Adams, Bryan (Contemporary Musicians)
From rock n' roll kid to activist to the voice behind film music, Bryan Adams has taken his career to many levels. He said the title to his 1996 album, 18 'Til I Die, reflected not only how he looked at his music, but how he looked at his life. Popular in his native Canada, Adams was often compared to Bruce Springsteen early in his career. His 1991 single "(Everything I Do) I Do It for You," first released on the Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves soundtrack, launched his popularity world-wide.
Bryan Adams was born in Kingston, Ontario, Canada on November 5, 1959. His parents were English immigrants, and his father became a Canadian diplomat to the United Nations. By the time Adams was 12 years old, he and his younger brother Bruce had lived in Israel and all over Europe. Moving from place to place as a child prepared him for touring as a singer/guitarist. "It made me accustomed to traveling," Adams told Ken Miller in Seventeen. "My younger brother and I had a good time at the hotels, stealing the soap from the maids' trays and all that. I was the influence theree were quite mischievous."
Just like his father and grandfather, Bryan Adams attended strict British military schools. However, true to the rock n' roll rebel image, he grew his hair long, lambasted his teachers, and eventually got expelled. He also revolted against the strict rules his father set at home. At the age of 10, Adams got his first guitar, and from then on, music absorbed all of his attention. Two years later, Adams moved with his family to Vancouver, British Columbia in Canada. Soon after, his parents divorced, driving him further into reclusion with his music. Adams didn't see his father again until after the release of his second album.
Adams was preoccupied with his music throughout his teenage years, and was not distracted easily. "In high school, I was too far into my music to even pay attention to girls," Adams told Steve Pond in Rolling Stone. "I'd run after the occasional girl, but music and rock n' roll bands were far more interesting to me."
Not Too Young to Rock
When Bryan Adams was 16 years old, he decided to quit school to put his time into his first job in rock n' rolluitarist for a Vancouver band called Shock. When the group couldn't find a singer, Adams decided to attempt it himself, along with booking and managing the band. But he still wasn't old enough to hang out in bars, so he had to stay behind in the dressing rooms between sets.
He moved on from band to band throughout his teens. In the summer of 1976, he went to see a pop band called Sweeney Todd in Surrey, British Columbia, just outside of Vancouver. At the end of the show, he found the band's manager and proclaimed himself four times better than the group's singer. The band decided to let him audition, and hired him to take over the front man's spot. The following year, he left Sweeney Todd to pursue songwriting. "I've been in awe of singer-songwriters from the days of first hearing Paul Simon," Adams told Larry LeBlanc in Canadian Composer. "I knew then that if I was serious about a career in music, I had to be a writer."
Adams meets Vallance
One day in 1977, Bryan Adams went into a Vancouver music store called Long & McQuade, and there he met Jim Vallance. Vallance, former drummer of the Vancouver band Prism, was looking for a singer to perform his new material for a demo tape. Adams and Vallance soon formed a songwriting partnership. "I tried to be really tactful," Vallance told Steve Pond in Rolling Stone, "but Bryan was an unruly young fellow, and the song ideas were just unstructured and undisciplined. So we pretty much scrapped anything he and I had been working on independently and started writing together."
When Vallance and Adams completed their first song as partners, they got so excited that they stopped two strangers on the street to listen to the tape. By 1980, the partners had completed the songs for Vallance's album Armageddon and had signed a songwriters' contract with Rondor Publishing. They began writing songs for popular acts such as Loverboy, Bachman-Turner-Overdrive, KISS, and Bonnie Tyler.
In 1981, A&M Records offered Adams a deal to record four songs for one dollar. He worked with Vallance on the EP, which included the single "Let Me Take You Dancing." By the time they finished recording, Adams had become the focal point. "We first wanted to do a duo thing, but the more I worked with Jimmy, the more I realized he wanted to be the guy behind the scenes," Adams explained to Christopher Connelly in Rolling Stone. "In the long run, that was goodnd it was nice to get some credibility as a songwriter."
Still incredibly persistent, Adams convinced one of Canada's top talent managers, Bruce Allen, to represent him. "He wore me down," Allen recalled to William Deverell in Saturday Night. "He was going to go though walls to make it." Of course, Adams never had to resort to structural damage. In 1980, he released his first full-length LP on A&M Records, Bryan Adams. His first band featured guitarist Keith Scott, bassist Dave Taylor, and Vallance on drums.
Rocked Straight to Top 10
Despite his determination to succeed, Bryan Adams had minimal success. When it came time to release his next album the following year, he wanted to call it Bryan Adams Hasn't Heard of You, Either. Instead, he decided to title his second effort You Want It, You Got It, which was released on March 20, 1982. Produced by Bob Clearmountain, the LP sold 500,000 copies worldwide and reached No. 118 on Billboards album chart. The single "Lonely Nights" climbed to No. 84. The increased success and help from Bruce Allen got Bryan Adams on concert bills with The Kinks, Foreigner, and Loverboy.
In June of 1983, Bryan Adams became a hit. His third album, Cuts Like a Knife reached Billboards Top 10. It included the singles "Cuts Like a Knife" and "Straight from the Heart." Later that same year, Adams recorded his first song for a film. "Heaven" appeared on the soundtrack for A Night in Heaven.
Two years later, Adams continued his success streak with the album Reckless. The first single, "Run to You" made it to No. 6 on the U.S. charts and hit No. 1 in the U.K. Within the year, Reckless produced six Top 20 hits, sold seven million copies, and reached No. 1 in the U.S. The LP included the hits "Summer of '69" and "One Night Love Affair." In June of 1985, pressure from radio stations forced A&M to release "Heaven" as a single, and it became Adams's first single to sell more than a million copies. He also recorded a Top 20 hit duet with Tina Turner called "It's Only Love."
Compositions for a Cause
During that same year, Adams sparked his trend as a social and political activist. On July 13, he opened the U.S. tour of "Live Aid" at the JFK Stadium in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He went on to co-write Canada's Northern Lights' all-star recording "Tears Are Not Enough" with Jim Vallance and David Foster. The Canadian music community's contribution to raise money to fight famine in Ethiopia raised $2.5 million.
In 1986, Adams performed on the two-week Amnesty International tour, "A Conspiracy of Hope." The tour also included U2, Sting, Peter Gabriel, and Lou Reed. As a follow-up, he contributed to the Rock for Amnesty album in 1987. In May of that year, he released his next album, Into the Fire.
He took a different direction from his adolescent anthems into themes such as war, repression, and unemployment. Although not a failure with sales of 1.5 million, Into the Fire dropped considerably compared to Adams's previous success. "I had to make that record, and I'm not disappointed with it," Adams later told Larry LeBlanc in Canadian Composer. "At the time, I didn't want the same adulation or success as Reckless."
Despite his fame and increased financial wealth, Bryan Adams refused to get caught up in the frivolity of his rock star status. "When he played Madison Square Garden [in New York] a few years ago, he took the subway to the show," Bruce Allen told Steve Pond in Rolling Stone. "And when he got real big and we were still flying commercial, he'd catch a cab by himself, go to the airport, and buy his own ticket. That's not usually done."
In December of 1987, Adams contributed the song "Run Rudolf Run" to the album A Very Special Christmas, which benefited the Special Olympics. In 1989, he performed on the Greenpeace album Rainbow Warriors, which was also released in the Soviet Union on the Melodia label.
By the end of 1989, Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance had severed their long-standing working relationship in the middle of recording Adams's next effort. According to Adams, he didn't approve of the songs they had done, and Vallance refused to start from scratch. Vallance attributed the separation to Adams's attitude. "People don't know Bryan; they just see the 'boy next door' image, the kid with the infectious grin," Vallance explained to William Deverell in Saturday Night. "There's a darker side, though, and when that takes over.... Well, one morning I woke up and realized I'd had a knot in my stomach for months, and I knew it was time to pack it in."
New Partner, New Records
Adams resumed writing and recording with a new partner, England-based producer Robert "Mutt" Lange. At the same time, he continued his charity contributions at the Roger Waters's world-broadcast performance of "The Wall" at the Berlin Wall in Germany in 1990. The proceeds went to the Memorial Fund for Disaster Relief. During the same year, he received both the Order of Canada and Order of British Columbia awards.
The following year, Adams made a huge worldwide impact and landed in The Guinness Book of Records with one song. "(Everything I Do) I Do It for You," which first appeared on the soundtrack for Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Within the first three months, the single sold four million copies. It went on to sell eight million copies worldwide and soared to the top of the charts in 19 different countries. It broke the record for the most weeks in the number one slot on the U.K. charts. The Society of Composers, Authors, and Music Publishers of Canada named the tune the most performed song in the country.
Adams included the single on his next album, Waking Up the Neighbours. He followed up the release with a 19-month tour that started in Mannheim, Germany. He went on to play in 25 different countries and sold 10 million copies worldwide. Adams won over audiences across the globe, even in non-English-speaking countries. "Turkey was a bit of a shock, " manager Bruce Allen told Larry LeBlanc in Billboard. "It was the first foreign stadium show in Istanbululy 28, 1992. To see the audience sing every word, every single word, was unbelievable."
On January 16, 1994, Adams made his mark again as the first Western musician to perform in Vietnam since 1971. His much publicized Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) concert started out a little rough. Guards controlled the crowd with electric cattle prods and the only exit was locked during the show so no one could enter or leave. "For the first half of the show, everyone was glued to their seats," Adams recalled to Melina Gerosa in Entertainment Weekly. "By the end, it was like a regular concert."
Evolved into Film Composer
The 1990s also brought the film soundtrack phase of Bryan Adams's career. In 1993, he recorded "All for Love," with Rod Stewart and Sting, for The Three Musketeers soundtrack. Two years later, he contributed the hit "Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?" to the soundtrack for Don Juan DeMarco. And in 1996, his song "Star" appeared on the Jack soundtrack, and "I Finally Found Someone" (with Barbra Streisand) was released on The Mirror Has Two Faces soundtrack.
In an interview with Chris Willman from Entertainment Weekly, Adams didn't shrink at the reference to his growing relationship with the movie industry. "I'm not afraid of being thought of as someone who is associated with film music," said Adams. "If it's a good song, what does it matter?"
After five years, Bryan Adams made a comeback on the rock n' roll scene in 1996 with the album 18 'Til I Die. Peter Castro described the album in People as "a mixture of juiced-up, guitar-giddy rockers and soft ballads, all of which feature Adams's trademark rasp. " After exploring different musical topics, styles, and venues, Bryan Adams returned to his roots as a rock n' roll rebel, and decided he didn't want to grow up after all.
Bryan Adams, A&M, 1980.
You Want It, You Got It, A&M, 1982.
Cuts Like A Knife, A&M, 1983.
Reckless, A&M, 1985.
Into the Fire, A&M, 1987.
Waking Up the Neighbours, A&M, 1991.
So Far So Good, A&M, 1993.
Live! Live! Live!, A&M, 1995.
18 Til I Die, A&M Records, 1996.
Soundtracks; with others
A Night in Heaven, 1983.
Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Morgan Creek Records, 1991.
The Three Musketeers, Hollywood Records, 1993.
Don Juan DeMarco, A&M, 1995.
Jack, Warner Bros. Records, 1996.
The Mirror Has Two Faces, Columbia, 1996.
Rainbow Warriors, 1987.
Rock for Amnesty, 1987.
A Very Special Christmas, 1987.
Rees, Dafydd, and Luke Crampton, Rock Movers & Shakers, Billboard Books/ABC-CLIO, 1991.
Billboard, September 14, 1991; November 14, 1992; February 6, 1993; February 5, 1994.
Canadian Composer, Winter 1991.
Entertainment Weekly, December 24, 1993; February 4, 1994; February 23, 1996; November 29, 1996.
Maclean's, August 5, 1985; June 10, 1996; June 24, 1996.
People, June 10, 1996.
Rolling Stone, April 28, 1983; December 19, 1985; September 10, 1987; March 10, 1994; March 28, 1995.
Saturday Night, November 1992.
Seventeen, August 1987.