“I had to say to her: “Tina, it’s not really working…”: Bryan Adams recalls duetting with Tina Turner on an 80s classic

Tina Turner and Bryan Adams in 1985
(Image credit: Getty Images)

In the new issue of Classic Rock, out on Friday, Guest Editor Bryan Adams sits down for a career-spanning interview to guide us through his life and music. The chat takes in Adams’ early days, his big breakthrough, what it’s like to have a megahit like (Everything I Do) I Do It For You and the singer-songwriter also recalls his memories duetting with Tina Turner on his hit It’s Only Love.

“I was such a Tina fan,” Adams tell Classic Rock’s Paul Rees. “I used to go and see her in the clubs before Private Dancer happened for her and when she was still trying to get back on her feet.”

It was in early 1984 with a call from producer John Carter, Adams reveals, that the possibility of a collaboration was raised. “He said: “Man, I’m producing Tina Turner. Do you have a song for her?” We were finishing up Reckless in New York, and I told him I didn’t but maybe Tina would sing on one of my songs. I sent him It’s Only Love, but never heard back.”

A few months later, Adams thought he'd completed work on Reckless and was back in Vancouver when he heard that Turner was in town to support Lionel Ritchie. “I got a message to her manager, asking if she’d have time to record this song for my album,” he continued. “And I got a call back saying Tina wanted to meet me. I’m backstage in Vancouver once more, so nervous, and Tina is coming down the hallway again but this time she has that big wig on. I could hear her saying: “Where is he? Which one is he?” Someone said to her: “He’s the scrawny little shit over there in the corner.” She came over and said to me: “I love that song.” She recorded it with us the next day.”

There was still a problem to overcome, however, as Adams recalled. “It was only when we were in the studio I realised It’s Only Love was in my pitch. It wasn’t really made for her. I’m twenty-four, and I had to go into the room and say to her: “Tina, it’s not really working with you singing my melody. Why don’t you sing this...” And I started to sing, pretending to be Tina Turner. She just went off and did her thing. After she’d said her goodbyes, I turned to Bob Clearmountain, who was my co-producer, and said: ‘Tell me you got that.” We ran the tape back and there it was, a sensational moment.”

There are plenty more sensational moments in Adams’ career, and you can read about them in the full interview by picking up a copy of the new Classic Rock, available here from Friday.

Niall Doherty

Niall Doherty is a writer for The Guardian, Variety and Classic Rock, and co-runs the music Substack letter The New Cue with fellow former editors of Q magazine Ted Kessler and Chris Catchpole. Niall has written for NME, X-Ray Magazine and XFM Online and interviewed some of music’s biggest stars, including Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, St Vincent, The 1975, Depeche Mode, Radiohead and many more.