top. It proved that, while this was about as far as we’d like to see him go to reinvent the wheel, Adams wasn’t a one-trick pony – a message he then cleverly lampooned with the lyric and a haute couture video.
8. So Happy It Hurts (So Happy It Hurts, 2022)
Co-written with Gretchen Peters – the singer-songwriter who has penned hits for Neil Diamond and Shania Twain among many other satisfied customers. Here, Peters helps fashion an unashamedly joy-soaked lyric: self-aware, all the trademarks present and correct. It’s topped with a vocal that proves the years have been kind to Adams. He may have reached his 60s, but he’s still that kid next door at heart.
7. It’s Only Love (Reckless, 1984)
The sixth(!) single from Reckless rides in on guitarist Keith Scott powerchords that could fell redwoods. But the icing on the cake is the voice of the late, great Tina Turner. Bryan had long tried to write a song for her, but when – as the Reckless sessions were ending – he got the call from her producer, he cheekily asked if she’d like to sing on one of his. She said yes, and this was the result (Turner later recorded the Adams-penned Back Where You Started on her 1986b album Break Every Rule).
6. Can’t Stop This Thing We Started (Waking Up The Neighbours, 1991)
Another “Mutt” Lange co-write, his ought to have been the first single from Waking Up The Neighbours – but instead (Everything I Do) I Do It For You took that honour, three months ahead of its parent album, to tie in with Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves. When everyone got bored with Everything I Do, A&M released this swinging rocker hoping to dislodge it from the charts. It didn’t, but reminded the world what Adams did best.
5. Somebody (Reckless, 1984)
In the brand new issue of Classic Rock, Adams reveals that this started life as little more than a jam. It took on a new life after he and Vallance sensed it was a rough diamond that needed polishing, but put it aside and started afresh after a good night’s sleep. Anyone else would have stayed up all night, every night, for weeks to come up with such an irresistible tempo laced with gang vocals on just half of the chorus.
4. Into The Fire (Into The Fire, 1987)
Vallance added a sequencer as well as percussion to the title track of Adams’ fifth album, but Into The Fire is as passionately human as it gets. Adams takes flak for writing so many ballads, but this one shows why he is so good at them. True, it has one foot in the rock anthem camp, but it needs no wall of guitars to hide behind. The sparse arrangement allows the heartfelt lyric to shine and his voice to sparkle.
3. Summer of ’69 (Reckless, 1984)
It’s called artistic licence. The lyrics of Summer Of ’69 sound convincingly autobiographical but Bryan was aged only nine in the titular season when he tells us Jimmy “got his first real six-string”. We forgive him. Besides, hearing this transports us to our mama’s porch (even if she didn’t have one) and rarely fails to remind us of some of the best days of our own lives, whenever we were born. Bryan got his first guitar at Christmas, by the way.
2. Cuts Like A Knife (Cuts Like A Knife, 1983)
Having worked with The Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen in the 1970s, Bob Clearmountain gave Adams his signature sound when hired to co-produce his second album, 1981’s You Want It You Got It. The follow-up, Cuts Like A Knife, presented “master mixer” Clearmountain with better songs, including the title-track, which boasts crystal clear separation of every instrument with Adam’s raspy vocal perfectly to the fore. With a stadium-pleasing “na-na-na” chorus, it remains a live staple.
1. Run To You (Reckless, 1984)
Has there ever been a more evocative – yet simple – intro? Or an unforgettable chorus that arrives so soon (just 45 seconds in)? Add to that a dash of Thin Lizzy-style guitar harmonies, a midway breakdown section and brilliant Tommy Mandel keyboards and you have the archetypal Bryan Adams/Jim Vallance song. When it first took shape the pair thought it would be perfect for Blue Öyster Cult. Their loss was Adams’ gain. Adopting it as their own, his band spent six months working on this and it sounds like not a day was wasted.
The brand new issue of Classic Rock, guest-edited by Bryan Adams, is onsale now. Order it online and have it delivered straight to your door.